P1401. GYÖRGY CZIFFRA: Schumann (Études Symphoniques), Schubert, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Dohnanyi, Liszt & Ravel Recital. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-1202, Live Performance, 22 July, 1973, Théâtre Antique, Vaison-la-Romaine, France . Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“György Cziffra (1921-1994) was a pianist whose incredible technique sometimes was a distraction to listeners, who did not always appreciate the deep musicianship that formed the foundation of his playing. It is true that he enjoyed showing off the technique, as anyone who has listened to his transcription of Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ will understand. But in this recital from France in 1973 Cziffra saves the fireworks for the encores.
Of course, considerable technical proficiency is a requirement in Schumann’s Symphonic Études, but it is only the beginning of a satisfying performance. Variety of color and dynamics are crucial to keeping the thread intact from variation to variation, and perhaps even more important is a sense of internal logic in tempo relationships. All of these aspects are handled masterfully by Cziffra. His mastery of the singing line is apparent throughout, as is his acute ear for balancing different voices. (He omits the five so-called posthumous variations that Schumann cut but were later restored by Brahms.)
The pianist’s ability to play with crystal clarity while still retaining a cantabile line is further highlighted in the Schubert Impromptu, #4 in the first set, D 899. He teases the music with flexible but always apt rubato. The evenness of the fingerwork is impressive; no note sticks out, nor is any slighted.
The same qualities distinguish the Chopin selections. Here and in the Mendelssohn, it is clear that Cziffra felt singing to be the basis of music, and he manages to turn what is essentially a percussive instrument into a vocal one. Cziffra’s technical finish allows him the freedom to do what he wishes, with the result that there is a spontaneity and exuberance in his playing that captivates the listener.
The recital concludes with three encores, Ravel’s ‘Jeux d’eau’, Ernö Dohnányi’s Capriccio in f, and Liszt’s ‘La campanella’. One last time Cziffra’s dexterity, extraordinary lightness of touch, and textural clarity come to the fore, and another element, wit, is strikingly illustrated . You can almost see him smiling and winking at certain points in both pieces. He plays around with the tempo of the Liszt, exhibiting the kind of freedom that was the norm for pianists of an earlier time, including some who were Liszt’s students. The result is a total delight.
Any lover of the piano is going to be delighted with the entire disc. The FM-stereo broadcast sound is excellent. As usual with St. Laurent Studio, there are no notes only a listing of contents, tracks, and recording location and date.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
“Georges (György) Cziffra was a phenomenon. Unquestionably one of the great pianists of his, indeed of any, generation….As with the whiplash quality of Horowitz, or the Puckish capriciousness of Cherkassky, there was an individuality about Cziffra’s playing which marked him out from other lesser artists.”
- Charles Hopkins, INTERNATIONAL PIANO QUARTERLY, Autumn, 1997
“How else can you describe Cziffra who, so to speak, soars high above the crowd without a safety net in his glittering finery, all tailored to make audiences tremble and perspire?....All of those infamous or celebrated explosions of sound – as if a grenade had been tossed into the piano – and rapid crescendi within the bar are on full and unapologetic display.”
- Bryce Morrison, GRAMOPHONE, June, 2009