Richard Wagner's reputation rests on his tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen, and the other music dramas he created, including Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Parsifal, which revolutionized all aspects of late Romantic music and left their mark on modern music as well. Yet there is a small body of non-operatic works that shows a more relaxed Wagner working on a much smaller scale: his Siegfried Idyll for chamber orchestra, a group of songs, and a collection of pieces for piano. This double CD by Pier Paolo Vincenzi presents Wagner's complete piano music with three sonatas, a large-scale fantasia, and eleven short pieces that show the composer's attempts at finding a more personal and intimate voice.
The music on this live CD is much better played than expected, for pianist Bill Evans would pass away on the following September 15. Recorded at San Francisco's Keystone Korner during his last engagement, Evans (along with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe LaBarbera) still seems in surprisingly prime form on four originals (including "Letter to Evan" and "Bill's Hit Tune"), three obscurities, and the "Theme from M.A.S.H." Hopefully, the music from this well-documented gig will eventually be released completely and in chronological order, for the highly influential pianist shows no obvious sign of decline during the highly intuitive post-bop performance.