Fanfare

by Jerry Dubins

Ukrainian-born, New York-based Inna Faliks is a pianist as brimful of ideas as she is endowed with talent. She draws a tone of deep sonority from her Yamaha piano, and one senses in her playing a technique of such reserves that she doesn’t even have to call on all of it for these works. That allows her to concentrate on matters of interpretation and communication, which, in the former case is penetrating, and in the latter, extraordinary.

I really like, too, the idea of mixing lesser known Beethoven works with more familiar ones; it makes for an interesting program, and in the case of the Fantasia, a fun one. Play it for your friends, while trying not to laugh, and watch their reactions.

Faliks has yet to become a major presence on record, but with this album and her above-mentioned Sound of Verse now out on a mainstream commercial label, I suspect that’s going to change. A wonderful release all around, and very strongly recommended.

Il Gazzetino Pordenone (Italy)

by Clelia Delponte

“A fierce performance; energetic, determined, and perfect for expressing the interior agitation of the Basso Ostinato by Rodion Schredrin, considered the successor of Shostakovich. This was the opening piece of the recent concert at the Fazioli Concert Hall. Inna Faliks takes command of the instrument, molding it in her unique, personal style that clearly has its origins in the Russian school and is fully capable of interpreting the Polonaise op. 89 (Composed during the Congress of Vienna, loved by the rulers of the period, and dedicated to Elizabeth of Russia) in a way that totally annihilates any accusation of frivolousness, revealing a new Beethoven.

“The solidity of her technique and her sense of dynamics also exalt the tragedy and intensity of the “Appassionata”, so rich with its silences and arpeggios, forti, fortissimi, until she arrives at the final apotheosis. And then a seldom heard piece composed for Faliks by Lev ljova Zurbin, Sirota: two contrasting melodic ideas accompanying a historic recording, as was done in the post-war years by the avantgarde. In this case, it is a religious Jewish song, sung by the Polish singer Sirota for the Jewish New Year of 1908; a minimalist piece that Faliks imbues with interpretive intensity, making even more heart-rending the evocation of a lost time.

“The pianist also moves securely through all of the varied colours of the Davidsbundlertanze, composed by Schumann, at a time when he was battling against the ‘bad taste and bad faith’ of critics who had exalted opinions of Italian opera. Written under the alternating pseudonyms of Florestano and Eusebio, the piece was performed by Faliks with emphasis of harmonic adventure, and rich with dynamics and fantasy.

“As an encore, she performed an explosive Campanella by Paganini-Liszt, and followed that with Tchaikovski’s ‘Barcarola’. Executed with a lulling and even timing, it showed the most delicate and moving tones.”

Full Review

Audiophile Audition

by Steven Ritter

Beethoven’s last piano sonata is somewhat of the odd bird; often people ask “where is the last movement?” In fact, the first movement itself is so perfect in structure, so complete in total that when we get to the longer two-thirds of the whole last movement it can almost feel like a separate work, so worn out are we at the conclusion of the first. But the amazing complexities and almost three-dimensional imaginings of the second movement variations, the jazzy arches (yes, jazz) creative explosions that take place in this final sonata utterance are little less than astounding in their breadth, and transport us to another time and place, or, rather, other times and places.

Variations are of course the essential theme of this disc. The “Eroica” Variations use the familiar theme from his Creatures of Prometheus and Symphony No. 3 to good effect, actually expanding on what we sometimes wish had gone on longer in the symphony. The piece is a piano tour-de-force that calls for big statements largely writ—no subtleties of expression are allowed here in the same way that many of the composer’s other piano works allow. The piece is to be played with boldness and lots of color-laden contrasts in texture and dynamics.

The Fantasia is a piece that is not played all that often, and enters into a rather Lisztian prelude of forcefulness and tremendous virtuosity. Though the notes call it a “soul sister” of the Choral Fantasy, that work seems to me far more pedantic and controlled that what we have in the Fantasia. This is Beethoven at his most explicitly radiant and ecstatic, not as concerned with form as for feeling.

The Polonaise is a piece from 1814, but hearkens back to Beethoven’s earlier Viennese years, and was written for the money. He got 50 ducats for this brash and really entertaining opener, covering the dedicatee’s previous owed amount for the Op. 30 Violin Sonatas from 12 years earlier. It’s a distinctive opus with a lot to offer.

I was not familiar with Inna Faliks until now, and neither apparently is our site, but one hopes that the newfound acquaintance will be developed further. She is a remarkable Ukrainian pianist with chops to burn, a forceful technique and extremely attentive spirit to that of Beethoven. This is a fine recital in warm, resonant sound that highlights the clarity and reasonable sense of balance and voicing that Faliks brings to the instrument. With a desirable program to boot, this is an easy item to recommend.

Full Review

WTTW

by Marc Vitali

A concert pianist of the highest order, Inna Faliks can be as dramatic or as subtle as a great stage actor. The New Yorker called her performances “adventurous and passionate,” reminding me of the first time I saw her play — in her family’s living room nearly 20 years ago.

Born in Ukraine, Inna was recently named a Professor of Piano at UCLA. In between the Soviet Union and California, she grew up in the Chicago suburbs.

In 1994, Inna was one of the stars of WTTW’s annual program, The Illinois Young Performers Competition. At the age of 15, she performed Tchaikovsky with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I was present at Inna Falik’s Orchestra Hall debut that evening 19 years ago because I produced a short profile of her that was part of the program. It was her debut and mine in a sense — that story was the first story I ever did that made it to air.

An occasional guest soloist on 98.7 WFMT, Faliks has also become a regular at Chicago’s annual Beethoven Festival. Festival founder George Lepauw calls her “one of those trail-blazing musicians who are doing more than most to make classical music exciting and accessible.

She won’t be performing in Chicago again until spring. But if you want to hear the piano played with power and grace, Faliks has just released a new recording of Beethoven masterworks on the MSR Classics label.

Full Review

The Glass

by Chris McGovern

Le Poisson Rouge was the scene where pianist Inna Faliks resumed her Music/Words series with a program of classical and contemporary classical music mixed with spoken word, and immediately sprang into action with Rodion Shchedrin’s “Basso Ostinato”, a piece that didn’t even appear on the printed program, but seemed to set a strong pace for the evening’s selections. It turned out that Inna was really playing the encore first instead of last because she says that the Beethoven piece she closed with (the Sonata Op. 111; We’ll get into this shortly) is so epic that it cannot be followed by an encore. It was probably a good call.

The show felt a bit odd in terms of its placement of material. While you have music that is sure to be in line with a perfectly consistent classical recital, even with the new piece by John Eaton, there was the poetry read by its author Sandra Beasley that, while I really appreciated her work and her quirky style (the volume and character of her delivery would have impressed the casting chiefs of Broadway), wasn’t sure gelled within the framework of this concert. In-between Inna’s selections, Beasley came on and read several original poems that were titled after lines from A.C. Baldwin’s “The Traveler’s Vade Mecum” (While it would have been genuinely practical for me to have read that beforehand, I haven’t) as well as 2 stand-alone poems titled “King” and “Mercy”. Now, it probably hurts me that I am literarily challenged to begin with, but when you have so many artists now that are merging or attempting to merge different art forms together on a single concert stage, it takes daring performances to produce the example that sets the bar–Having said this, I applaud both Faliks and Beasley for making strides in presenting this kind of concert–I still think maybe a concert with more of a new music motif would be a better placement for Beasley’s material, but perhaps if her readings had been in collaboration with Faliks’ piano work, I might feel differently.

Of the music that made up the rest of the concert, Faliks was a glowing presence on the LPR Yamaha Grand (whose lid had a perfect reflection of the piano harp strings from my vantage point) and gave beautiful attack on the John Corigliano piece Fantasia On an Ostinato. The ostinato in question is the theme from the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th–This is clearly becoming one of the most-quoted classical pieces in music having heard it in this context, and Zoe Keating’s arrangement for solo cello. Strangely enough, Pete Seeger doodling it on the banjo was something I heard recently as well.

The premiere of Eaton’s Songs of Nature…and Beyond had guest vocalist David Adam Moore and Inna performing much of the way from inside the piano–Inna had used a shot glass and a towel placed on the strings and Moore sang into the piano mike on a few lines (He even bumped his head on the lid during one of the sections, but seemed to be okay and laughed it off). The piece itself is a considerably melodic work given that the experimental nature of the performance keeps it in an edgier playing field. Moore’s booming voice had a magnificent range and clarity, and his delivery of the text (two of the selected poems are from WB Yeats and Wallace Stevens) was effectively executed (EDITOR’S NOTE: I haven’t read those beforehand, either).

Faliks’ reading of Beethoven’s Sonata #32 in c minor, Op. 111 was the finale of this concert–Played beautifully, and the piece has such a stunning presence in any concert setting with its almost swing-like Arietta, and that seemingly endless trill. Faliks indeed made the right call to switch the encore to the start of the program in order for the coda of the sonata to resonate gently into the night.

Full Review

Sequenza 21

by Kyle Lynch

Last Sunday evening, pianist Inna Faliks closed the fourth season of her Music/Words series at the West Village institution, Cornelia Street Café, in New York City. It was an intimate affair in the Café’s cozy basement theatre, and Inna was joined by soprano Samatha Malk, Brazilian pianist and singer Clarice Assad, and poet Irina Mashinski. The potpourri of solo piano, songs, and poetry readings hearkens back to old European salons of the turn of the century. Yet the evening was thoroughly enjoyable and modern.

Irina Mashinski set the mood of the first half of the concert with the opening poem “The Room” preceding piano works by Ludwig van Beethoven and Arnold Schoenberg. In the poem, a lady carefully furnishes and arranges a room—only to prepare for “an explosion.” Beethoven’s Fantasia in G minor, op. 77 presents a loose set of variations that continually drifts abroad to far reaching keys, different tempos and moods. If Beethoven was preparing later generations of composers to push the limits of tonality, then Schoenberg set the explosion of tonality with the early atonal work, Three Pieces for Piano, op. 11, when he “emancipated the dissonance” the year before in 1908.

Inna Faliks played with sensitivity, bringing out the lyricism and power in both pieces, and also highlighted the wry humor and abrupt shifts in Fantasia in G minor. A rarer side of Schoenberg was heard with a smattering of early songs. Influenced by the lieder of Gustav Mahler, these songs were filled with lush romantic yearnings and enchanting forest scenes. Samantha Malks sang with a clear tone and warmth, particularly in a stirring performance of “Waldesnacht”. Three selections from Schoenberg’s cabaret songs, Brettl-Lieder, were also delightfully presented. A solo piano transcription by Franz Liszt of an art song by Frederic Chopin, “The Wish”, created an effective transition between the two sets of Schoenberg songs. Ms. Faliks deftly performed it charm and ebullience.

Irina Mashinski interspersed her poems between the movements and pieces. She created a synergy of mood by selecting poems to match the music. For Schoenberg’s Three Pieces, Ms. Mashinski described scenes of urban destruction and apocalyptic anxiety, such as depictions of the legendary sunken city of Atlantis. In another poem, “The End of the World”, someone ignores recent, tragic news by burying the newspaper in a trash can—only to expect the end of the world for each following day. The audience, perhaps overwhelmed by the angst stirred up from the poems and Schoenberg’s atonal moodiness, only first applauded midway through the concert after the mood lightened with Schoenberg’s early songs. Such can be the enveloping power of music and poetry. Any remaining tension disappeared after the applause, and the performers appeared gratified to receive the recognition.

The evening was capped off by Clarice Assad with a different sort of music. Steeped in the tradition of Brazilian popular music, Ms. Assad began singing “Falsa Baiana” while tapping out a samba rhythm on a pandeiro (a kind of Brazilian tambourine), before turning to the piano. She improvised fluidly throughout her set before ending with the Italian standard “Senza Fine”. It was a wonderful way to finish a concert that began so earnestly—journeying from intense dread to a song about unceasing love.

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  1. Rzewski "The People United Shall Never Be Defeated" (excerpt, improvised cadenza) Inna Faliks 8:36
  2. Mozart Piano Concerto #20 - I Inna Faliks with Chamber Orchestra of St. Matthews 15:12
  3. Mozart Piano Concerto #20 - II Inna Faliks with Chamber Orchestra of St. Matthews 10:27
  4. Mozart Piano Concerto #20 - III Inna Faliks with Chamber Orchestra of St. Matthews 8:26