Earl Wild Tribute

Earl Wild, legendary pianist and CMU alum

Such magnificent music and colors coming from the piano, and yet the man playing sat virtually motionless.

It awed Eric Clark, as a Carnegie Mellon University student, to watch legendary pianist and alumnus Earl Wild (A'37) put his stamp on everything from well-known classical sonatas to original compositions.

Wild joined CMU's School of Music faculty in 1993, where he taught many students fulltime in his studio. He also gave insightful master classes — a type of teaching seminar that involves performance by the 'master' as well as students to further showcase technique and musicality.

Clark, a 2007 graduate of CMU's School of Music, will never forget those classes.

"I think what really captured me first was the amazing ease with which he played, and the beautiful, crystalline sound he drew from the instrument," Clark said. "Mr. Wild had a tremendous effect on my playing and thinking."

Looking back, Clark can appreciate just how deeply Wild's ideas affected his own approach to the piano and to music.

"He taught me how to organize technical passages mentally, to identify the patterns. He never explicitly said this, but it is something you learn incidentally, and from watching him play," Clark said. "I think the essence of it lies in how carefully he examined and thought about every phrase, and then how he was able to fit them into the big picture as well, so that there is both detail and structure in the performance."

Clark appreciated the personal stamp Wild put on everything he played.

"He always had something to say, and I particularly loved his account of the Brahms F minor Sonata, which I think challenges the conventional wisdom with its moving tempos, subtle colorations, and overall logic," said Clark. "He was an architect, as well as a singer, at the piano."

Wild's fluency and ease of playing opened up doors for Clark's development. He learned a lot about how to handle complicated passages and textures at the piano with more confidence. Clark also learned how to use the different registers of the piano to create three dimensional textures — with sparkling high notes and deep organ-like bass notes.

"It was a revelation to learn how a professional of his stature works on music, to learn firsthand what goes into a first-class interpretation. There was sincerity in everything he did," Clark said. "And it was pretty cool to see up close a virtuoso of his stature playing, to say the least."

Carnegie Mellon University's School of Music celebrates the life of Earl Wild (1915-2010) in an afternoon of performances by current faculty members, students and alumni. This "Celebration of Life" event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 9 in the College of Fine Arts' Kresge Theatre. A reception will be held immediately following the program in the Alumni Concert Hall.


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