Notes and Editorial Reviews
Fantasie. Scherzo No. 2. Waltzes: in E?, “
Grand valse brilliante”;
Impromptu No. 3. Ballade No. 4. Polonaise in A?,
Polonaise No. 2.
Grand galop chromatique. Hungarian Rhapsodies:
Georges Cziffra (pn)
MEDICI ARTS 33 (79:51) Live: Tokyo 4/1964
The arrival of the Hungarian pianist Georges Cziffra on the musical scene of the mid 1950s was a huge sensation. This was an all-encompassing technique, 10 fingers with the precision and agility of a troupe of great dancers. And yet his posthumous reputation (he died in 1994) pales in comparison to those heady days, when he was widely declared to be the next Horowitz. This recording of a live recital given in Tokyo in April of 1964 reveals both the promise and the frustration of Cziffra. Not surprisingly, he shines in the Liszt, with phenomenal dexterity, texture, and tonal shading. There is a preternatural quality to his sound, with little sense of any physical or intellectual effort exerted to make his glorious noise. The same qualities are to be found in his Chopin, but with curious inconsistency.
He opens his selection of Chopin with tremendous promise, bringing coherence and imagination to the unwieldy Fantasie. Then, it is as if another pianist steps in, with a reading of the Waltz in F, op. 34/3, that is lugubrious and uninvolved. The Scherzo, too, is surprisingly lackadaisical. The great Ballade in F Minor is given a downright odd performance here, a collection of unrelated takes on the piece, with but a casual adherence to the composer’s indications about dynamics and phrasing. Of course, this is Cziffra, after all, so there are plenty of instances of jaw dropping brilliance, but not allied to a consistent engagement with the vision of Chopin.
This listening is unusually subjective. What I hear as eccentricity might be received as superbly imaginative by others. There is no doubt about the colossal level of Cziffra’s talent. He is utterly fascinating, but so are train wrecks. This is a good sampling, well recorded, for the curious piano fancier seeking a view of a legendary, if controversial artist.
FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
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