Hi Monica and Andrew, why torture yourselves with Cziffra videos, unless you want to end up with carpel tunnel syndrome at the end?
Virtuosos don't phase me one bit. The piano-technics are dazzling, and the keyboard will have to be cooled down with a fire extinguisher after each performance, but at the end of the day, Rubinstein, late Horowitz, or Bolet will make me less edgy. I don't know about you, but I love Bolet for Liszt music!
I never find them torture! Just remarkable in their own way. And I agree, Bolet is excellent in the more poetic Liszt (I'm less keen on him in the virtuoso stuff, finding him a bit restrained.. although when he was younger he was much more of a fire-eating virtuoso).
I know this is not going to win me any friends here, but I have to say the more I hear Cziffra I find him a circus artist rather than a musician.
Maybe because when people post his stuff, it tends to be the big, virtuoso pieces. He can be surprisingly delicate in the more intimate Liszt pieces (though I know you'll say he wasn't in the Valse Oubliee, and you would be partly right).
As for being musical, I'm not sure Cziffra could do that without spontaneously combusting every few bars. He had no limits, but also, IMO, no retraint, or dare I say, no taste.
Ducking and running now
Out of curiosity, what do you make of this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQRl9M0C3j8
(Bartok 2, 1st mvt, other parts also available).
I did not not know about his life story, that certainly gives another perspective. But I don't think we should let such things influence our judgement of someone's playing. It's a bit like wooing kid prodigies just because they are so young.
Yes, I agree. However, when you say he had no limits or restraint, is this lack of musical understanding, or musical understanding which has been developed in a way different to the norm? I don't want to perpetuate the oft-quoted myth that he had no conventional training, as this is palpably false (he was I believe the youngest person ever admitted to the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest), but whereas most current pianists spend their formative years on the competition circuit and in conservatoires and masterclasses, he spent his formative years fighting in WWII and then improvising to entertain the public. I suspect this has a great deal to do with his uniqueness as a pianist. One side of the coin is that public bar improvisation probably teaches you how to play in a manner that appeals to the public (rather than to critics), the other is that the conventional educational approach almost certainly conditions any individuality out of all but the most strong-minded. (There are a couple of amusing stories about his bar piano work - Vasary coming to the bar for a drink and asking the owner where the second pianist was, members of a visiting Russian orchestra dropping in, ordering themselves large amounts of vodka, after five minutes being so stupefied by what they were hearing that they forgot to drink. There is a reason I quote these stories: it's not just that his playing impressed the lowest common denominator, these were trained musicians and they were amazed too.) One thing is for sure: Cziffra's playing was always controversial (the public loved him, Cortot wrote him a letter conveying his profound admiration, the critics initially raved and then turned on him; the Chopin Etudes recording speaks [or perhaps shouts] for itself).