Wild's fabled glories in this repertoire are fully attested to on this
satisfyingly full disc. Chesky have done wonders with the already fine original
sound quality secured by Ken Wilkinson. The tapes were taken down as part
of the Readers' Digest series and were a sure-fire hit. I wonder if anyone
realised at those sessions how successful they would be. The partnering of
Wild with a German conductor and a British orchestra in repertoire then deeply
unfashionable must have seemed a risky enterprise to company accountants.
The Fourth Concerto is still unfashionable alongside the Paganini and concertos
2 and 3. This is one of the factors that makes this coupling so successful:
two disregarded concertos preceding the celebrated variations. In No. 4 Wild
is fully in touch with the work's spark and ecstatic voltage, with molten
arabesques and Horenstein a stunning partner (listen to the barking horns).
The middle movement is rather a let-down close in spirit to Macdowell and
the piano stool. In the final movement the spark from heaven falls again
in torrents of notes the volume and speed of which is remarkable. Listen
to the intoxication of the playing at 1.55 and the singing strings at 2.29.
The first concerto has no shortage of inspiration hinting that the composer
may have heard Tchaikovsky 4 recently and the movement is lit with a tramping
vigour. In the second movement (presumably by coincidence) the trumpet solo
almost collapses into the famous trumpet cantillation from Franz Schmidt
Symphony No. 4. The finale skitters and hammers almost predicts an element
of Elgar's Violin Concerto at (00.23). The string playing is razor sharp
The famous variations are aggressively on-beat and what a rush this performance
and recording gives. Listen to the nervy vitality of 5.05 and the harp torrents
at 6.47. The piano and orchestra dance like some dexterously skittering iron
cat at 16.10.
This is all outstanding 'Desert Island' material of the highest distinction.
An outright recommendation.