György Cziffra / Pierre Dervaux

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1; Liszt: Hungarian Fantasy; Paysage; Mazeppa

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If ever there was a humbling story of an artist pulling him/herself up from nothing, the life history of Hungarian-born pianist Gyorgy Cziffra certainly qualifies. In fact, as a result of being politically imprisoned and tortured twice, he was forced to rebuild his career more than once, each time emerging as an even stronger, more prominent artist. This album, recorded in 1957 with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra, features a passionate performance of the Tchaikovsky First Concerto. In many ways, his playing is reminiscent of Rubinstein in that his technique is far from perfect; in fact, there are fistsfuls of wrong notes at times. But the overriding sense that listeners come away with is one of intense musicality and sensitivity. Cziffra's desire to emote sometimes gets the better of him, however, and in the third movement in particular, tempos are quite slow and dragging to accommodate musical expression. This CD also features two of Liszt's Transcendental Etudes. Without the imposed structure of the orchestra, Cziffra is free to express his musicianship without encumbrance. The recorded sound quality of the piano for these two solo performances is oddly much muddier than the pieces with orchestra; the lower half of the piano is rather indistinct. Still, Cziffra's clear understanding of every musical component of these scores is clear, and listeners who don't mind an occasional wrong note here and there will be satisfied with this historic recording.

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