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Gershwin Revisited

Steinway keyboard © Charles & Mary Love

At a concert in Charlotte, North Carolina, this winter, we heard young Korean pianist Joyce Yang, a Van Cliburn Competition silver medalist, receive an enthusiastic ovation for her performance of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. For an encore she played one of Earl Wild’s Virtuoso Etudes on Seven Gershwin Songs (1973)—a beautiful transcription of The Man I Love. Although we like to think we are familiar with much of the literature, we’d never heard of Wild’s transcriptions. They’re extraordinarily beautiful—just what you’d expect from a pianist in the romantic tradition.

Wild was one of America’s best pianists, sometimes compared to Vladimir Horowitz. He became a household name after being invited by Arturo Toscanini to perform Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in 1942. He even traveled with Eleanor Roosevelt in World War II to perform the national anthem before her speeches in support of the war effort. After a long, successful career in music, he died in 2010 at the age of 94.

The most popular etudes, besides the one we heard in concert, are his transcriptions of Embraceable You and I Got Rhythm. Wild also wrote a wonderful Fantasy on Porgy and Bess (1976), essentially an imaginative medley based on the opera’s score.

We mention all this because many people inquire about where the Gershwin Etudes, and other compositions by Wild, can be purchased (they’re not available through music retailers).

Go to www.earlwild.com. There you’ll learn more about Wild as well and find contact information for Michael Rolland Davis (tel: 760-327-5826, e-mail: mrdavisprod@sprintmail.com). As Earl Wild’s publisher, Davis sells Wild’s compositions, recordings—and his long-awaited memoirs.

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