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Liszt: Piano Works (Cziffra) Box set


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Product details

  • Audio CD (3 Dec. 2001)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 5
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B00005IA06
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 211,813 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Piano Works (44 tracks on 5 CD's) - Franz Liszt

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Peter Scott-presland on 29 April 2009
Format: Audio CD
Anyone who makes their name as a Liszt expert is almost certain to be tarred with the same brush that Liszt was tarred with in his life - flashy, brash, meaningless, shallow. Cziffra was dogged by this reputation most of his life, fuelled by stories of his performing in a circus at the age of five, improvising on tunes suggested by the audience.

Sure, he is a virtuoso, a supremo virtuoso. There are tracks here, such as the Grand HGalop Chromatique, where the fingers are flashing faster than you would think humanly possible, but it is an impetuous speed coupled with an almost feline delicacy and precision of touch. Cziffra is not one of the big-boned piano-demolishing Liszt interpreters like Richter or Berman. The result is that a work like the B minor Sonata, though losing nothing in terms of tempo, seems almost leisurely in comparison. This is not to say that it is unexciting, because it is, but it is also thought through.

To my mind, where this set excels is bringing out Liszt the visionary, the poet, the dreamer and experimenter with adventurous harmonics. Listening to Funerailles, or the St Francis Legends is to be transported on the lightest of wings. Cziffra, whom I did not know before buying this set, seems much maligned.

The recordings are dated 1956 - 1985, from the time Cziffra was still in Hungary (he'd done hard labour before for 3 years for trying to escape after the war) to his Gould-like hermitage at Senlis in his final years. Paradoxically, the earlier recordings (before 1970) sound better than the later ones.

BTW, don't expect anything much from the sleeve notes - and expect nothing at all if you don't read French.
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By palfe on 6 Sept. 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Excellent !!!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
LEGENDARY LISZT by CZIFFRA 11 May 2003
By Mr. Alan Thorpe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
When Georges Cziffra escaped to Vienna during the Hungarian uprising of 1956, his debut recital at the Brahmsaal caused such a sensation that news of the event reached The New Yorker. At his Paris debut the following month Cziffra received ovations never witnessed within living memory while his London debut at the Royal Festival Hall in 1957 caused a furore. Cziffra played Liszt's first concerto and Hungarian Fantasy followed by 10 encores that brought the house down and had critics searching for their most colourful superlatives. When I heard Cziffra play these works with the Halle Orchestra under George Weldon in February 1959 the Manchester audience were spellbound and demanded encore after dazzling encore.
On these EMI reissues of Cziffra's Liszt playing from 1956 to 1986 we can hear the reason for such adulation. Cziffra's recordings of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies from his heyday in the late 1950s are stunning. But they are much more than that. We can take for granted the scintillating virtuosity, bravado and gypsy swagger of the second Rhapsody; No.8 'Capriccio', No.9 'Carnaval de Pesth', and No.15 'Marche de Rakoczy'; but Cziffra also captures the yearning sadness and passion of the grief laden climax of No.5 (a funeral march) while bringing delicate nuancies, light and shade to Liszt's lyrical pages. In the Transcendental Studies too, his playing of No.2 in A minor, 'Mazeppa', 'Wilde Jagd', and 'Feux follets', are electrifying, yet Cziffra brings a simple beauty to 'Paysage'; grandeaur to 'Vision'; soaring lyricism to the 'Appasionata' study and in 'Ricordanza', arpeggios and cadenzas that shimmer like star dust. Discs four and five include Cziffra's legendary early recordings of the Mephisto Waltz, trailing demonic whisps of sulphur, La Campanella, Gnomenreigen, and Liszt's favourite show stopping encore, the Grand Galop Chromatique. Rarities form the 1970s/80s include the Polonaise No.1, Ballade No.2; a powerful depiction of surging seas in 'St.Francis Walking on the Waters' and finally a masterly performance of the B minor Sonata (1968) in which Cziffra combines authentic Lisztian bravura and wistful lyricism with the final pages visionary qualities.
Liner notes are in French but no matter - 5 discs of superb Liszt playing for the price of one full price disc is a bargain not to be missed. Snap it up while you can!
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Cziffra Dazzles 20 July 2005
By Mr. Scott L. Leather - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This set is of mostly mono recordings from the 1950s which present Cziffra at his best. Included are the Hungarian Rhapsodies which in this first of his two complete sets is preferable to the later version by many people. The playing is spectacular even if it mostly is in mono. (The B Minor sonata is in stereo).

Cziffra has a way of making music so it seems like you've never heard the piece before. He has that magic elixir of charisma, sense of timing and excitement that made him the stellar artist he was.

The sound, even though mono, is excellent and the mastering as well. I've found, personally, by simulating stereo on my Creative Soundblaster Audigy card and 5.1 creative inspire speaker system, it sounds almost like a new recording.

Don't miss this set. Besides being a comprehensive review of Cziffra's Liszt repetoire it is also a bargain.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Bow down to king Georges!! 8 April 2004
By J. Heald - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is one of those discs that falls into the "must-buy" category for all piano afficionados. It stands as a great testament to a pianist who absolutely deserves to be mentioned in the same breath (and then some!) as Horowitz, Michelangeli and Richter.
In terms of virtuosity the playing is spell-binding throughout(as you would expect from Cziffra), but it is never overblown, with poetic phrasing and romanitc expression always to the fore. If you only listen to one piece in the whole set (and I guarantee that will not be the case!), let it be the B minor sonata- an awesomely powerful, heart-on-the-sleeve rendition of arguably the greatest solo piece in the piano literature.
21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
PLAIN MAN'S SUPERSTAR 21 July 2004
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Tamas Vasary tells us how he once overheard what he thought must be a four-handed ensemble, only to find that it was Cziffra on his own. That's the kind of virtuoso Cziffra is. The obvious comparison he invites is with Horowitz, but there is a completely different 'feel' to Cziffra's playing. It does not have the french-polished smoothness that I associate with Michelangeli or Gould or (on the right day) Richter, but Horowitz was not like that either. There is less tension in Cziffra's playing, and a great deal less self-consciousness. Very often indeed I get the feeling that Cziffra does not even know how good he is, something you could never say about Horowitz. In particular he has an endearing way of finishing some mind-numbing exhibition of bravura with a matter-of-fact 'that's that'. The technical quality of his playing, any of it that I know, is invariable. What does vary quite a lot is the sense of motivation in it, and I'm happy to report that on these 5 discs the index of gusto and swagger is very high. In the Hungarian rhapsodies particularly (there are 15 here numbered sequentially 1-15 although I have heard alarming rumours there may be more of them) I get a sense of the fairground entertainer, whereas with Horowitz the impression is always of the concert platform.

The music in this set is the work of a player I like inordinately and a composer I don't like very much. Nowhere at all in Liszt do I sense the divine afflatus that blew so strongly down on half-a-dozen of his contemporaries. He seems to me to try, through aspiration and perspiration and in an ersatz and manufactured way, to emulate what was given to his friends from on high as inspiration. He has a fondness for giving his works titles, sometimes commonplace and boring (paysage, ricordanza, reve d'amour), sometimes high-romantic guff (valse oubliee), sometimes plain presumptuous (eroica, appassionata). The focus throughout the set is on virtuosity, and that is what persuaded me on an impulse to acquire it. As far as virtuosity is concerned, I find myself wondering whether there is some theoretical ceiling on it. These days a very large number of players possess a technique that less than 50 years ago was possessed only by a few. Both Horowitz and Michelangeli complained that it was hard to tell them apart, and I have to confess to an uneasy feeling along the same lines. It's a bit like running a mile or a marathon - will it someday be done at the speed of light, or have we reached the outer limit already? My Liszt collection is mainly from Cziffra himself, with not altogether negligible contributions from Richter, Michelangeli and Ogdon, and my main interest in the music is the opportunity it offers to these great players. I need hardly say that they do not neglect the poetic and inward sides to the composer. In particular Cziffra makes more of that in the sonata than Horowitz does, but I'm pretty sure that's why I continue to prefer Horowitz in this piece. Whether there are performers now with us or yet unborn who can surpass these in Liszt I suspect I shall simply never know, but something makes me doubt it, and if I go to some final reckoning ignorant of the Liszt-playing of Pierre-Yves Chanterelle, Berengaria Eversleigh or Long Sing Tung my conscience will be clear to that extent at least. This is a marvellous set from my beloved Cziffra, a Liszt specialist although not so entirely by his own choosing, and I am not going to tire of it in a hurry.

The liner note is in French, but if you have no French you are not missing much, believe me. Even with no French you can easily count the number of dropped names, which is largely what it is about. The recorded quality is perfectly good without being to the highest modern standard, and the set is an outstanding bargain.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
LISZT IS REBORN 31 Aug. 2011
By Hiram Gomez Pardo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
On one ocassion, Gyorgy Cziffra was hailed with an enthusiatic praise: LISZT IS REBORN.

Cziffra was one of the most legendaries figures the piano has ever had. And the absolute affinity he established with Liszt can only be compared to Sandor-Bartok, Kempff-Beethoven or Cortot-Chopin.

His dazzling steely technique, fingering and leonine fierceness can only be described as overwhelming and mesmerizing.

If you are a hard enthusiat of Franz Liszt's piano music you cannot ignore this album.
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