It was with sadness that I learned today of the death of pianist Earl Wild, who died at the age of 94 on Saturday, January 23 at his home in Palm Springs, California. Although I have known of Earl Wild for years, and enjoyed his arrangements of several Gershwin songs, it was only recently that I gained an appreciation for the breadth and depth of his achievements. He was a classical pianist of enviable taste and technique, at home in an astonishing variety of musical styles and eras. He was a composer as well, famous for his piano transcriptions of songs as different as those of Gershwin and Rachmaninoff.
His career was remarkable as much for its longevity as its diversity. He was born in Pittsburgh on November 26, 1915, and began giving recitals in 1928 at the age of 12. To put that into historical perspective, that was just one year after Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in one season, and one year before the onset of the Great Depression! He gave his final concert at age 92 in February 2008, drawing to a close a career that had spanned 80 years.
It was just three weeks ago that I featured Earl Wild on this blog in a performance of “Danse” by Debussy, a tribute that was by no means intended as a memorial. Here, from that same recital, is a performance of Chopin’s brilliant Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat minor. After such a performance – and such a career – what is left to say but, “Bravo!”