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REVIEW
RECORDING OF THE MONTH
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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Wilde Plays Chopin - Vol. II
Two Nocturnes, Op. 27 [13:33]
Polonaise in A flat, Op. 53 [7:27]
Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 [30:06]
Nocturne in E flat, Op. 9 No. 2 [5:30]
Prelude in D flat, Op. 28 No. 15 “Raindrop” [5:33]
Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49 [16:04]
David Wilde (piano)
rec. 14 August, 16 September, 10-11 December 2013, Reid Concert Hall, University of Edinburgh, UK
DELPHIAN DCD34138 [78:13]

This is the most intense, idiosyncratic, personal Chopin recital to be recorded in years. Always-interesting, pianist David Wilde recorded it at age 80, shortly after the death of his wife Jane. The recital is dedicated to her memory. The stages of grief and loss are clearly evident.

What does that mean? The playing on this disc shows sorrow, isolation, rage, acceptance: Chopin’s original expressions are magnified, and the performances cumulatively have a power which kept me from concentrating on anything else. It’s a devastating document.

The nocturne Op. 27 No. 1 drives into the senses with a slow, insistent bass tread, and the build-up to the central major-key outburst feels as if it will never end. The “Heroic” polonaise is a galloping romp, slower but more dance-like than usual. The repeated notes of the “Raindrop” prelude seem to haunt Wilde and drive him to extremes.

The Fantaisie in F minor, stretched out to 16 minutes, is a broad, exploring, inquisitive performance which, finally, reaches a coda nobody has ever played so gently, so softly, so slowly, or with such meaning. It takes the breath away. Indeed, Wilde’s touch is so soft you could cough and miss it. It feels like Prospero at the end of The Tempest: the virtuoso giving up his powers. The piece does have a loud ending, and you’ll wonder how he manages to bring the volume back up again without seeming vulgar. He succeeds. The final chord clips the highest notes and lets the bass linger, casting a dark shadow over the silence at recital’s end.

The elephant in the room is Wilde’s utterly unique Sonata No. 2. Yes, that timing is accurate: 30:06. The funeral march alone takes 12:33, a record time that reflects a glowing central trio so slow that one wonders if he never wanted to stop playing it. Understandable, since Wilde replicates Rachmaninov’s tricks of adding skull-pounding bass notes to the funeral march’s tread. The recap starts off fortissississimo, shattering your reverie. It’s really shocking if you aren’t expecting it, and still shocking if you are.

Chopin this weird and personal will always create enemies. You may well hate its indulgence but this kind of Chopin is far more interesting than the dull, predictable competence of many pianists these days. At least David Wilde is doing something new and different and dangerous. I, for one, have listened to this album in shock, admiration, fascination, and deepest respect.

The sound quality is a little glassy, but with playing this powerful, you’ll hardly notice. Nothing can keep the fierce emotions of David Wilde from leaping out of the speakers.

Brian Reinhart






 




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