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Classical 101

Goodbye Earl Wild

TWO AUDIO PIECES- BOTH INTERVIEWS A mighty voice has been silenced with the passing of the last of the great romantics: Earl Wild died quietly in his sleep early Saturday morning. He was an engaging, charming, witty artist who was not afraid to voice an opinion, whether about music and those who performed it, world events, people he knew, or the quality of his martini.  Dinner conversations covered all of those topics and more. My wife (WOSU Music Director Beverley Ervine) and I were privileged to have been invited by Earl and his companion Michael Rolland Davis (also his manager) for a rehearsal of an upcoming Carnegie Hall performance, followed by a delicious lasagna supper. Their Northwest Columbus home, dubbed Fernleaf Abbey, also served as Earl's recording studio. When you entered, you couldn't help but notice the black Baldwin grand piano that dominated the room, various pieces of electronic recording equipment, and the cathedral ceiling, which offered great acoustics for Earl's recording engineer, Ed Thompson, to work with. To this day, I still remember sitting awestruck as Earl began playing Liszt's "Les Jeux d'eau a la Villa d'Este" with its bell-like tones evoking the sparkling waters of the fountains that Franz Liszt could see from his balcony. Never had I heard such a sound come from a piano. As you may have also read, Earl played for many presidents, from Herbert Hoover through Lyndon Johnson, and has entertaining stories about them all. [audio:earl-wild-presidents.mp3] None, however, is more riveting than his account of playing at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. for John F. Kennedy's inauguration. [audio:earl-wild-kennedy-inauguration.mp3] Earl's impish side also came out in his music.  The same hands which pulled Liszt and Rachmaninoff from the keys also brought us Variations on a Theme by Stephen Foster, "The Doo Dah Variations", and his virtuosic treatment of the simple "Mexican Hat Dance." I have included a video of Earl Wild below to allow you to experience something of what we saw while watching him rehearse...seeing his hands as they danced along the keyboard. I am grateful to have had the privilege to have known Earl Wild, to have seen and heard him play, and to be in a position where I can continue to make his amazing talent available to listeners for years to come. Earl, may you rest in peace. -- Boyce Lancaster [youtube P834X6jjqps&feature=PlayList&p=9A0369FA8B90DCF7&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=12]