Virtuoso Arrangement by Earl Wild: Rachmaninov
Martin Jones’s seemingly insatiable appetite for mining the piano repertoire en masse continues with a second CD devoted to virtuoso transcriptions and arrangements by Earl Wild. Wild’s Rachmaninov song transcriptions dominate the present volume, and it says much for Jones’s considerable command that his interpretations can hold their own in the face of Wild’s irrepressible keyboard prowess.
True, he may not unleash comparable galvanic force at the peak of ‘O, cease thy singing’, yet his lighter touch in the opening and closing sequences adds more shimmer to the scales. The piano-writing in ‘Floods of Spring’ deliberately mirrors Rachmaninov’s piano idiom and Jones evokes a waterfall of sweeping, grand gestures that differs markedly from Wild’s blunter, more angular and sparely pedalled performance. The arpeggio sprays of ‘The Little Island’ have a stronger melodic profile in Wild’s hands, yet Jones’s more Impressionistic conception holds equal attraction. Regarding Wild’s arguably overwrought reworking of the ‘Vocalise’, I prefer Jones’s faster and more fluent phrasing of the main theme compared to Wild’s slower, heavier take; but, as the inner voices pile up, jockeying for position, Wild proves the more effective traffic cop.
The delightful Reminiscences of Snow White is a kind of ‘Liszt does Disney’, and his premiere recording remains the interpretative last word in harmonic pointing and characterful variety. That said, I’ve always felt that Wild milked the rubato and echo effects in ‘I’m Wishing’ to a fault, whereas Jones plays relatively straight. Jones projects more floating, melody-oriented readings of the Bach and Fauré transcriptions in comparison to Wild’s stronger linear profile. While the Mexican Hat Dance’s whirling runs and dashing leaps pose no problems for Jones in his late seventies, he inevitably reckons with the 88-year-young whippersnapper’s more pugnacious energy. While Earl Wild may have originally tailored his transcriptions for his own use, they’re not necessarily private property, as Martin Jones proves time and again.