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Earl Wild: The Complete RCA Album Collection
Earl Wild (piano)
rec. 1947-76
RCA RED SEAL 88875 030742 [5 CDs: 241:25]

2015 is Earl Wild’s centenary year, so this 5-CD box is a salute to his recordings for RCA Victor and Columbia Masterworks. The long-lived pianist (1915-2010) has hardly been a blushing noviciate in the discography these many years, and doubtless there will many a groan when casting an eye over the contents. The first disc is the famous Rhapsody in Blue plus An American in Paris recording of December 1959, which has been reissued many times and reviewed on this site at least twice in varying incarnations – and referenced many more times during the course of reviews. This 33-minute disc has never staled. Disc Two is - inevitably – the Concerto in F, coupled with the I Got Rhythm Variations and Cuban Overture, all recorded in May 1961. This disc is almost as well loved, and has been reviewed here too. The Wild-Fiedler releases were core components of the RCA Living Stereo LP conveyor belt.

Discs three and four are devoted to the pianist’s exploration of rarer piano literature. The Scharwenka is on disc three with its original disc mates by Medtner, Balakirev and d’Albert. Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony accompany the Concerto. For Paderewski’s Concerto and Fantaisie polonaise, Wild hopped across the Atlantic in September 1970 to team up with Arthur Fiedler and the London Symphony. I’ve reviewed most of this in a rival release on Ivory Classics. It only remains to add that the Balakirev Réminiscence is eventful, Medtner’s Improvisation assured, and d’Albert’s Scherzo played with just as much vitality as by the composer himself in his ancient disc of it.

The final disc is the Liszt collaboration with André Kostelanetz. With the Columbia Symphony in February 1972 they essay the E flat major concerto with conviction, even though Wildeans may well prefer the greater personality to be encountered in his meeting with Malcolm Sargent and the Royal Philharmonic the previous decade – a slightly more malleable performance, too. The Fantasy on Hungarian Folk Melodies receives the kind of performance expected of one of the great Lisztians of his, or any other, generation. The remainder of this 57-minute disc is a curio, with items bulked out from diverse sources. There’s the slow movement – only – from Mozart’s Concerto No.21, K467. A brief amount of online sleuthing shows that this is extracted from an LP called ‘Love Story’ produced by the well-known Max Wilcox with arrangements in other pieces by Arthur Harris. Ormandy directs the Philadelphia. If you’re curious some of the other items included The Windmills of Your Mind, Yesterday, some Nino Rota, Dave Grusin, Bernstein and, of all things, something from Tristan. There’s a burnished and splendid Max Steiner Symphonie Moderne with Charles Gerhardt directing the National Philharmonic in 1973. Finally, a modest Handel Oboe Sonata with the great Robert Bloom, an early recording from 1947 – indeed Wild’s first commercial recording.

LPs 3-5 are appearing ‘for the first time on CD in 24bit/96khz mastering’. Listening to the Ivory Classics Scharwenka and Paderewski shows the clarity of the new restoration. Note that three Wild albums you may have expected to find are not here - Liszt-Piano Extravaganzas on Operatic Themes, Viennese Piano Extravaganza and The Fire and Passion of Spain. They were released on RCA Victor Record Club under licence from the owners, The Reader’s Digest Association.

For the sake of the CD miniaturisation CDs 1 and 2 could have fitted onto a single disc, and re-jigging might have got the number of discs down even more. Still, in respecting – largely – the original artefacts RCA honour Wild’s legacy worthily, though much is well-tilled soil.

Jonathan Woolf

Full track-listing
CD 1 [33:02]
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Rhapsody in Blue (1924) [16.17]
Recorded 13 May 1959, Symphony Hall, Boston
An American in Paris (1928) [16.37]
rec. 14 May 1959, Symphony Hall, Boston
Earl Wild (piano)/Boston ‘Pops’ Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler

CD 2 [46:22]
Piano Concerto in F (1925) [28.53]
rec. 17 May 1961, Symphony Hall, Boston
Variations on I Got Rhythm (1933) [7.59]
Cuban Overture (1932) [9.20]
rec. 18 May 1961, Symphony Hall, Boston
Earl Wild (piano)/Boston ‘Pops’ Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler

CD 3 [52:41]
Xaver SCHARWENKA (1850-1924)
Piano Concerto No.1 in B flat minor Op.32 (1877) [28:00]
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Erich Leinsdorf
rec. January 1969 Symphony Hall, Boston
Mily BALAKIREV (1837-1910)
Reminiscences de l’opera Une vie pour le tsar de Glinka; fantasy for piano [12:02]
rec. May-June 1969, Webster Hall, NYC
Nikolai MEDTNER (1880-1951)
Three Morceaux: Improvisation Op.31 No.1 (c.1914) [7:16]
Eugen D’ALBERT (1864-1932)
Scherzo in F sharp major, Op.16 No.2 (c. 1889) [4:57]
rec. 10 June 1969, Webster Hall, NYC
Earl Wild (piano)

CD 4 [51:51]
Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.17 (1888-89) [32:21]
Fantaisie Polonaise in G minor Op.19 (1893) [19:10]
Earl Wild (piano)/London Symphony Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler
rec. Barking Town Hall, September 1970

CD 5 [57:29]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat minor, S124 (1849 rev 1853 and 1856) [19:18]
rec. 8 February 1972, Columbia 30th Street Studio C, NYC
Fantasy on Hungarian Folk Melodies, S123 (c.1852) [15:17]
rec. 7 February 1972, Columbia 30th Street Studio C, NYC
Earl Wild (piano)/Columbia Symphony Orchestra/André Kostelanetz
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No.21 in C major, K467 – Andante (1786) [8:17]
rec. 6 January 1971, Scottish Rite Cathedral, Philadelphia
Earl Wild (piano)/Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
Max STEINER (1888-1971)
Symphonie Moderne, from the film Four Wives [8:10]
rec. 2-3 February 1976, Kingsway Hall, London
Earl Wild (piano)/National Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Gerhardt
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Sonata for oboe and basso continuo in G minor, Op.1 No.8 HWV364a [6:17]
rec. 28 November 1947, RCA Victor Studios
Robert Bloom (oboe): Earl Wild (piano)


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