Earl Wild

Earl Wild
Born on November 26, 1915 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the young Wild displayed extraordinary musical ability from the age of three. By the time he was six years of age, he was reading music fluently and before his twelfth birthday, he was studying with the famous teacher, Selmar Janson.

Earl Wild was then placed into a program for artistically gifted young people at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University). Still in his early teens, Wild began playing piano and celeste in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Otto Klemperer and by the age of nineteen, was already a concert hall veteran and had composed many piano transcriptions as well as arrangements for chamber orchestra that were often performed on local radio stations. He was also invited to perform on the radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh (the first radio station in the United States) and made such an impression that he began working there on a regular basis.

During this early period of his career, Earl Wild gave a brilliant and critically well received performance of the Liszt E Flat Piano Concerto with Dimitri Mitropoulos and the Minneapolis Symphony in Pittsburgh's Syria Mosque, without the benefit of a rehearsal! In 1937, Wild joined the NBC network as staff pianist as well as performing in the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Toscanini. He became the first artist to perform a piano recital on US television and in 1942, became a household name when Toscanini invited him to be the soloist in Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, the first performance of the Rhapsody for both conductor and soloist.

Wild was immediately hailed as the major interpreter of Gershwin, the youngest piano soloist ever engaged by the NBC Symphony. During World War II, Earl Wild served in the United States Navy as a musician, playing flute in the Navy Band, as well as performing solo piano recitals at the White House and numerous piano concertos with the U.S. Navy Symphony Orchestra at the Departmental Auditorium and other venues in Washington, D.C. During these two years in the Navy he was frequently requested to accompany First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to her many speaking engagements, performing the National Anthem as a prelude to her speeches.

Upon leaving the Navy in 1945, he moved to the newly formed American Broadcasting Company (ABC), where he remained as staff pianist, conductor and composer until 1968. At the time of his NBC and ABC affiliation, he was also performing many concert engagements around the world. At ABC he conducted and performed many of his own compositions and in 1962, ABC commissioned him to compose an Easter Oratorio. It was the first time that a television network subsidized a major musical work. Earl Wild was assisted by tenor William Lewis, who wrote the libretto and sang the role of St. John in the production. Revelations was a religious work based on the apocalyptic visions of St. John the Divine.

Wild also conducted it's world premiere telecast in 1962 which blended dance, music, song and theatrical staging. The first telecast of this large-scale oratorio was so successful that it was entirely re-staged and re-broadcast in 1964. Another composition entitled The Turquoise Horse was commissioned by Earl Wild, for the official opening and dedication ceremonies of the Palm Springs Desert Musieum's Annenberg Theater on January 11th 1976. Earl Wild has participated in many premieres. In 1944, he performed the Western World premiere of Shostakovich's Piano Trio in E Minor. He was the soloist in the world premiere performance of Paul Creston's Piano Concerto, in Paris 1949, repeating the performance Washington D.C. with the National Symphony Orchestra.

In December 1970, Wild also gave the world premiere of Marvin David Levy's Piano Concerto, a work written specially for him. Wild has appeared with nearly every orchestra and has performed countless recitals in virtually every country. He has collaborated with many great conductors such as Toscanini, Stokowski, Reiner, Klemperer, Horenstein, Leinsdorf, Fiedler, Mitropoulos, Grofe, Ormandy, Sargent, Dorati, Maazel, Solti, Copland and Schippers. He has also worked with instrumentalists such as Elman, Shumsky, Ricci, Mischakoff, Balakovich, Primrose, Gingold, Rose, Shapiro, Miller; singers - Callas, Tourel, Pons, Matzenauer, Maynor, Melchior, Merrill, Lanza, Peerce, Milanov, Bumbry and Lear. In 1960, at the Santa Fe Opera, Earl Wild conducted the first performances of La Traviata as well as Gianni Schicchi on a double bill with Igor Stravinsky conducting his own Oedipus Rex.

From 1952 to 1956, Wild worked with the comedian Sid Caesar on the TV program The Caesar Hour, where he composed and performed the piano background in all the silent movie skits. He then went on to write his now famous piano transcriptions of well-known Gershwin pieces. He has also composed thirteen piano transcriptions from a selected group of Rachmaninov songs and has been hailed "the finest transcriber of our time", many of his works having been performed and recorded by pianists throughout the world.

Earl Wild has had the unequaled honour of being requested to perform for six consecutive Presidents of the United States, beginning with Herbert Hoover, and in 1961, was the soloist with the National Symphony at the inauguration ceremonies of President John F Kennedy in Constitution Hall. In 1986 he was awarded the Liszt Medal by the People's Republic of Hungary in recognition of his long and devoted association with the music of Franz Liszt, a 1986 TV documentary entitled Wild about Liszt received the British Petroleum Award for best musical documentary.

Wild has been closely associated with Liszt, performing his recitals over a forty year period, giving a monumental 'all Liszt' recital celebrating the 150th anniversary of Liszt's birth in 1961, and a 1986 recital, honouring the 100th year of his death. He has also given numerous performances of works by neglected 19th Century composers, including Paderewski, Tausig and Moszkowski. In addition to pursuing his own concert career, Earl Wild has been actively supporting and helping young musicians for over forty years. He has been on the faculty of The Juilliard School of Music, University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music, Penn State University, Manhattan School of Music, The Ohio State University and is present distinguished Visiting Artist-in-Residence at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

He has also taught classes in the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, Toho-Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo and the Sun Wha School of Seoul and numerous masterclasses all over the world.

"Even as he approaches 80, Earl Wild remains a pianist without pieties, an iconoclast of the keyboard...He has parlayed his performances of big, splashy 19th Century Romantic works into one of the most remarkable careers in classical music. A throwback to the vanished age of the great showmen-virtuosi of the keyboard, he plays the most demanding repertory with a fire-breathing gusto that makes few concessions to age." - Chicago Tribune, November 1995

"...His thoroughly romantic sensibility has made the white-haired pianist something of an anachronism-proudly so...Wild may well be the Last American Romantic...By the mid-1950's Wild had become known as an exponent of Liszt's piano works. From Liszt, he began to delve into the forgotten 19th Century romantics, bringing back the works of such fabled pianist-composers as Ignace Paderewski, D'Albert, and Scharwenka. He also plays, of course, plenty of standard repertory: Mozart, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Debussy, Ravel - and one of the best Beethoven Hammerklavier Sonatas you will ever hear (on a Chesky CD). As a matter of fact, Wild's huge repertory shows how timid and lacking in imagination most of today's pianists are." - American Record Guide, March/April 1996