György Cziffra

Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 1; Paraphrases et Transcriptions; Grieg: Piano Concerto in A Minor

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The term "tortured artist" takes on an entirely new depth of meaning when considering the tribulations of Hungarian pianist György Cziffra. Despite his many setbacks, Cziffra nearly always returned to the piano; only the untimely death of this son finally forced him from the stage. This two-disc set is a tribute not only to his enduring artistic integrity, but also to what humans are capable of overcoming.

Widely recognized as an interpreter of Liszt, this set features two gems that make it intensely rewarding all by themselves. The first is Liszt's Transcendental Etudes. Recorded in Budapest in 1956, the clarity and precision achieved in this recording are remarkable. Cziffra performs at times with fierce, almost unbelievable power, but at the flip of a switch can change to the most delicate, sensitive touch imaginable. These deft changes in character are what make this set of etudes so successful. The other treasure featured on this set is a series of nine Liszt transcriptions ranging from Mendelssohn to Wagner. Cziffra's dazzling technique, intricate voicing, and total command of his dynamics make these transcriptions as symphonic sounding as anyone could hope for.

Also recorded here are the Liszt First Concerto and the Grieg A minor Concerto (yes, it really is in A minor, despite what the liner notes try to tell you). While Cziffra's performance in these two concertos is just as insightful and powerful as in the solo works, the sound of the orchestra often gets in the way of his playing.

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