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Monday, April 10, 2017

Franz Liszt - Œuvres pour piano (Georges Cziffra)


Composer: Franz Liszt

  • (01-09) Hungarian Rhapsodies, S. 244: Nos. 1-9
  • (01-06) Hungarian Rhapsodies, S. 244: Nos. 10-15
  • (07) Rhapsodie espagnole, S. 254
  • (01-12) 12 Études d'exécution transcendante, S. 139
  • (01) Mephisto Waltz No. 1 "Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke", S. 514
  • (02) Années de pèlerinage III, S. 163: 4. Les jeux d'eaux à la Villa d'Este
  • (03) Valse oubliée No. 1, S. 215
  • (04) Valse-Impromptu, S. 213
  • (05) Liebesträume, S. 541: No. 3 in A flat major "Oh Lieb, so lang du lieben kannst"
  • (06) Grand galop chromatique, S. 219
  • (07-08) Grandes études de Paganini, S. 140: Nos. 3 & 5
  • (09-10) 2 études de concert, S. 145
  • (11) Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S. 173: 7. Funérailles
  • (01) Ballade No. 2 in B minor, S. 171
  • (02) 2 Polonaises, S. 223: No. 1 in C minor "Polonaise mélancolique"
  • (03-04) 2 Légendes, S. 175
  • (05) Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178

Georges Cziffra, piano
Date: 1956-1985
Label: EMI



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 Rhapsodie espagnole, where Cziffra's alternation of languorous poetry and the most tightly coiled virtuosity makes the mind reel. The split octave ascent at 9'52'' 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.

-- Bryce Morrison, Gramophone
reviewing EMI 31789 - Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsodies / Cziffra (first 2 cds of this collection)

More reviews:


Franz Liszt (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a prolific 19th-century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, arranger, organist, philanthropist, author, nationalist and a Franciscan tertiary. Liszt gained renown in Europe for his virtuosic skill as a pianist and in the 1840s he was considered to be the greatest pianist of all time. As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent composers of the "New German School". Some of his most notable musical contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in musical form, and making radical departures in harmony.


Georges (György) Cziffra (November 5, 1921 – January 15, 1994) was a Hungarian composer and virtuoso pianist. Amongst his teachers were Ernő Dohnányi and István Thomán, who was a favourite pupil of Franz Liszt. Cziffra was best known for his interpretations of works of the Romantic repertoire. He is most known for his brilliant and extravagant recordings of Franz Liszt's virtuoso works. He also recorded many of Frédéric Chopin's compositions and those of Robert Schumann. He is considered to be one of the greatest technicians on piano of the 20th century.


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