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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Earl Wild plays Liszt in Concert - 1973-1983
La Leggierezza (Concert Etude No 2 in F minor) [4.21]
Un Sospiro (Concert Etude No.3 in D flat major) [4.41]
Funérailles (Harmonies Poétiques et Réligieuses) [12.37]
Paysage (Etudes d’exécution Transcendante, Etude No.3) (1852) [4.41]
Ricordanza (Etudes d’exécution Transcendante, Etude No.9) (1852) [9.23]
Hungarian Rhapsody No.4 in E flat major [4.49]
Sonetto 47 del Petrarca (Années de Pèlerinage, Deuxième Année, Italie) (1858) [5.56]
Sonetto 123 del Petrarca (Années de Pèlerinage, Deuxième Année, Italie) (1858) [6.02]
Valse Oubliée No.1  (Années de Pèlerinage, Deuxième Année, Italie) (1858) [2.41]
Mephisto Waltz (Années de Pèlerinage, Deuxième Année, Italie) (1858) [3.54]
La Capriccioso No.2 in E flat major (Grandes Etudes de Paganini) [4.42]
La Chasse No.5 in E major (Grandes Etudes de Paganini) [2.56]
La Campanella No.3 in G sharp minor (Grandes Etudes de Paganini) [4.36]
Earl Wild (piano)
Recorded in Chicago, 1979 (tracks 1 and 2), Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 1973 (tracks 3-10) and Tokyo, 1983 (tracks 11-13)
IVORY CLASSICS 73002 [72.13]

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This disc constitutes a veritable feast for admirers of Earl Wild. All the performances were recorded live in London (1973), Chicago (1979) and in Tokyo (1983) and none has been released before. The programme is a Wild speciality, Liszt, and the means at his disposal: a quicksilver, dramatic, leonine control over rhetoric, a big, burnished malleable tone and an incisive command of structure. This suits very well as a description of his mature playing of the B minor sonata – a piece not here - though we have more than one example of his way with it on other Ivory releases. Instead we have more than enough to demonstrate quite why he has been held in such esteem – and awe – these many years. I should sound a mild cautionary note about the recording quality from these venues first; there can be a clangourous sound that, very occasionally, leads to climax distortion. But I should add that these are, by and large, rare moments and I can guarantee that, so swept up will you be in some incendiary music making, that you won’t notice, still less care.

Let’s start with La Leggierezza in this extrovert, propulsive and intoxicating reading. Yes, maybe he can push the rhythm in his driving torrent but just listen to the brilliantine treble, the stunning technical resource, and also the interpolated (Wild composed) coda, a witty sign-off in the tradition of Leschetizky. Such leonine magnificence is heard in Un Sospiro the changing performances of which the assiduous Wild collector can trace back to a 1946 Stradivarius LP and thence forward to Etcetera LPs and CDs in 1987 as well as a Pearl disc from 2000. Funérailles receives a high wire and unremittingly virtuosic traversal, magnificently contoured and strongly rhetorical with an intensifying screwing up of tension. It’s only slightly vitiated by a somewhat clangy piano attack, as preserved in the recording, which can blunt the ultimate transmission of that level of tension and power. For a more nuanced and less Krakatoan performance try the Quintessence LP of the late seventies or the Etcetera discs already cited. But there is really very little to quibble with here, even given the octane frenzy Wild exhibits with such panache. It’s a slight shame that Paysage ends so abruptly – leading me to speculate an instant outburst of applause (it does slightly break the spell) – and whilst Ricordanza isn’t quite note perfect, should such considerations trouble you, it has a truly noble poeticism throughout.

The Valse Oubliée No.1 is full of flighty wit and colouristic skill and depth. There’s some tape hiss in La Chasse but such is the dramatic incision of the playing on offer, so reverberant are the flourishes, that one feels oneself in some huge Vulcanic forge scorched by the energy of the pianism. The two Petrarch Sonnets are examples of super-Romanticism in action; more ascetic listeners might find these and the recital as a whole too much red meat but one always finds that Wild is ultimately on the side of the Angels and generally doesn’t go in for trick inflations, texture thickenings or the like. For readers who may blanch there are always the rather more measured studio recordings; in the case of the Sonnets for instance go to Etcetera for No.47 and to a multiplicity of sources for No.123 – I’d recommend an EMI disc of 1973 if you can get it or the Quintessence LP of 1978. Such is the bravura of the playing that avenues like this open up all the time.

Strongly recommended then to Wildeans: to them goes the bravura, to them the poetry. Sober sides may want to dip in first. Prepare to be gloriously singed.

Jonathan Woolf       




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