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Farnadi recitals MC1066

Edith Farnadi (piano)
Piano Recitals 1966-1968

This is Meloclassic's second release devoted to Hungarian pianist Edith Farnadi – volume one was favourably reviewed by Stephen Greenbank (Meloclassic MC1039 review) and I would refer you to that review for biographical details. The booklet notes for the present release, in English only, are by Michael Waiblinger and as usual are detailed, informative and include several photos of Farnadi throughout her career.

She was known as a specialist in Liszt and the first item here ably demonstrates why. She recorded the first Mephisto waltz on 5th May, 1968 and it is immediately clear that here is a pianist who not only has a blistering technique but also one who doesn't use it to turn the piece into a tired warhorse. There is plenty of light and shade even in the most extrovert passages and she exhibits lightness of touch, quick-fire reflexes and sudden, startling changes of dynamics. In the lyrical central section her legato is silky smooth and the impish flashes of quicker figuration remind me of Cziffra. The speed and security of the fast leaps in the latter half of the piece– and she makes no concession whatsoever to their difficulty – is frankly jaw dropping. Two days later she recorded the waltz from Gounod's Faust in Liszt's transcription, evidently part of a transcription recital as two more from the same date can be found on the first volume. After the stunning Mephisto waltz this is a little surprising; she plays it very well certainly but without the devilry that we have just heard and indeed I occasionally felt she was a little tired. The duet between Faust and Marguerite is exquisite however and Farnadi chooses the more extrovert ossia cadenza passages. The first two bars of the piece are missing, presumably a tape error back in 1968.

Her Chopin is fairly individual. She starts off with the early Polonaise in G sharp minor, playing it in the style of Liszt with burst of speed in the virtuoso elements and a great deal of rhythmic give and take from bar to bar. For me she loses much of the poise and elegance of the essentially classical work. Strong willed Chopin is the order of the day but the other works are not wanting for lyricism, especially the F sharp minor Nocturne, and surprisingly in the works that are less classical she is more restrained in her rubato. The waltzes are elegant and sprightly though the rhythm of the famous C sharp minor waltz is rugged, less salon and more rustic than in many pianists' approach and she flies through the fast runs. Perhaps most successful is the second scherzo where she finds a wonderful balance of temperament and virtuosity, shaping the lyrical passages with refined phrasing and a tender touch.

It seems Farnadi was quite attached to Brahms' second Sonata having first included it in her Hague recital debut in 1936 when she was 25 – she was apparently born in 1911 not 1921 as several sources claim. In 1960 she included it in recital that was attended by Nelson Freire; I never forgot those performances was what Freire said of this and her chamber music recital. He remarks on the gypsy quality of her playing and this is readily apparent here, both in the many octave flourishes and the romping finale. That said she also brings remarkable refinement and a willingness to shape the tempo to fit the ever-changing moods of the first movement without compromising the structure or flow. Her tone is wonderful in the gentle dynamics of the variation-like second movement and she shapes the build to the climax elegantly. There is considerable flexibility in the trio of the scherzo, its tempo moving forward through successive phrases and she has the technique to cope with the frankly awkward octave trills leading to the end of the movement. I have never really taken to the Beethoven inspired finale but I have no problem with Farnadi's performance, grandiloquent and playful by turns, clearly enjoying the movement's rhetoric and swagger.

There is a lot to enjoy on this disc and for me it is worth the price for the Mephisto waltz. Other than a 78 r.p.m. of the Fantaisie-Impromptu I don't see that she recorded Chopin and the Brahms commercially (I am prepared to be corrected) so this recording is a great addition to her discography. Sad to think that she succumbed to cancer just five years after the Liszt broadcasts included here.

Rob Challinor

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Mephisto Waltz No.1 S.514
rec. 5 May, 1968 Frankfurt, Raum 3/B, HR, radio studio recording
Charles Gounod (1818-1893) arr. Franz Liszt
Waltz from the opera Faust S.407
rec. 7 May, 1968 Stuttgart, Funkstudio Berg, SDR, radio studio recording
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
Polonaise in G sharp minor B.6
Impromptu No.4 in C sharp minor fantaisie Op.66
Nocturne No.5 in F sharp major Op.15 No.2
Waltz in A flat major Op.69 No.1
Waltz in C sharp minor Op.64 No.2
Valse brilliante in A flat major Op.34 No.1
Scherzo No.2 in B flat minor Op.31
rec. 6 Mar, 1968 Hilversum, NCRV studio, radio studio recording
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Piano Sonata No.2 in F sharp minor Op.2
rec. 21 Dec, 1966 Hilversum, NCRV studio, radio studio recording

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