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Classical 101

Earl Wild Talks About Knitting

TWO AUDIO PIECES Barry Douglas plays Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto 3 with the Columbus Symphony this weekend. Barry's performance promises to be tempestuous and a crowd pleaser, as befits a work cemented into the popular culture more than may be good for it. I've been listening to several recordings of this piece over the past few days, gewtting ready for this weekend's performances: Argerich, Horowitz, Ashkenazy, and Barry's new recording is en route. And then there's Earl Wild. Born in Pittsburgh in 1915, Earl Wild has spent eighty years in music. He's written on every page of the book of musical greats since the 1920s: Gershwin, Rachmaninoff, Toscanini, Stokowski, Horowtiz. You name 'em, he knew 'em, he worked with 'em. A number of years ago we produced the 26-part "Earl Wild's Grande Piano" for WOSU radio. Wild spoke of Rachmaninoff's enormous hands that gave him an octave and half reach at the keyboard. He loved Horowitz. Of Toscanini he said, "Whatever he played fast should be played fast, period." Of several young pianists Earl remarked, "Oh, my dear. Don't talk to most people." And in a later interview he called Lang Lang "Out of vaudeville." He was fantastic radio. Earl Wild's 1965 recording of the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto, with Jascha Horenstein and the London Symphony,  is really beyond words. He tosses off the hurricane of notes as if they were nothing, but articulates in such a way that a bluster of sound is crisp and definite. You can hear every note. Here's a bit of the cadenza in the first movement: [audio:earl-r-3-exc.mp3] And the finale: [audio:earl-finale.mp3] Earl always had fun with music - I think because he had a natural impishness and because his skills were so great that the most profound works held little fear for him. Clearly, he was enjoying himself so much that audiences enjoyed the music, too. The virtuosity of the Rachmaninoff performance is astounding and exhausting. I've found the recoring addictive - a big boy interpretation that simply(!) plays all the notes. Period. Earl gave an inerveiw to David Dubal during the celebrations for his 90th birthday in 2005.  These celebrations included a sold out Carnegie Hall recital,  more concerts and master classes.  Here's a bit from YouTube. You will never think about knitting the same way again. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-YZkDO18-g If you're nice to me, I'll let the station play the outtakes from Earl's radio series at my funeral. Meanwhile, YouTube presents the interview in three parts. I've given you part two-go find the others, and listen to what the father of the piano and Rachmaninoff's musical heir has to say about Albert Einstein. P.S. Earl is alive and well at ninety-four, living in Palm Springs, and putting the finishing touches on his long promised and threatened autobiography. Oh. My. God.

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.