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CD Review

Earl Wild

The Complete Transcriptions & Original Works Vol. 1

  • Earl Wild: Piano Sonata 2000
  • George Gershwin:
  • Improvisation in the form of a theme and three variations on "Someone to watch over me"
  • Seven Virtuoso Etudes
  • Alessandro Marcello: Concerto in D minor for Oboe, Adagio
  • Johann Sebastian Bach: Partita #1 in B Flat minor, Sarabande (Arr. Wild as Hommage á Poulenc)
  • Frédéric Chopin: Piano Concerto #2 in F minor, Op. 21, Larghetto
  • Gabriel Fauré: Improvisation on "Aprés un Réve"
Giovanni Doria Miglietta, piano
Piano Classics PCL0069
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The artistry of Earl Wild (1915-2010) has gone largely unappreciated, not just in Italy as the notes point out, but also among music lovers here in the United States. Naturally, his work on behalf of Gershwin and some of his transcriptions have been applauded, but his musical tastes were as extensive as his long and successful career. Hopefully, this disc wins the late pianist and composer some new friends, for it is very fine, and the start of a very worthy project.

The four transcriptions that open the disc are a really good way to see if you'll like the disc. In each, there is a respectful nod to each composer, but a hint of jazz and other styles infuse each piece with Wild's unmistakable stamp. Particularly in the two Baroque era pieces, authentic-style folks may well be horrified by the amount of individuality that these works acquire in this fashion. But there is genius at work; listening blind, you'd swear these works were composed this way from the start. The Marcello is truer to the original, but Wild makes sure that the piano illustrates the work successfully, with a truly Romantic richness of color. The results are extremely interesting. A Chopin piano transcription sounds funny to the ear, until you realize that this is his Concerto #2 taken by the solo piano. It's completely idiomatic and pays homage to the great transcriptions of that age. Honestly, once past the orchestral introductions, the whole movement of the original is mostly solo piano, but I like the added color and texture that emulates the admittedly sparse accompaniments. The Fauré is lovely, full of sweetness and sounding here like a jazz standard: very nice.

Wild's Piano Sonata 2000 is wholly his own, and is really a very good piece. Cast in three movements, Wild's writing is much like his transcriptions, idiomatic, entertaining, and full of surprises. Put this on for friends who love jazz or light music. They'll love it, without ever believing it's a sonata. But it is; these aren't random notes, but genuine musical ideas in what is largely a traditional sonata form. The ending Toccata (à la Ricky…wait, what? Yes, the last movement is labeled – à la Ricky Martin), and is hilarious. It's also exciting and caps off as accessible and enjoyable a modern piano sonata as I've heard in some time.

The disc ends predictably with George Gershwin, namely Seven Virtuoso Etudes and a massive, ingenious improvisation on "Someone to watch over me". In the latter work, Wild really lets the piano sing; the work is beautiful and each of the 13 minutes is lovingly shaped and will appeal to almost anybody. The Etudes are equally delightful, and conclude the disc in a most joyous fashion.

The main competition for this program is a Chandos recital of Wild's solo piano works, and Wild's own work last seen on Ivory Classics. Giovanni Doria Miglietta, who I have said nothing about to this point, plays extremely well. Perhaps his phrasing is just a bit clunky at times (I'm thinking of the last movement of the Sonata 2000), but in all other respects he commands the idiom well and clearly has the intent to share this music with his fellow Italians. Good for him. He has no problems with the jazz-influenced pieces, and he proves himself capable of stylistic range, from the Baroque to the Romantic. This is possibly my favorite piano disc of 2014. Give it a serious listen.

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman