I welcomed the The Operatic Pianist in Fanfare 38:1, and my reactions, almost four years later, to a second installment are almost exactly the same. Wright is a pianist-scholar, and an aficionado of this sort of repertory, more than he is top-of-the-line technician or virtuoso. I suspect that if a Daniil Trifonov or an Evgeny Kissin were to wrap his fingers around one of these works, the capable, game, and curious Andrew Wright would come in a distant second. (For example, the repeated notes and chords in Thalberg’s Rossini Mose Fantasy verge on becoming bangy and dull—not because Wright lacks taste or imagination, I think, but because he is working so hard that it’s all that he can do to play the right notes at the right time.) His best skill is his legato playing, and that’s an essential skill to have if you are going to play and record a program of operatic transcriptions.

Wright’s presumptive second-place status is not the point, though. This kind of music is too old- fashioned for many 21st-century virtuosi to pay much attention to it. Were he still alive, Earl Wild probably would have been among Wright’s most relevant competitors. Wild died in 2010, however, so we have to thank Wright not for playing these works excellently as much as we have to thank him for playing them at all. Otherwise, they would have remained on a dusty shelf or in a musty piano bench. Little here is familiar, and there are several first recordings. In addition to the two works that Wright either composed or transcribed, the works by Alfred Jaell and Camille Saint-Saens are listed as receiving their first commercial recording here. For me, the latter was a particular treat. That’s be¬cause, for decades, one of my favorite operatic recordings (it’s on YouTube—check out those two high Ds from Kirsten!) has been the last scene from Thais as sung by Dorothy Kirsten and Robert Merrill. Saint-Saens’s concert paraphrase is no less over-the-top; it is to swoon for! I also enjoyed the Leschitizky, which is a surprisingly sensitive adaptation of the Sextet from Lucia—for left hand only!

This recording was made in Dundee, Scotland, where Wright was born. His biography doesn’t mention conservatories attended and competitions won, and it doesn’t mention performances outside of the United Kingdom. I picture Wright, then, as a largely stay-at-home pianist, not self-taught, but self-sufficient as long as there is another obscure transcription to dust off, and then to learn and per¬form. I can imagine far worse realities for a classical pianist these days. (Heck, your record company might force you to make a music video in which you are told to wear tennis shoes and a tight Armani jacket as semi-naked women cavort in the background.) So, at this rate, I am expecting The Operatic Pianist III in early 2021, and I am sure I will enjoy that one too.

—Raymond Tuttle