Lucid Culture

Virtuoso pianist Inna Faliks’ latest installment of her innovative Music/Words series last night was a throwback to the Paris salons of the late 1800s, in the aptly lowlit atmosphere of the back room at the Gershwin Hotel. As she describes it, the concept of the series is to match music with poetry that shares a mood or evokes similar emotions, rather than referring to specific ideas or events. As an attempt to link two worlds that otherwise don’t usually intersect, it’s an admirable idea. Musically, this program was extremely diverse, spanning from classical to late Romantic, with Faliks pulling one of the obscurities she’s so fond of out of the woodwork as well. Lyrically, it was surreal, impactful, and relevant. Poet Tom Thompson doesn’t waste words: he finds the logic in cruel irony, assembles scenes vividly yet economically, and makes connections – like the commonalities in the desires of a child at play and a hungry spider – that might seem farfetched at face value but make perfect sense as he describes them (spiders got a lot of time this time out). “The lake is tired of being a mirror…it closes its one historical eye before we ever get to use it,” he observed bleakly. In an understatedly moving account of his son’s experience with seizures, Thompson coldly acknowledged how in one culture, people who suffer from them get killed, while in another they’re worshipped. A New York water tower became a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the dead leaves that get under the screws that hold it together; people and insects in Central Park shared a fate brought on by their inability to escape their desires. If insightfully ominous, loaded imagery is your thing, Thompson has a couple of collections out from alicejamesbooks that you should investigate.

The music was good too. In between trios of poems, Faliks alternated with pianist Dimitri Dover, who warmed up the performance with the Haydn’s uncharacteristically pensive Sonata in C Minor., Hob. 16:20. A bit later, he played three selections from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, the best being the anxiously stately “Montagues and Capulets” scene followed by Mercutio’s scampering cinematics. He joined Faliks for a perfectly synchronized four-handed take of another uncharacteristic piece, Liszt’s reflective, remarkably terse Symphonic Poem #4: Orpheus, eventually ending the show with three intuitive, energetic Debussy preludes and then a rather stern take on Chopin’s Scherzo No. 2, Op. 31.

Although the program put her on the bill lower than Dover and Thompson, Faliks was still the star of this show, playing with her signature blend of lithe grace and raw power, particularly as she made her way through the nocturnal scenes of Liszt’s Harmonies du Soir, and then the composer’s transcription of Paganini’s La Campanella, which she imbued with playful charm and then maintained it all the way through the dance’s knotty, rapidfire thicket of staccato. Her obscurity du jour turned out to be 20th century Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin’s Basso Ostinato, a fascinatingly biting, expansively acidic prelude that built from a walking bassline to echoes of Alban Berg and Vincent Persichetti. Faliks’ next program in the Music/Words series, on April 22 at 7:30 PM at the Cornelia Street Cafe with Brazilian pianist Clarice Assad and poet Irina Mashinski promises to be equally intriguing.

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American Record Guide

Mastery of the piano…A powerful pianist with technique to burn, a wonderful variety of tone colors at all dynamic levels. Her Ravel is reminiscent of Argerich EMI recording… and the Rachmaninoff reminds me of the early Van Cliburn recording made in Russia with a little more boldness.

Gramophone Magazine

by Donald Rosenberg

In a programme-note introducing her new solo disc, “Sound of Verse” pianist Inna Faliks states that she was inspired by literature and poetry in choosing the repertoire. What’s also intruiging about the recording is Faliks’ prowess in rendering each piece with a keen combination of expressive acuity and textural clarity.

Faliks, a Ukrainian-born American pianist, plays these (Pasternak) pieces with the same concentration and attention to detail that she applies to the Ravel-beautifully limned and paced – and to Rachmaninov’s Piano Sonata # 2 in the original 1913 version. Intensely felt, her Rachmaninoff abounds in poetic phrasing and finely gauged drama.

Journal and Courier

“… is a rapturous work for the stouthearted pianist. The composer himself (Rachmaninoff) was a piano virtuoso with gargantuan hands, and it takes an artist with at least the same matching ego if not the digits. Inna Faliks has both … pyrotechnic performance.”

General-Anzeiger (Germany)

“Inna Faliks, born 1978 and living in New York, began with Bach’s Fugue in G Sharp Minor (Wohltemperiertes Clavier Vol I), which projected a great conviction from the first note. Altogether she succeeded in achieving a majestic conception. Beethoven’s Bagatelles op.126 also demonstrated a mature musical personality, which revealed the six miniatures, their inner content sharply defined without exaggeration. In the Sonata op 111 Faliks played with the courage to take risks and with an expressive intensity, which went beyond all technical perfection and showed a musician at rest within herself, as she constructed her interpretation with clear vision.”

  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