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Wild About Liszt
Wild About Liszt
Actor: Earl Wild
Director: none listed
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2007     8hr 50min

Earl Wild in Concert - first commercial DVD release! Mr. Wild in performances of three historic Liszt recitals; 'The Poet' 'The Transcriber' and 'The Virtuoso' - taped in 1986 at the ancestral home of Lord Londonderry in...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Earl Wild
Director: none listed
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: International, Classical
Studio: Ivory Classics
Format: DVD
DVD Release Date: 07/16/2007
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 8hr 50min
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A great pianist's tribute to Franz Liszt
Elliot Ravetz | MA | 08/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

To commemorate the centenary of the death of Franz Liszt in 1986, the great American pianist Earl Wild performed a series of three synoptic all-Liszt concerts. Wild called the programs "Liszt the Poet," "Liszt the Transcriber," and "Liszt the Virtuoso." Wild's performances of the music from those historic Liszt recitals have been available on CD for quite some time.

But now we have extraordinary news: In July of 1986, Wild was invited by the 9th Marquess of Londonderry, an ardent Liszt devotee, to perform all three recitals at his ancestral home in northern England -- where Wild's performances were videotaped! Those tapes were recently transferred to DVD, and this handsomely packaged 2-DVD set is now available for the first time. The set, suitably called "Wild About Liszt," also contains absorbing bonus material, including several illuminating interviews. Two of them are especially worth noting: Wild's witty interview with the widely respected piano authority, Donald Manildi in 2003 at the Mannes School International Keyboard Festival; the other for Dutch TV in 2005, that was done in connection with the recital Wild gave to celebrate his 90th birthday at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam -- a concert that twice elicited an outpouring of critical raves for the nonagenarian, because soon after the triumphant Amsterdam recital Wild repeated the program at Carnegie Hall.

It is generally accepted as a given, and it is confirmed here, that Wild ranks among the greatest of Liszt players. And it is wonderful to report that the DVDs are first-rate. In fact, they're a piano-lover's dream: for a single stationary camera placed in the center aisle gives us Wild waist up from the side, with his omnipotent fingers and the keyboard always clearly visible -- there are none of those distracting breakaways from the pianist's hands to show him gazing raptly at the heavens (though Wild has never condescended to mugging for an audience in any event). If the sound doesn't measure up to the highest demands of a zealous audiophile -- that is, let's say, to the lofty standards of Ivory Classics, the label with which Wild has become identified -- it is still remarkably good. Especially if we remember that these live performances were filmed not in a studio or in an acoustically tailored concert hall, but rather in a statue gallery that was used as a salon at a private estate. The point will quickly become moot to serious lovers of great piano playing, whose ears will immediately respond to the power and beauty of Wild's playing, just as music lovers of the past were able to hear beyond the limits of the recording technologies of their time.

There have been quite a few great Liszt players in the modern era, among them Brendel, Cziffra, Horowitz, Richter, Bolet, Arrau, Berman, and more recently Stephen Hough. None has been greater or more consistently satisfying than Earl Wild, who is himself a keyboard Poet (listen to his recording of the complete Chopin nocturnes or to his arrangements of Rachmaninov songs for solo piano, which often surpass the originals in beauty), a Transcriber (try his Grammy Award-winning CD "Earl Wild: Virtuoso Piano Transcriptions" or his scintillating Gershwin arrangements) and, of course, Wild is a great Virtuoso (hear his sizzling Brahms' "Paganini Variations" or his breathtaking performance of Leopold Godowsky's finger-twisting show-stopper "Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes from Johann Strauss's `Artist's Life'," with its many contrapuntal voices, shifting chromatic harmonies and labyrinthine technical complexities). Fortunately, most of Wild's remarkably extensive, incredibly rich discography is available at the pianist's website -- [...]

If you love Liszt, you'll be wild about Wild."
Stunning DVD set - six stars minus one for lack of tracking
Dan Sherman | Alexandria, VA USA | 11/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a superb DVD set in terms of its content - three very full recitals of a master pianist presenting many of the best known pieces of Liszt. The previous review of the disk gives a good sense of the content of the disks -- i.e., recitals in a small concert setiing in one of the great homes of England, along with some fine documentary material (including excerpts of Earl Wilds at 90(!)).

This is one those DVD sets (a great bargain for all of its quality content) that deserves six stars but I pull it back to five stars (merely extraordinary) for two reasons. The first is the generla lack of documentation about the content of the program -- there is no list of what Wild played in each program, though the booklet says (for example) that he played a transcription of a Beethoven symphony without identifying the symphony. This is compounded by the fact that that each of the three recitals is presented as one track with no cueing for individual pieces. The only hint of what is being played is a quick flash of a listing of a line of program booklet as you play through the DVD. It is a shame that there is not better tracking, in that you can spend a very long time holding the fast forward button to get to a particualr piece (once you know what the program is), only to have go back a bit to get to the beginning of a piece. This seems to be a major oversight that mars an otherwise outstanding set.

As noted in the previous review, the visuals of the concerts are quite good. Generally a well focused camera on the pianist that allows you to watch him at a reasonable distance while still seeing his hands clearly to see how he actually makes his way through these (sometimes fiendishly difficult) pieces. One thing that impresses me about Wild is his generally staid manner at the keyboard. He sits quite still with little swaying, hands generally close to the keyboard, and has none of the mugging and miming that you see in many pianists (who also give swooning looks to the heaven).

A great set of concerts here (also available of CD). It is just a shame and well worth noting that the producers of the DVD didn't see the need for an overall program listing and also tracking on the DVDs to get to individual pieces.

DVD Chapter Listing
South Carolina | 03/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Here are the chapter listings:

Liszt the Poet
Ballade No. 2 in B minor
Les Jeux d'eau à la Villa d'Este
Fantasia quasi Sonata (Dante Sonata)
Les Funerailles
Sonetto del Petraraca Nos. 47, 104, 123
Valse Oubliee No. 1
Mephisto Polka
Mephisto Waltz No. 1
Encore: Respighi - Notturno

Liszt the Transcriber
Bach/Liszt: Fantasia & Fugue in G minor
Beethoven/Liszt: Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 21
Verdi/Liszt: Rigoletto Paraphrase
Schumann/Liszt: Widmung, Fruhlingsnacht
Chopin/Liszt: Mes Joies
Liszt/Liszt: Die Lorely
Wagner/Liszt: Spinning Song from "The Flying Dutchman"
Paganini/Liszt: Etude No. 2 (La Capricciosa),
Paganini/Liszt: No. 5 (La Chasse),
Paganini/Liszt: No. 3 (La Campanella)
Encore: Chopin/Wild - Larghetto from Piano Concerto No. 2

Liszt the Virtuoso
Polonaise No. 2 in E major
Sonata in B minor

Three Etudes de Concert:
La Leggierezza,
Un Sospiro,
A Priceless Treasury
boldsworthington | Washington, DC, United States | 06/01/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I've always adored Earl Wild. After going through this extraordinary compendium of sight and sound, I love him a hundred times more. Yes, he deserved a far better piano for the historic 1986 recitals at England's Wynyard Park. The DVD booklet warns that the piano, shipped in from London, was not ideally adjusted. The documentary proves that the piano was at least tuned, although it didn't seem to hold the tuning very well in the late-July heat. I get the sense that Wild often had to fight the instrument to get something half decent out of it (what a shame that he could not have picked out an instrument in London before it arrived up north). As a result, Wild's playing sometimes goes uncharacteristically choppy. I'm sure that quite a few of the wrong notes can be blamed on the recalcitrant keyboard (like all great musicians, Wild plays his wrong notes the right way, without the slightest perturbation). As the recitals proceed, Wild progressively tames the beast a bit, I think.

Be all that as it may, we are surely much the richer because Tony Gaw (a friend of Lord Londonderry, owner of Wynyard) thoughtfully preserved this great occasion for us (the final July 30 recital began on the evening before the centennial of Liszt's passing; indeed, in the accompanying documentary Londonderry muses that the recital might even end close to the time of Liszt's death, which therefore must have come not long after midnight on July 31, 1886). I was fortunate to hear this same three-recital sequence (with the addition of the third *Liebestraum* as the opening of "Liszt the Poet") when Wild presented it in Cambridge, Mass., in April and May 1986, so I am thrilled to see that nearly all of it has been preserved.

Many thanks to "South Carolina" for the program details (why did Ivory fail to supply them in the booklet? By the way, the first two recitals, on DVD 1, are properly broken down into individual chapters. The final recital, on DVD 2, is one annoyingly continuous chapter). South Carolina's program for the third recital is incomplete, however. After *Gnomenreigen*, we hear:
- Four of the *Douze études d'exécution transcendante* (12 Transcendental Etudes): 3, 2, 9 & 10
- Three Hungarian Rhapsodies: 12, 4 & 2
- Eugène d'Albert's Scherzo in F#, Op. 16/2 (encore)

Also worth noting: the 1974 BBC interview with Robin Ray contains five complete live performances in studio (on a vastly more responsive and better-recorded Bösendorfer, thank goodness):
- Liszt's *Gnomenreigen*, Sonetto del Petrarca 104, and *La campanella*
- d'Albert's Scherzo in F#
- Chopin's *Grande polonaise* in E-flat, Op. 22

Here and elsewhere, Wild makes a persuasive case for transposing many 19th-century works down by up to a third (in Beethoven's case; more often, by a whole tone) to correct for the relentless rise in concert pitch. He demonstrates his point with Chopin's Op. 25/1 (the "Aeolian Harp" étude) and Op. 25/12 (the "Ocean" étude), playing the opening passages in their "correct" keys before transposing them down a full tone.

Perhaps the set's biggest "Easter egg" pops up in the middle of Wild's 1982 Philadelphia radio interview: a performance of Copland's Piano Concerto, with Copland leading The Symphony of the Air (whose presence necessarily dates the recording to somewhere between 1954 and 1963).

The other video extras feature Wild at the keyboard, but only in snippets. The audio interviews are just as delightful as their video counterparts. Among the many revelations from these extras: Wild began playing Scharwenka's First Piano Concerto when he was 14, so he was more than ready when Erich Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony needed a soloist for their classic 1969 recording. Throughout, Wild is unpretentiously charming and often howlingly funny as he reflects on his extraordinary life (Wild tells several illuminating Toscanini anecdotes and provides direct evidence about Debussy's youthful visit to Spain from Debussy's traveling companion Henry Hornbostel, the principal architect for Carnegie Mellon University, whom Wild met as a 19-year-old student). Lastly, there is a voluminous photo gallery filled with historic and contemporary images about Wynyard Park (you'll need to hit the pause button to take in big texts like those from old newspaper articles).

All in all, this set exploits just about everything a DVD can do with image and sound. It's a fabulous romp and a reference for the ages. I pray that Wild makes it to 100 and beyond with all his wits. What a sorry world we will have when his exuberant spirit takes flight."