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
: 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
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
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
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.