Earl Wild’s Seven Virtuoso Etudes transform Gershwin’s simple popular songs into works that challenge the technical prowess of the best concert pianists without losing the underlying style of the originals. His Variations on “Someone to Watch Over Me” is a free pianistic realization of the tune, much the way that Liszt’s operatic “paraphrases” are free interpretations of vocal music popular in the mid-19th century, perhaps suggesting that the worlds of classical music and American popular song are not as far removed as we think. Wild’s Piano Sonata breathes the same pianistic air as the Gershwin transcriptions, where the influence of jazz and blues is everywhere apparent.
Joanne Polk records Earl Wild’s transcriptions of Gershwin for the Steinway & Sons label
Includes an original composition by Wild, “Sonata 2000”
After her 2015 Steinway & Sons release, The Flatterer, dedicated to the music of Cécile Chaminade, Steinway Artist Joanne Polk turns her attention to another important early 20th-century composer and pianist: Earl Wild. In addition to a busy career as a solo and orchestral pianist, Wild was also a composer and arranger, known in particular for his transcriptions of the music of George Gershwin. Polk’s album, Gershwin & Wild (STNS 30090), available on the Steinway & Sons label, features many of these transcriptions as well as an original Wild composition.
Gershwin & Wild includes a group of song transcriptions under the title Seven Virtuoso Etudes, which transform simple melodies from the Great American Songbook, including “The Man I Love” and “Embraceable You” into virtuoso etudes, while still maintaining Gershwin’s underlying style. Wild’s Theme and Three Variations on “Someone to Watch Over Me” makes use of a different compositional style in each variation, incorporating influences from other genres of music and even quoting J.S. Bach.
Wild’s “Sonata 2000” has only been recorded once before – by the composer himself toward the end of his career. In the tradition of Wild’s Gershwin transcriptions, the sonata’s three movements flow freely between classical, jazz, and blues idioms, even venturing subtly into the realm of Latin popular music in the final movement, “Toccata à la Ricky Martin.”
"This is highly complex classical music that draws on influences from popular culture but in no way bows to them...Joanne Polk is a thrilling exponent of these works."
About the Artist
JOANNE POLK was catapulted into the public eye with her recordings of the complete piano works of American composer Amy Beach (1867-1944) on the Arabesque Recordings label. She celebrated the centennial of Beach’s Piano Concerto by giving the work its London premiere with the English Chamber Orchestra at the Barbican Center, under the baton of Paul Goodwin, and subsequently performed it with the Women’s Philharmonic in San Francisco, under conductor Apo Hsu, in a performance described as “brilliant” by critic Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
As a result of her work to date, promoting the music of women composers, Joanne Polk was named one of Musical America’s Top 30 Professionals of the Year (2014) in an article titled, “Profiles in Courage.” In September 2014, Ms. Polk’s CD The Flatterer, solo piano music of French Romantic composer Cécile Chaminade, was released on the Steinway and Sons Label. The CD was a “Pick of the Week” on New York’s classical radio station, WQXR, and debuted at Number 1 on the Classical Billboard Chart.
Joanne Polk received her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from The Juilliard School, and her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Manhattan School of Music. She has given master classes and recitals at many summer festivals and universities across the globe, including Summit Music Festival, New York Summer Music Festival, Montclair State University, Kutztown University, International Academy of Music in Italy, and at the University of Minnesota. Ms. Polk is one of three directors of Manhattan in the Mountains Summer Music Festival, a three-week summer music festival in the Catskill Mountains, devoted to chamber music, solo performing, and community engagement.
About Steinway & Sons label
The STEINWAY & SONS music label produces exceptional albums of solo piano music across all genres. The label — a division of STEINWAY & SONS, maker of the world’s finest pianos — is a perfect vessel for producing the finest quality recordings by some of the most talented pianists in the world.