Pianist Earl Wild isn’t slowing down at 90

Pianist Earl Wild isn’t slowing down at 90

MARTIN STEINBERG, Associated Press, Posted on Thu, Nov. 10, 2005

NEW YORK – New album, master classes, concert performances in Europe and America – Earl Wild is turning 90, but that’s not stopping him. Neither are two eye operations and a quadruple bypass.

“After I had my (heart) operation,” the pianist said, “I decided I wasn’t going to stop playing because why live if you can’t play when you’ve done it all your life?”

Wild started playing the piano at age 3 and studied with teachers who were taught by Maurice Ravel, Ignace Jan Paderewski and Ferruccio Busoni. Two of his other teachers studied with pupils of Franz Liszt.

Wild went on to perform in orchestras led by Fritz Reiner, Otto Klemperer and Arturo Toscanini.

In 1939, he became the first pianist to give a solo recital on American television. Three years later, he performed Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” in a national radio broadcast under Toscanini’s baton.

He also played and wrote music for Sid Caesar’s TV show for three years and performed for six American presidents, from Herbert Hoover to Lyndon Johnson.

No wonder his latest CD, released this summer on the Ivory Classics label, is called “Living History.” It’s Wild’s 57th album and comes 71 years after his first recording. According to his Web site, he has recorded more than 35 piano concertos and 700 solo pieces.

Despite his vast discography, Wild had never recorded Bach’s First Partita, Scriabin’s Fourth Sonata or Schumann’s “Fantasiestueke,” all of which are on the album. Also on the CD, which he recorded at 88, is Franck’s “Prelude, Chorale and Fugue.”

Wild turns 90 on Wednesday and celebrates it publicly on Nov. 29 with a recital at Carnegie Hall, where he’s planning to play works by Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin, and himself.

This summer, he led a master class at Mannes College of Music in New York. In September, he performed in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, and has programs scheduled for this month, including Clinton, Conn., on Nov. 20.

Being a link between past and future, he still teaches at his home in Columbus, Ohio, giving each student up to five-hour lessons once every three weeks. He also has regular master classes at Carnegie Mellon University in his native city Pittsburgh.

After his operations earlier this year, Wild resumed playing in the spring.

“I was in surgery for seven hours, so it took a long time to get the anesthesia out of the body,” he said. “As soon as I felt that that was almost out I started.”
At first, it was 30 minutes a day, then an hour, then three hours by the summer.

“It was the only way,” he said. “If you wait, you just get duller and duller.”

Wild’s playing isn’t getting duller. The Bach, Scriabin and Franck on the CD are sensitively played with the light touch and great dignity of a gentleman who wears a suit and shirt and tie on a hot summer day. The Schumann is fiery and filled with excitement.

Wild’s earliest musical memories date to 1918, when his mother brought home a recording of the opera “Norma.”

“It starts with a G minor chord, just three notes,” Wild recalled. “I was a little thing and I reached up on the piano and played it. So they knew I was musical.”
He said he started taking lessons and liked to practice to drown out the quarreling between his parents

“Practice was a refuge,” he said. “It’s one place where you could be by yourself and you could throw yourself into it. I think that whatever details are the most important thing in music, it’s easy to play something for the most part when you start to do the hard work, and slow. Then you find the details. That’s where good music starts.”

For Wild, the good music will never stop and he never plans to retire, although a case of bronchitis after his recent concert in The Netherlands forced him to cancel two concerts in October.

“Oh no! People who are retired die. They go to Florida, play golf for a little while, then drop dead. I mean it’s terrible. When people are alive and they are able to do something, they should do something even if it’s basket weaving, because to not do something is to give up. … So never give up.”

[2] [ Evanston, Illinois appearances ]

Still going strong as his 90th birthday approaches on Nov. 26, pianist Earl Wild will be in Evanston Wednesday for a preview of his upcoming Carnegie Hall birthday concert. A virtuoso in the grand 19th century Romantic tradition, Wild will play Beethoven’s Sonata No. 7, D Major, Op. 10, No. 3 as well as works by Liszt, Chopin and other composers. The concert is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Dr., on the southeast end of Northwestern University’s Evanston campus. Tickets are $25. Call (847) 491-5441.

Wild gives a master class at 1 p.m. Thursday in Lutkin Hall, 700 University Pl., Evanston. Admission is free and open to the public. His Carnegie Hall recital is Nov. 29.

[ I found a long, very detailed, and very balanced review of his Carnegie Hall recital when 85. May post it soon if there’s interest in a review that old. ]

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