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 Diablehttp://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.
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.