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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2018 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Earl Wild: 1915-1990

Earl Wild, the stately, white-haired pianist whose formidable technique and flamboyant stage presence hearkened back to the virtuoso pianists of the 19th century, died on January 23 at his home in Palm Springs, California. He was 94.

Mr. Wild was known for a fearless ability at the keyboard, combining speed and attack with a singing legato line. He credited Arturo Toscanini for teaching him the discipline to understand great music, and his four years as a Metropolitan Opera repitateur with his love of operatic transcriptions. Mr. Wild received an installment in the landmark Great Pianists of the 20th Century series, which was devoted entirely to knuckle-busting operatic transcriptions, many of them of his own devising.

He was known around the world as a great interpreter of Liszt and Leopold Godowsky, whom he considered among his favorite composers. An eminent recording artist, he made records over the span of eight decades. His recorded repertoire included over 700 piano works, 35 concertos and 25 chamber pieces. Recently, his back catalogue and recent recordings have been issued on his own record label, Ivory Classics.

On a personal note, Mr. Wild was a gentleman, with a good sense of humor and a ready, self-deprecating wit. I was fortunate enough to interview him in 2007 for an article in the International Herald Tribune's Ear for Opera section. He gave freely of his time and admitted, as we closed the interview that, towards the end of his life, "I only practice a wee little bit."

The cause of death was congestive heart failure. He is survived by his companion of 38 years, Michael Rolland Davis.

For more about Earl Wild, check out his official website at EarlWild.com

Footage from 1988 of Earl Wild playing the Liszt transcription of the waltz from Gounod's Faust.

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.