Classical CD Reviews

EARL WILD – The Complete Transcriptions and Original Piano Works = Giovanni Doria Miglietta, piano – Piano Classics

A young Italian piano virtuoso meets Earl Wild on his home ground of classics, jazz and Gershwin and they shake talented hands.

Published on July 22, 2014

EARL WILD – The Complete Transcriptions and Original Piano Works = Giovanni Doria Miglietta, piano – Piano Classics

EARL WILD – The Complete Transcriptions and Original Piano Works = MARCELLO: Adagio from Oboe Concerto in D Minor; BACH: Sarabande from Partita No. 1 in B-flat “Hommage a Poulenc”; CHOPIN: Larghetto from Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor; FAURE: Improvisation on “Apres un Reve”; WILD: Piano Sonata (2000); GERSHWIN: Improvisation in the Form of a Theme and Variations on “Someone to Watch Over Me”; GERSHWIN (arr. Wild): Seven Virtuoso Etudes – Giovanni Doria Miglietta, piano – Piano Classics PCL0069, 74:43 (6/23/14) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:  

Italian virtuoso Giovanni Doria Miglietta (b. 1979) celebrates the many-faceted talents of American piano virtuoso Earl Wild (1915-2010) in this generous recital from 7-9 October 2013. Miglietta credits his first piano teacher Lidia Baldecchi for having him “approach” Wild’s music, which embraced transcriptions in the manner of Liszt and some original compositions, of which the Sonata serves, in Wild’s words, “purely as an expression of a few moments in my long life.”

Miglietta opens with the famous Adagio by Alessandro Marcello’s Oboe Concerto in D Minor, an extended moment of pure melody and keyboard legato. The savvy Hommage a Poulenc (1994) conceals in plain hearing the Sarabande by Bach but articulated in suspended chords in the manner of the French ironist.  The Chopin Larghetto from the F Minor Concerto (1993) provides both orchestral tissue and colors and the bel canto, florid keyboard textures whose middle section becomes darkly dramatic.

Earl Wild’s own Piano Sonata 2000, written when he was eighty-five, added an entirely “creative” dimension to Wild’s musical persona. In three movements, the piece amalgamates Classical procedures with jazz and blues elements, folk, and ragtime. The percussive first movement Allegro (March) would sound like Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata except for the bluesy harmonies in the manner of Gershwin.  The second movement, an affectionate, misty Adagio, captures the warm relationship Wild had with his grandmother, who sang 1920s popular melodies to him as a child. Miglietta’s right hand sings while his left beats out a muted ostinato.  The rhythm assumes a stride jazz tempo, with elongated cascades of sound typical of a torch singer’s accompaniment. The last movement Toccata (a la Ricky Martin) concedes Wild’s admiration for the Latin style, its high energy and clashing fugatos, punctuated by Miglietta’s having to hit the B some 100 times in its middle section. Again, the mesmeric effect of this touch-piece involves a Latinizing of Prokofiev’s vivid keyboard writing, made lyric and undeniably American.

Earl Wild set Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” as an extended theme and variations in G-flat Major in 1989. Taken from the musical Oh, Kay! (1926), the theme enjoys its own tender melodic line that Wild can adjust first to the 6/8 lulling of a barcarolle. Miglietta’s left hand ornaments the Venetian sensibility with vocal warbles that allude to the Neapolitan O Sole Mio and bits from Puccini (from Gianni Schicchi) and Rossini. The high treble repeated notes bear the marking quasi mandolino. The music breaks out into an Argentine tango that absorbs a Bach group in C Minor. The tango becomes more palpably sensuous in spite of Bach, just a stone’s throw from Fernando’s Hideaway.

The Seven Virtuoso Etudes (1975) liken Wild to Leopold Godowsky; but here, instead of elaborating and ornamenting Chopin, Wild illuminates Gershwin songs. Liza enjoys a series of deft roulades and volatinas in the right hand. Somebody Loves Me plays as its own torch song, a nocturne tripping the light fantastic. Dense textures that include polyrhythms ornament The Man I Love, an exotic love song that cries out for Billie Holiday. Embraceable You bathes itself in liquid scales and arpeggios that weave and scatter in the soaring manner of Debussy. The sultry lady can be unpredictable in Lady be Good, the longest, jazziest, most zestful of the Etudes. The final pair – I Got Rhythm and Fascinatin’ Rhythm – pour out polyrhyhms, syncopes, and staccato scales as if they might become extinct. Great piano sound, courtesy of Sound Engineer Maurizio Natoli.

If pianist Miglietta seeks employment in your night club, hire him.

—Gary Lemco




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