Earl Wild: memoirs

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Earl Wild: memoirs

Postby andrew » Tue Jun 12, 2012 10:29 am

I recently acquired these; thought I'd write a little review!

Earl Wild (1915-2010) was one of the under-appreciated pianists of the 20th century. Despite a formidable technique, and a repertory which ranged from Buxtehude to Hindemith and Menotti, he never truly achieved world stardom. He was most associated with Liszt, Gershwin and transcriptions, both his own and of the 19th century.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jvo8lJ1GOdA - Meyerbeer-Liszt Robert le Diable

http://youtu.be/MN-Gl-7qm-c - Tchaikowsky-Pabst Sleeping Beauty

Firstly, two warnings! The book is not cheap (you do get over 800 pages!), and it's probably not for those of a prudish disposition either. There is a vast amount of scurrilous gossip within, written in an often waspish, though not malicious, tone. Horowitz getting caught stealing vegetables from his neighbour's garden, Virgil Thomson being arrested in a raid on a gay brothel, Lazar Berman rudely stuffing his face at a buffet, a flatulent conductor: it's all there, and much, much more! Personally, I think it's an absolute hoot, but some might find it a bit much. There is also name-dropping on a truly epic level.

The book is written in a conversational vein, liberally peppered with exclamation marks. I've seen some reviews where people have said it is crying out for a decent editor: personally I didn't mind the informal style, but it did nag me that he doesn't appear to know what a limerick is (not that his poetry is any better than doggerel).

He offers forthright opinions on a vast array of musicians, especially pianists and conductors. (In passing, there is a short chapter devoted to having a really serious go at Isaac Stern). I was amused to read his comments on "Al" "Brendull" and "ugh-text" (Urtext) but he is preaching to the converted in this department. :lol: Jorge Bolet, on the other hand, had a very fine military uniform, of which he was deeply jealous! Lang Lang is described as "the J-Lo of the piano".

Probably the best chapter is that on piano technique, phrasing and sound production (characteristically entitled "Banging is for the bedroom"!). I'll be reading that long after the tittle-tattle has outlived its amusement value.

In summary, 4/5: a great read which sometimes becomes too much. An inimitable account of one of the piano's individualists. Recommended to lovers of romantic pianism, with a few reservations.

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Re: Earl Wild: memoirs

Postby pianolady » Tue Jun 12, 2012 3:52 pm

That crazy Horowitz - he cracks me up. :lol:

Thanks for the review, Andrew. I really want to read this book now!! You're right about it being expensive. Holy Cow!! If someone here wants to buy me something, this would be fine. :lol:
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Re: Earl Wild: memoirs

Postby pianoman342 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:46 am

@ Andrew,

Sounds like an interesting book! As for Lang Lang being "the J-Lo of the piano," I don't see it. For one thing, he doesn't look anything like J-Lo. I'm guessing the connection is his showy playing style is done like an actor, nevermind that J-Lo probably can't play piano worth a hoot? :?

@ Monica

Holy Cow!! If someone here wants to buy me something, this would be fine.

I'll take one too! :mrgreen:
"I don't know what music is, but I know it when I hear it." - Alan Schuyler
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Re: Earl Wild: memoirs

Postby andrew » Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:25 am

The J-Lo reference is in the context of Lang Lang's massive publicity machine, and mentioning that Adidas made a limited edition Lang Lang sneaker, with his name on the heel in Chinese, a silhouette in concert attire on the side, and three golden pedals printed inside the shoe.

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Re: Earl Wild: memoirs

Postby cmudave1125 » Mon Jun 18, 2012 2:45 pm

I've not yet purchased this book, but it is on my list. I was fortunate enough to hear a lot of the material from the author first hand, and as colorful as much of the recollections are, the musical insight was always tremendous. Mr. Wild (Uncle Earl) was teaching the lit & rep class at my school, and we frequently had him for private lessons, master classes, and convocations. Even in his late 80s he played with a technique and musicality that I have yet to see matched by a younger artist.

If you are interested in Earl Wild, I also recommend the DVD set "Wild About Liszt," which was released several years ago by Ivory Classics. The quality of the recording is less than perfect (somebody set up a camcorder and recorded the series of recitals at Wynard), but the performances are worth seeing and the extras included on the DVD include a BBC documentary about Wynard, interviews with Wild, and other interesting tidbits.
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