Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Ten Hungarian Rhapsodies
Georges Cziffra (piano)
Recorded 1972-75
EMI Great Recordings of the Century CDM 5 67554 2 [75.57]
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Cziffra's one and only recital appearance in London during the 1960s caused a furore. His Chopin was hotly disputed, his dazzling playing of Liszt took the public by storm, and if you listen to this disc you will hear why. His technique is phenomenal, octaves tossed off with power and ease, while his passage work carves a scorched earth policy up and down the keyboard. As a fellow Hungarian, and with plenty of gypsy blood in his veins, Cziffra's response to Liszt's Rhapsodies also manages to get beyond pyrotechnics to the folk-heart of this idiosyncratic style. This is not music to look down upon, neither should it be the territory of pianistic peacocks, for it is serious music of the highest order requiring an improvisatory feel for the ebb and flow of the quintessential rubato required. Every now and again, he launches an attack of fortissimo which has the assaulting effect on one's ears of an exploding grenade. His pianistic flourishes stretch every sinew, as much of the listener as of Cziffra himself we get carried along, yet his playing is also expressively tender where it needs to be. In his hands the piano sounds like an orchestra, and these interpretations could well be the nearest we ever get to Liszt's own playing. Cziffra (1921-1994) had a chequered career that ended with him as a reclusive figure after the tragic death of his conductor son. After escaping Soviet-dominated Hungary in 1956 he settled in Paris, where these recordings were made over several sessions during a three-year period at the Salle Wagram. As one reviewer wrote of him when he took Western Europe by storm at the time, 'he combines the precision of a metronome with the electrical discharge of a thunderstorm'. On the evidence of this disc one can well understand the choice of words.

Christopher Fifield



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