Robert SCHUMANN (1810-56).
Toccata in C, Op. 7. Etudes symphoniques, Op. 13 (including Five Posthumous
Variations). Fantasie in C, Op. 17.
Earl Wild (piano).
Ivory Classics IC71001
Earl Wild has had a long career. For example there is a performance of the
Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue with the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Toscanini
dating from November 1942 on Dante Lys 618. The performance of the
Toccata on this disc dates from 1974 and taken live from the Queen
Elizabeth Hall. It was a mistake to put this at the beginning as it is enough
to deter all but the most ardent Wild fan. The high recording level, the
dry, metallic sound, the harsh accents and the meaningless opening gesture
all conspire to provide a very uncomfortable seven minutes worth.
The rest of the disc was recorded in October, 1990. The Symphonic
Studies fare better, but hardly stand up to such august competition as
Pollini, for example, on DG 445 522-2 (nla), to name but one
that springs to mind. The theme needs to be a smooth and laden with contained
meaning, its possibilities straining to get out. Here it is merely plodding.
Wild does find some mystery in the first posthumous variation, and he plays
the fifth posthumous variation magically. In the eighth variation he effectively
suggests Handelian pomp wrenched into the Romantic sphere. Overall, though,
the impression is piecemeal, and the Finale exemplifies the problems with
the whole. It is rushed and what can and should be a powerful cumulative
effect degenerates into mere repetition. To make it worse, he even rushes
his way through.
The Fantasie again causes problems for Wild. He simply does not possess
the long term thought to make this a coherent interpretation, sounding rushed
at times and at one point reverting to the martellato touch so painfully
applied to the Toccata at the start of the disc. There is some sense
of fantasy in the final ten minutes, but by then it is far too little, too