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Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.17 (1888-89) [32:21]
Theme and Variations Op.16 No.3 (1887) [8:32]
Fantasie Polonaise in G minor Op.19 (1893) [19:10] ¹
Xaver SCHARWENKA (1850-1924)
Piano Concerto No.1 in B flat minor Op.32 (1877) [28:00] ²
Polish Dance in E flat minor Op.3 No.1 [3:44]
Earl Wild (piano)
London Symphony Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler ¹
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Erich Leinsdorf ²
rec. New York City, July 1964 (Theme and Variations), Barking Town Hall, September 1970 (Paderewski Concerto), Barking Town Hall, September 1970 (Fantasie), Symphony Hall, Boston, January 1969 (Scharwenka Concerto) and RCA Studio A, NYC, April 1976 (Polish Dance)
IVORY CLASSICS 77003 [60:02 + 31:44]
Experience Classicsonline

Back into the ring come Earl Wild’s immensely characterful, brilliantly executed recordings of two near contemporaneous concertos by Paderewski and Scharwenka. Both these composers’ concertos have been recorded by Hyperion but Wild’s performances lose nothing in comparison with Hamelin and Piers Lane, despite the fact that they were taped in 1969 (Scharwenka) and 1970 (Paderewski). Nor against other Paderewski alternatives; Fialkowska on Naxos, Blumental on Brana and Hobson on Zephyr.
Wild was a shoe-in for the Paderewski in particular. Teamed with Arthur Fiedler and the LSO he relishes the post-Lisztian drama of the writing as much as Fiedler carves out the subtle Rimsky flecked orchestration. You couldn’t have asked for two more appropriate combatants; Wild for his Lisztian bravura and gorgeous legato, and Fiedler for his command of the work’s persuasive rhetoric. He, after all, had recorded the work once before, with Jesus Maria Sanromá, in the presence of the composer in 1939. It’s true that some of the orchestral tuttis have been slightly “reinforced” in this Wild recording but one can’t really cavil, so powerful and cogent is the conducting. And Wild himself has filled out the cadenzas a little, though again without in any warm harming the fabric of the music. These are small points, though editors may tut.
The refined and tonally expressive qualities brought to bear are at their height in the slow movement – beautifully balanced chording and superfine legato from Wild; and marvellous tonal bloom from the LSO in the Romanza whilst the grand theme of the finale is announced with panache and indelibly exciting rhythmic control. Wild pours out calorie filled chordal waves as the music becomes impassioned, And it’s worth it as this is a successful, finely constructed, tuneful, virtuosic and thoroughly engaging work that should be heard in concert not simply on disc. Coupled on the Paderewski disc is the Theme and Variations for solo piano, which the booklet omits to note is a play on the Harmonious Blacksmith. It’s full of glint, nobility, charm, romantic tracery and leonine power. Then there’s the Fantasie Polonaise in G minor where Wild is once again joined by Fiedler and the LSO. Wild has extended the arpeggio figures into higher octaves – he has a bit of a fetish about changing keys as admirers will know – and the performance as a whole is full of joie de vivre, and rare expression too. It’s not on the same level of consistent creativity as the Concerto but it’s worth a spin now and again.
If Paderewski’s Concerto inclines to post-Lisztian principles Scharwenka’s First is more post-Schumann in orientation. But there’s a pot of unceasing bravura and a powerful march theme from about 7:00 that sets the pulse racing. The delightful if non-stop scherzo has its finger busting, wrist-compacting moments, squarely dealt with by Wild, and the panache and bravura of the finale almost convinces one that it’s not too long. In truth it is too long but one of the merits of a great performance, which this is, is suspending one’s critical judgement. There’s a delightful Polish Dance as an encore.
The concertos have both been on CD on the Élan label – an appropriate name for so vital a brace of performances. This however is the first time that they – concertos and other items - have been collated in this way. The second disc may be short measure as a result but the performances have such verve and immediacy that Wild’s admirers and lovers of the Romantic piano concerto will find it hard to resist.  
Jonathan Woolf


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