Notes and Editorial Reviews
These recordings date from 1957-9 and were made at a time when Cziffra's star shone with a unique, unsurpassed brilliance. Here is all his death defying bravura: the dizzying changes of pace and direction, the hair-raising crescendos within the bar (almost as if a grenade had been tossed into the piano), the steam-drill left-hand accentuation, and the sky-rocketing flights that leave a trail of sparks in their wake. Rarely has one idiosyncrasy been more perfectly matched with another. The Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies and Cziffra were surely made for each other. Above all, these are so much more, despite their often outrageous extravagance, than the readings of a `gipsy' pianist.
Cziffra's characterization can be subtle as well
as bold, and the continuous sense of improvisation (almost as if the music were being composed on the spot, with several added ornaments and flourishes Liszt forgot), wit and relish is breathtaking. How jaunty the "Friska" from the Second Rhapsody sounds after that truly lugubrious Lento a capriccio introduction, and listen to the final Vivace of No. 11, the last word in glistening perle pianism. Try the opening of No. 9, the Carnival in Pest, where a superb sense of swagger and braggadocio is at once followed by the musical equivalent, in the principal idea, of sly winks and naughty nudges. But pride of place should surely go to the Rhapsodic espagnole, where Cziffra's alternation of languorous poetry and the most tightly coiled virtuosity makes the mind reel. The split octave ascent at 952" is one of several instances where the effect is like rapidly applied centrifugal force. The recordings, when you notice them, vary from the uncomfortably close and airless to a greater sense of ambience. Yet they do nothing to dim one's overall impression. Cziffra is, quite simply, unique in this repertoire.
-- Gramophone [11/1994]
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