Monday, January 25, 2010

Remembering Earl Wild

Oh no, once again we are about to turn into the Obituary Web Log (OWL). Because not only did we talk about someone's death the other day but now we have lost Earl Wild. That is Wild pictured above. It is an early picture you do not often see.

Earl Wild is a pianist I love and he has always been so nice to me. I feel privileged to be able to write that sentence. I did get to talk to Wild on the phone on three different occasions, twice for The Buffalo News when he was coming to town to play, and once for my book on Leonard Pennario.

And this is says a lot about how nice Wild is: I did not really have to call him for my book. He was one of the people I called first thing, when I was in California with Leonard, and I did not have the foggiest idea what I was doing and I was calling all kinds of people who, looking back, I see I did not need to call. Wild did not know Pennario all that well. He joined him one year on the jury of the Van Cliburn Competition. After that their paths crossed here and there over the years, as pianists' paths do.

But Pennario liked Wild very much, and Pennario did not like everyone. He loved Wild's sense of humor. And Wild did say a few great things to me, and I am extremely honored to be able to add the voice of this wonderful man to my book. Best of all, I got to get the conversation on tape. That was a secret reason I made that phone call! The previous two times I had talked to Earl Wild, my tape had screwed up. And always it was in the back of my mind that some day I would get one more chance.

Speaking of which, when I was on the phone with Wild for my Pennario book I digressed from the topic of Pennario, which, trust me, I never do. Normally I would rather talk about Pennario than anything! But in Wild's case I entreated him to tell me again a story he had told me before, about how when he wore this really loud and stinky cologne when he was a kid and playing celeste with Toscanini and the NBC Symphony. Wow, that story made me laugh. I was dying to have it on tape and now I do.

I hope he put that story in his memoirs, which I was happy to hear are to be published this year. If he does not, though, I will be around to tell it. Anyway, Wild was very nice to me, and so was his companion, Michael Davis, who arranged the interview for me. I felt a kind of kinship with Michael, both of us in the trenches with these old men, speaking for them, negotiating their schedules. Both of us knowing we were on borrowed time.

I thank God for Wild's long and full life. If someone makes it to 94 you do not have a lot to complain about. I am also glad that Earl Wild got some renown late in his life, while he was still alive. There was this story for instance in the New York Times. Wild was able to play until the last couple of years, which kept him in the public consciousness, and that was a blessing all around.

Last spring I was remembering something Wild had told me and I wrote about it.

Here is Tim Smith of the Baltimore Sun writing about Wild. I will also have to write something about him on The Buffalo News' Web log because Wild had a special friendship going with Buffalo in his last years, and made a couple of recordings in our town.

The world will not be the same without Earl Wild in it.

I will miss him!