Earl Wild

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Earl Wild (born November 26, 1915 in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania , † January 23, 2010 in Palm Springs , California ) was an American pianist , composer and conductor .



Earl Wild began playing the piano at the age of four, but did not attach any importance to the first teachers up to the age of eleven and described himself as an autodidact. At the age of eleven he was a student at the Carnegie Institute of Technology with the German Selmar Janson, who had studied with Eugen d'Albert , Teresa Carreño and Xaver Scharwenka until he graduated in 1937 . In 1934 he was able to finance a year of private tuition in New York City with Egon Petri through the prize money in a composition competition . For decades he took the advice of Paul Doguereau in Boston , who himself had also studied with Petri, Paderewski , Marguerite Long , Emil von Sauer , Józef Hofmann and Maurice Ravel . In the early 1950s, when Wild had been a concert pianist for a long time, he took a few more hours with Helene Barere, who had studied with Felix Blumenfeld and was the widow of the Russian virtuoso Simon Barere . From 1957 he consulted for a few years with Volya Cossack, who had studied with the Leszetycki student Richard Buhlig and with Isidore Philipp .


In 1937 Wild became a pianist with NBC , making him the first in 1939 to give a piano recital on US television. In 1942 it became generally known through the solo part in Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in a radio broadcast under Toscanini , which Wild henceforth considered a “Gershwin specialist” - not necessarily to his advantage among critics and intellectuals. From 1942 to 1944 he was a member of the United States Navy Band and the US Navy Symphony Orchestra due to the war, in the former he also played the flute. In 1946 he moved to ABC , to which he remained loyal until 1968 as a pianist, conductor and composer. In the 1960s, legendary recordings for Reader's Digest were made , especially of virtuoso romantic piano concertos, and he was also seen as a conductor in opera productions. In 1997 he was the first pianist of the - through the help of the computer science faculty at Carnegie Mellon University , a piano recital on the internet - streamed was.


Wild taught at numerous US conservatories and universities from 1964 to 2005:


In his good time, Wild was one of the technically best pianists of all time. Difficulties do not seem to exist in his legendary 1960s recordings of all Rachmaninoff concerts, which he recorded all five together (including the Paganini Rhapsody) within a week, despite the extraordinarily high tempos. In the USA, Earl Wild, who played for six consecutive US presidents (Coolidge to Kennedy), is much more popular than in Europe, where he has appeared in television, radio and concerts for decades and because his many recordings have been much better available for a long time only played in France, Monaco, England, Italy and the Netherlands. In Germany he only appeared as a song accompanist in 10 opera houses in 1949.


Wild played on Baldwin instruments for about 50 years (except on tours in Europe) because the American Steinways were too stiff for him and had too much depth (key range) and the Baldwin company also offered him good technical service. After Baldwin went bankrupt again after the turn of the millennium, he moved to Shigeru Kawai in old age .


His discography from 1939 to 2005 includes 35 piano concertos, 26 chamber music works and over 700 solo works. His solo recital The Romantic Master on the occasion of his 80th birthday in 1995 received the 1997 Grammy for best classical solo instrument album without orchestra.

Private life

Wild lived openly gays in Palm Springs , New York City, and Columbus, Ohio . His partner was Michael Rolland Davis, 34 years his junior, whom he met in 1972 and who became his manager, producer and publisher.

Larger compositions (selection)

  • Adventure for piano and orchestra (1938)
  • Gershwin / Wild: 7 Virtuoso Etudes (1954/75):
  • Gershwin / Wild: Grande Fantasy on Porgy and Bess (1975)
  • Gershwin / Wild: Improvisation in the form of Theme and Variations On Someone to Watch over Me (1989)
  • Transcriptions of Rachmaninoff songs (1981):
    • In the Silent Night (In the Silent Night; В молчаньи ночи тайной), op 4/3
    • O, Cease thy Singing (Do not sing, my beauty; Не пой, красавица), op 4/4
    • The Harvest of Sorrow (Уж ты, нива моя!), Op 4/5
    • The little Island (The small island; Островок), op 14/2
    • Midsummer Nights (summer nights; Эти летние ночи), op 14/5
    • Do not grieve (Do not be sad; О, не грусти), op 14/8
    • Floods of Spring (Spring floods; Весенние воды), op 14/11
    • Where Beauty Dwells (Where beauty lives; Здесь хорошо), op 21/7
    • On the Death of a Linnet (To the death of a linnet ; На смерть чижика), op 21/8
    • Sorrow in Springtime (Kummer im Spring; Как мне больно), op 21/12
    • To The Children (For children; К детям), op 26/7
    • The Muse (The Muse; Муза), op 34/1
    • Vocalise , op 34/14
    • Dreams (Сон), op 38/5
  • Sonata 2000 (2000)
  • Variations on a Theme of Stephen Foster for piano and orchestra ( Doo-Dah Variations, 1991)


A walk on the wild side. A memoir by virtuoso pianist Earl Wild . Palm Springs: The Ivory Classics Foundation 2011. ISBN 978-0-5780746-9-6

Web links


  1. The americ. Music critic Harold Schonberg: "How could you take seriously someone who ran around and played the Gershwin Concerto and the Rhapsody in Blue" - Schonberg: The Great Pianists, New York 1987, p. 495
  2. Schonberg: "an extremely spectacular technique, on the stratospheric level of a Horowitz or Bolet" - Schonberg: The Great Pianists, New York 1987, p. 495
  3. The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs in the review of the recordings: "Earl Wild's technique is enormous and sometimes he almost lets himself be carried away by it" - Penguin Guide to Compact Discs, London 1995 etc.
  4. http://www.pianonews.de/index.php/anders/2003/55-pianonews-06-2003
  5. New York Times: 90? Who's 90? Just give him a piano