by Ben Kutner
“Pianist Inna Faliks gave the convincing world premiere of composer Richard Danielpour’s Eleven Bagatelles for the Piano along with a program of Chopin and Schumann, Sunday night at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. A concert pianist has the task of maintaining momentum throughout an evening of solo works, and Faliks delivered.”
Culture Spot LA reviews Inna’s February 2019 performance at Jacaranda Music in Santa Monica of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony in a piano four-hands arrangement, together with pianist Daniel Schlosberg:
“…a decidedly pianistic performance, with beautifully executed trills, judicious pedaling and richly shaded textures. If not supplanting the orchestral original, Zemlinsky’s version as played by Faliks and Schlosberg was a valuable opportunity to peer beneath the symphony’s instrumental garb and hear the symphony’s fascinating inner workings…”
by CP Wren
Guest pianist, Inna Faliks, and members of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, violinist Roberto Cani and cellist John Walz took the stage and deftly swooped Barrett Hall into an intensely animated and tension filled performance. Inna Faliks plays with a kind of expression one could imagine of a highly accomplished jazz artist. But this was chamber music. She entertained with humor, delivering a rollicking performance using her expressive facial gestures and playful spacial flourishes above the keys. With her tautly moving, driving force, she balanced the hall on tiptoe, her antics often directed at violinist Cani, who played the “straight man” throughout the spiraling progression of Piano Trio No. 1.
by David J. Brown
Ferocious and torrential, firmly establish[ing] her virtuoso credentials. Her playing [is] engagingly impulsive and improvisatory, skillfully observing turn-on-a-dime contrasts. [Faliks’s fingers are] positively diamond-tipped.
Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor is a repertoire staple but Inna Faliks brought a fresh approach and highly personal interpretive instincts to her performance of this masterwork with the Miami Symphony Orchestra under Eduardo Marturet Sunday night at Miami’s Arsht Center.
An associate professor of piano at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, Faliks is a well traveled soloist who will hopefully schedule more stops in South Florida. On Sunday she proved to be an interesting and musically imaginative artist. From the opening bars of the Schumann concerto, Faliks bent the musical line, coloring her phrases with subtle rubato. She brought plenty of power to the keyboard-spanning runs and octaves. Her pearly tone and poetic bent suggested a more Chopinesque approach.
In the second movement Intermezzo, Faliks’ winning combination of whimsy and heart-on-sleeve fervor turned the short opening figures into a burst of pianistic song. The Allegro vivace finale was replete with bold syncopations but Faliks’ elegant and impulsive shaping of thematic lines was always cleanly articulated. Her lighter approach to the score was musically engrossing and refreshing. Marturet and the orchestra provided full bodied support with the deep tone of the cellos in the secondary subject of the Intermezzo movement particularly distinguished.
A standing ovation brought Faliks back for Liszt’s La Campanella as an encore. She deftly traced the melodic curves of the familiar theme and drew a bell-like sound from the Steinway grand.
The program opened with Brahms’ “Variations on a Theme by Haydn.” Marturet balanced the wind choir astutely in the initial statement of the Saint Anthony Chorale. Throughout the performance, he strongly underlined the string lines beneath the wind and brass writing, and evoked the dark Brahmsian undertow of the lower strings.
The horns brought out the martial, celebratory mood of the sixth variation, and Marturet gave warmth and flowing grace to the lyrical flight of the Grazioso section that follows. In the final passacaglia, wind and string figurations were transparent, and the final reprise of the theme was sonorous. Marturet mixed brisk clarity with spacious weight in a finely structured reading that featured strong playing from the entire ensemble.
Following intermission, Marturet led the premiere of Questa Via, a love song by Karen LeFrak (whose Sleepover at the Museum, a work for narrator and orchestra, will be premiered by the Miami Symphony next season). A power ballad in the vein of James Horner’s My Heart Will Go On (from the film Titanic), the song was more appropriate for a pops program, but was charming nonetheless and attractively sung by Angelina Green (a onetime contestant on America’s Got Talent) and Hansel De Muñoz. Marturet and the orchestra turned on a dime to sound like an expert studio group. When a technical glitch forced the-leather jacketed Muñoz to change microphones, Marturet repeated the song, much to the delight of the audience and LeFrak, who was in attendance and basked in the applause.
The evening- and season-ending Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor got off to a rocky start. Although the granite-like opening chords were strongly emphatic, the timpani was overly loud and prominent. In the Allegro section of the first movement, the orchestra was not always together, and there were noticeable wind and brass fluffs. Marturet’s tempo never quite settled in, veering between rapid and plodding. The big climaxes were excessively bombastic.
The performance regrouped with a glowing Andante sostenuto. Concertmaster Daniel Andai’s singing, tonal sweetness was buttressed by the silky sonority of the entire string section. The bucolic pastorale of the third movement was aided by Marturet’s finely gauged dynamic contrasts.
Dark rumblings in the strings were potently projected in the introduction to the finale. The solo horn beautifully conveyed the chorale melody, which was eloquently shaped by Marturet. Strings sounded rich in the spaciously accented principal theme, which is often compared to the “Ode to Joy” melody of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The Allegro non troppo took off with a muscular energy that the ensemble sustained right up to the coda, where the chorale theme reemerged triumphantly.
This is a unique program, combining an autobiography with music linked to that story.
Ukrainian-born Faliks is the head of the piano department at UCLA and a busy concert
pianist with a long established interest in presenting programs that include poetry and
spoken word interspersed with wide-ranging piano repertoire. I attended one of those
programs in New York several years ago, and have favorably reviewed two of her records
(Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Pasternack, MSR 1333, J/F 2010; Beethoven, MSR 1446, M/A 2014).
Faliks wrote the texts, which are convincingly delivered by Rebecca Mozo. Not once did I
feel that she was telling Faliks’s story; it was Faliks telling her own story. Poignant,
humorous, and perceptive to anyone who has ever pursued music, the spoken words allow
you to get to know Faliks far beyond other pianists you may listen to. That is both the
strength and a long-term weakness in this release. After hearing the entire recording three
times, I pretty much knew the story of her life, from her earliest musical and family
memories in Odessa, through immigration to the US, her training with memorable teachers
and mentors, her early successes and the beginning of her international career. Her story
here ends with a reunion and eventual marriage to a childhood sweetheart and some
thoughts on the value of music.
The piano pieces are very well performed and extremely well selected and ordered to fit
into the autobiography. At this point though, I am ready to return to the music alone, many
times. Undoubtedly I will regularly be reminded of events and characters in her compelling
story as I listen, especially to the title work. It was Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantasy that her
dying piano teacher asked her to play, but she had never learned it. After he died she did,
and the performance here is as good as any I have heard. Her Gershwin is also memorable
and has as natural a feel as any pianist raised and trained in the US would have. There are
some old favorites here, like the Liszt arrangements plus a premiere recording given to her
by one of her composition teachers (Freidlin). The program is a complete picture of the
wide range of repertoire she excels at. After hearing her story and listening to her playing, I
can imagine that she is a fantastic teacher as well.
Pianist Inna Faliks has released a few discs that reveal her natural sense of curiosity, so it is no surprise that what we have here is something very much away from the norm. The Story of a Pianist is Faliks’s story, originally intended as the subject of a book and now the material for a recital-monologue. The music is impeccably chosen and performed.
…Faliks’s performance has a fiery confidence all of its own. The melancholy of Tchaikovsky’s op. 19/4 Nocturne is perfectly placed, both in terms of the story and in terms of Faliks’s performance; and the story ends happily. Harrison Birtwistle’s gentle Oockooing Bird is heard against the voice of Rebecca Mozo, not an accompaniment, not even a counterpoint, but an equal partner, poignantly and tellingly. Fittingly, though, it is music that has the last word. As narrator, Rebecca Mozo is appealing and compelling; we believe the emotions, we are gripped.
Sunday’s concert at the National Gallery of Art posed an existential question: Is Mahler really Mahler without the cowbell?
For the Austrian composer, the rustic ring of the cowbell took on profound significance in his symphonies, representing cosmic solitude in the face of eternity. Pianists Inna Faliks and Daniel Schlosberg put that proposition to the test, doing away with the cowbell — and every other orchestral instrument — in a herculean performance of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony arranged for piano.
This four-hands version, arranged by Alexander Zemlinsky, comes from an age when amateurs relied on piano transcriptions to become acquainted with the latest symphonies at home. But when listeners can now freely stream countless versions of Mahler’s symphonies performed by the world’s best orchestras, is this relic — one never intended for public performance — anything other than a curiosity or mere technical feat?
Schlosberg, in his program note, suggests that listeners could discover “unexpected details and structures” in this more intimately scaled version. But what came through more strongly in this performance was a sense of the Sixth Symphony as a mood piece. The duo offered a highly personal and subjective reading, full of shifts in color and tempo, with individual passages brimming with character: the manic frenzy of the first movement coda and the coiled energy of the scherzo.
Yet as Faliks and Schlosberg tackled this monumental, 80-minute challenge, they faced an obstacle beyond their control: the muddy acoustics of the West Garden Court, which obliterated inner detail. The pastoral interlude in the first movement, with Zemlinsky’s intrusive tremolos a poor stand-in for Mahler’s distant cowbells, could never hope to achieve a sense of cosmic stillness. Likewise, the dramatic structure of the finale disintegrated into large washes of sound.
The emotional weight of this most tragic of symphonies was felt only when the textures were thinned away: in the hauntingly spare lyricism of the slow movement and, most powerfully, at the conclusion, as the music burst with its final, horrifying crash and faded away into oblivion. The effect was devastating and most definitely Mahler.
All human beings have a life journey. Like a good story, each one has a beginning, a middle and an end.
With the rise of social media, some “biographers” choose to tell their story daily—assuming that what they just had for lunch would be of interest to their legion of “likers”.
Happily, the art of memoire has not vanished from the planet; those who craft their experiences well will find interest from many, many others they have never met.
In the particular case of pianist Inna Faliks, the more unusual route of combining music and professionally narrated text has produced a two-CD set that traces “the life thus far” from Odessa through Chicago, Toulouse, Paris and New York City.
At the centre of it all (including the album’s title) is also the longest work in the set: Chopin’s Polonaise-fantasie, OP 61. From a musical point of view, it is lovingly crafted and yields a fine balance between lift, legato and ever-sensitive harmonic shifts. Only more “ring” in the upper reaches could improve the result.
But on the dramatic level, Chopin’s essay serves as a fitting homage to Faliks’ beloved mentor, Mr. D (a.k.a. Filipino, Emilio del Rosario), who guided his student with tough love in the windy city for many years. On his death bed, he asked for the Polonaise-fantaisie from his star student; sadly, she had not yet learned it.
In between the piano interventions are Faliks’ narrative of the comings and goings in her life. They are narrated with flair by actor Rebecca Mozo, yet her professional voice doesn’t quite get underneath the skin of the “creator” (and the inevitable edits could have been much more seamless with the inclusion of ambient sound).
One of the many musical highlights was the trio of Gershwin Preludes which Faliks readily tossed off with élan, sauciness and marvellous control as required.
On the other side of the ledger was Mozart’s Fantasia in D Minor, K. 397, where an overabundance of affectation marred the flow.
To conclude—with long-time boyfriend Misha now fulfilling his promise as life partner—it fell to Harrison Birtwistle’s “Oockooing Bird” intertwined (for the first time) with Faliks’/Mozo’s reflective, thoughtful summation of “a life so far”. Without doubt, the piano trumps the voice in so many ways, underscoring what was really important and just what has been learned up till now.