Classical Voice North America

by Wynne Delacoma

“With Faliks in the lead, the prickly Scherzo and huge, dramatic Finale fully reflected Mahler’s mighty voice. Faliks is a poetic pianist, unafraid to linger over a short pause or craft a melodic fragment to explode and fade with blinding speed. But especially in the transcription’s fast-paced final movements she never lost the singing-through line so crucial to navigating Mahler’s often chaotic universe. The Scherzo’s staccato, martial rhythms could be crisply stern but also piquant and witty. Its lyrical moments glowed, thanks to Falik’s pliant, flexible melody lines.”

Full Review

Stage and Cinema

by Tony Frankel

“Huang and Aznavoorian returned after intermission with pianist Inna Faliks for a triumphant rendering of Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 67.

For the Camerata players to evoke emotion while excavating Shostakovich’s sharper vocabulary of musical images, figures, and gestures was remarkable. Faliks’ mash-up of sensitivity and pure fury brought a heightened relevance to this rarely performed, beautifully complex stunner. A simply enthralling performance!

Prokofiev Flute Sonata… The emotion came from Faliks, whose expressive, spirited, curious interactions brought life to even the conventional accompaniment patterns of the four-movement piece.”

Full Review

WFMT (Chicago)

by Lisa Flynn

Inna Faliks is a Ukrainian-born pianist known for alternating musical interludes with spoken word, taking the form here of narrative storytelling. Faliks’ new album chronicles her life’s path: her family’s emigration to America, her seminal early influences and her evolution as an artist. And it’s also a love story, as she is reunited as an adult with the childhood friend who is now her husband. Each episode is narrated by actress Rebecca Mozo.

Providence Journal

by Channing Gray

The Newport Music Festival got serious Thursday night with its marathon Beethoven series, rounding up three pianists to tackle the composer’s last three piano sonatas, heaven-bound creations written just a few years before Beethoven’s death, when he was lost in the world of deafness and exploring places no other composer revisited.

To hear one of these sonatas, all so bold and inventive, is a treat. But to hear all three in a single sitting with no intermission can be life-changing.

Too bad the performances were so uneven.

I suspected problems were in store when Czech pianist Terezie Fialova walked on the stage of The Breakers with the score to Opus 109 in hand, rather than have the work down cold and under the fingers.

True, there were some lovely moments in the opening, which contains some of Beethoven’s tenderest writing. But Fialova clearly was not on top of the blistering, finger-twisting second movement.

But she also sounded like she was sight reading. It was a perfunctory performance that seemed so tied to the sheet music that it never was able to touch the heart of this amazing piece with its shimmering set of variations.

But things improved when Boston-based pianist John Ferguson sat down to Opus 110, even though he was hanging on for dear life in the second movement’s tricky, crossed-hands section or the angry second movement.

Ferguson caught on fire for the finale, a sprawling fugue that pauses a couple of times for some of the saddest music Beethoven ever wrote. And Ferguson played these heart-breaking melodies pretty straight, letting the music speak for itself.

But I couldn’t help feeling there was room for a little more emotional spin on the playing, to stretch a bit and really pour his heart out. But most of the time that was held in check.

Ferguson deserves a big hand for his heroic finale, where the fugue blossoms into a soaring anthem.

But it was Ukrainian-born pianist Inna Faliks, who blew the other two pianists out of the water with her enthralling account of Opus 111, the last of the three sonatas and one of Beethoven’s most stunning creations, as he ends a lifetime of sonatas with a few shimmering scale passages and a hushed C Major chord.

This amazing score was clearly in her DNA, as Faliks charged into the brooding introduction when we all thought she was adjusting the piano bench. And from there she had the audience hanging on every note.

Unfortunately, a muffled thud could be heard during the spellbinding set of variations that caps of the last of the 32, and it seemed to be coming from the piano.

But otherwise, this was one of the most moving performance I’ve ever heard of Opus 111, a work whose stormy opening gives way to a great hymn to humanity.

The Newport Festival, held in Bellevue Avenue’s lavish mansions, continues Friday with a sunrise concert, a family concert and an evening of Mozart.

In all, the marathon event, ending July 23, will present 56 concerts in just over two weeks.

Full Review

Classical Voice of North Carolina

by William Thomas Walker

A bevy of music lovers in the Recital Hall of the University of North Carolina Greensboro heard an eclectic program in the final concert of the Rice Toyota Sitkovetsky and Friends Chamber Music Series. The Master Works series piano soloist, Inna Faliks, was heard in chamber music for wind quintet by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), a trio piece for strings by Franz Schubert (1797-1828), and a spectacular keyboard solo by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Faliks is the new Head of Piano and Associate Professor of Piano at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music besides her international tours as a soloist.

Beethoven’s Quintet in E-flat, Op. 16 for Piano, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon opened the concert. The composer modeled his quintet of 1797 closely after Mozart’s K. 452 of 1784 for the same instrumentation and in the same key. Both composers wrote with themselves in mind as the keyboard player. Beethoven melded the traditional serenade-like sonority of the winds with his own innovative piano style. It is in three movements. A long, slow and measured introduction leads into the first movement in which each of its three themes is presented by the piano before being taken up by the winds. A long phrased melody, introduced by the piano, dominates the slow movement. Beethoven toys with keys, embellishes the theme along with added countermelodies and adds contrapuntal touches. Expectations of a standard rondo form are tweaked in the bubbly and vivacious finale.

Pianist Faliks was joined by oboist Ashley Barret, clarinetist Kelly Burke, bassoonist Carol Bernstorf, and Bob Campbell on horn, all principals of their sections in the Greensboro Symphony. The balance between the keyboard and the wind players as a group and individually was excellent. Kaliks’ beaming expression reflected her evident joy at the give and take between the players. Her refined tone, phrasing, and care for rhythm were models of Beethoven style. What a broad palette of color was evident as each instrument either paired with the piano, blended with one or more winds, or acted as a wind quartet! Intonation was excellent and each player played with enthusiasm and complete technical mastery.

Schubert’s Trio in E-flat, D. 897 is rarely heard in concert. It was published posthumously by Anton Diabelli in 1845 as Op. 148 with the spurious nickname “Nocturne.” On the autograph score, Schubert wrote “Adagio” while “nocturne” was added by an unknown hand. The paper is the same as he used for the Piano Trio in E-flat, D. 929 and the fresh copy for Die Winterreise. These, plus the earlier Piano Trio in B-flat, D. 898, were composed around the same time leading many to date the “Nocturne” to 1827 and widespread speculation it might have been a rejected slow movement for the earlier B-flat trio. Its music seems to anticipate the heavenly slow movement of the great Quintet in C, D. 956, while the future quintet’s finale is hinted at by the nocturne’s use of pizzicato. Documentation is weak for the theory that Schubert took the melody from a pile driver crew’s work song in Gmunden in the lake country east of Salzburg. A vigorous central section is surrounded with a serene slow melody.

Faliks was joined by music director Dmitri Sitkovetsky on violin and cellist Brooks Whitehousefrom the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and the Winston-Salem Symphony. Faliks’ fine rolling arpeggio chords were followed by the seraphic blended sound of the strings spinning out an almost timeless melody. Intonation, dynamics, and phrasing were perfect. Balance was remarkably equal during the turbulent middle section, while the return of the ethereal song was as immaculate as before.

The suite Gaspard de la Nuit is one of the most challenging works in the solo-piano repertoire. Solo works are rare in this series but the presence of Faliks, who so clearly has the “chops” (and then some), it was a real treat to hear this rarely performed work live.

Ravel aimed to surpass the difficulty of Islamey (1869) by Mily Balakirev (1837-1910) which out-Liszts Liszt! Ravel was inspired by three poems, “Ondine,” “Le Gibet,” and “Scarbo” by Aloysius Bertrand whose vivid imagery was a forerunner of the Symbolist movement. Ondine is a sea sprite and her story parallels the plot of Dvořák’s Rusalka. The melody emerges within a rhythmic-harmonic motive and reappears “again and again enveloped in variegated swirls of glistening arpegiated arabesques” (John Gillespie: Five Centuries of Keyboard Music). “Le Gibet” portrays a corpse swinging from a gibbet, looking reddened in the setting sun. The atmosphere is maintained by Ravel’s use of “a repeated octave B-flat,” suggesting a death bell, surrounded by a mournful melody based upon seventh and ninth chords. “Scarbo” depicts a grotesque dwarf, like something out of the tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann. It is a fantastic scherzo in which two themes, one powerfully rhythmic and a second, gay and dance like, are given glittering, pedal-to-the-metal treatment before fading to a whisper of sound.

Like her GSO opening night performance of her encore (Rachmaninoff’s Corelli Variations), Faliks kept listeners in open mouth wonder with her seemingly magical keyboard wizardry. From my seat I could not see the abundance of crossed hands listeners were commenting about as they left after her repeated curtain calls. Her palette of refined color, dynamics, and tone were breathtaking. I hope to hear her in future GSO seasons. She has recorded the Ravel on MRS Classics Records (B002AH970Q).

As part of the Greensboro Symphony Guild‘s outreach, a large contingent of string players from Walter M. Williams High School in Burlington, under the direction of Veronica Allen, played in the lobby before the concert. It is good to see music in the public schools getting strengthened.

Full Review

Classical Voice of North Carolina

by William Thomas Walker

The stage of the newly rechristened University of North Carolina Greensboro Auditorium was packed with extra musicians for a substantial and richly satisfying program sandwiching a Russian concerto with French masterpieces. Greensboro Symphony Orchestra music director Dmitri Sitkovetsky coupled the ever popular Second Piano Concerto of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) with three of the major works of French Impressionism by Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). This final program of the season will be repeated on Saturday.

Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales opened the concert. The original piano version was premiered anonymously in 1911. It was an homage to Franz Schubert’s collection of waltzes published 1823. The seven waltzes, followed by an epilogue, are dominated by 3/4 time and combined lilting rhythms with sharp dissonances. The complex seventh waltz features intricate cross-rhythms, a binary super-imposed over the basic waltz pulse. He orchestrated it in 1912. Sitkovetsky brought out all the harsh brashness of the first waltz which skirts, or is suggestive of, free atonality. The quiet, hushed, simple beauty of the second waltz was perfectly spun out. The well-sprung syncopation of the third featured a fine oboe solo while gorgeous woodwind interplay dominated the fourth. The short fifth waltz featured a glowing duet between oboe and English horn. Sitkovetsky sustained clarity throughout the tricky sixth waltz and he brought out the Viennese Strauss qualities of the seventh.

A rousing performance of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op.18, came next. The work was critical to the composer’s career, marking his recovery from a creative block and depression following the failure of his First Symphony. It is dedicated to his doctor, Nikolai Dahl, whose prolonged use of hypnosis cured the composer. The swift and widespread success of the concerto’s 1900 premiere marked a major turning point in the composer’s personal life as well as in his creative style. Inna Faliks‘ performance was anything but routine. She had more than enough upper body strength to hold her own against the composer’s full, plush orchestration. The highlight of her performance was the wonderful intimate chamber music quality her performance of the nocturne-like second movement with its dialogue between keyboard and woodwinds. There was no want of bravura in the finale. Sitkovetsky provided a consummate accompaniment, giving full rein to the rich tapestry of melodies while carefully balancing with his soloist. Every section of the orchestra gave their all.

The hearty standing ovation was rewarded by Faliks’ jaw-dropping performance of the Variations on a Theme by Corelli, Op. 42 by Rachmaninoff. Has anyone since Domenico Scarlatti packed a piece with so many passages featuring crossed hands or independent fingerings? I could not help but think of all the implications of the word “prestidigitation” as I watched her “handiwork” in disbelief.

Intermission was followed by as fine a live performance of Debussy’s La Mer that I can recall hearing. Sitkovetsky’s interpretation was stylistically masterful and all sections of the orchestra played the socks off their parts. The subtle control of a remarkably broad palette of color was marvelous. The five French horns and four trumpets were beautifully gauged. The rich sound of the low strings, especially the violas and cellos, was pleasing as was the focused intonation of the violins’ high notes.

The concert ended with an equally strong performance of Suite No. 2 for orchestra from Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. The wonderful flute solo was floated magically by Debra Reuter-Pretta. A bird song was beautifully conjured by the flute section that included that rare bird, the alto flute. The expanded percussion section brought out plenty of character with its hints of the Far East. The important violin solo was gorgeously played by guest concertmaster Hal Grossman.

The concert proper was preceded by a heartening sampling of the Greensboro Symphony Guild‘s educational outreach. The strings from North Guilford High School were joined onstage by GSO players under the baton of Sandra Rathbone. They played “March Slav” by Tchaikovsky, “Pavane” by Fauré, and the “Bacchanale” from Saint-Saёns’ opera Samson et Dalila. Performances were promising and there was a good turnout of proud parents and relatives.

Rush to get a ticket for this outstanding program and performance! See the sidebar for details on Saturday’s repeat concert.

Full Review

El Norte

by Gabriel Rangel
[translated by Google]

Music and poetry are two artistic manifestations that usually combine well, complementing each other. 

Proof of this was given by the Ukrainian Inna Faliks in her first recital at the International Piano Festival Beethoven Hall. 

With “Godai”, by the Brazilian Clarice Assad, she not only displayed her talent on the octaves, but also, and simultaneously, recited a poetry by the American Steven Schroeder during the second and third movements. 

And not only there the lyricism of the evening arose, also at other times, as in the second movement, andante espressivo, of the Third Sonata for piano Op. 5 in F minor, by the German Johannes Brahms, with which he started the program, O well; in “Le Gibet” of “Gaspard de la Nuit”, by Frenchman Maurice Ravel.

In both, and throughout the concert, she showed a great pianistic temperament, wide sonority and precision in the attack of notes in works, all of high technical demand. In short, a concert pianist of great level, dedicated to her musical work. 

In addition to the above, she also performed the “Fantasia” in D minor K. 397, by the Austrian Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, where only certain unusual accents were criticizable; and “Basso Ostinato”, by Russian Rodion Shchedrin. 

The attendees, who occupied only two-thirds of the lower part of the San Pedro Auditorium, gave a warm applause and Faliks returned, in case everything had already been interpreted so little, to offer encore a piece of bravery: Estudio No.3, S. 140, “La Campanella”, by the Hungarian Franz Liszt.

Full Review

Classical Sonoma

by Elizabeth Warnimont

Guest conductor Thomas Heuser led a reconstituted Vallejo Symphony in its first concert of the new season Sept. 20 in Vallejo’s Hogan Auditorium. Mr. Heuser is the first of three candidates for the position of symphony artistic director, and each will conduct one concert.

There were familiar faces on the stage though most of the musicians are new to the VSO since last season, as many long-time members left the Orchestra after long-time artistic director David Ramadanoff departed last year.

Mr. Heuser chose some blockbuster works for his trial by fire, which, as he quipped on the stage Sunday, was an appropriate phrase given the near-100-degree temperatures outside. He sparked that fire conducting a brisk, pre-program Star Spangled Banner, for which virtually everyone in the audience stood, either with a hand over the heart or in formal salute. It was a refreshing surprise and a unifying icebreaker, for the orchestra as well as the audience. After the rousing rendition of the National Anthem, the orchestra proceeded with the first of three classical favorites, Smetana’s The Moldau. The Moldau, or “Vltava,” named after a majestic Prague river, is part of a series of six symphonic poems the composer completed late in his career, collectively titled “Ma Vlast,” or “My Homeland.”

“Each work takes its inspiration from a different aspect of Bohemian/Czech culture, landscape or history,” said the VSO‘s Mary Eichbauer, and “Vltava expresses the renewed strength and unified spirit of Bohemia.” In his introduction to the audience Sunday, Mr. Heuser described the piece as a contrast between the rugged and serene aspects of the river as it courses along toward its end, ultimately emptying into the Elbe River. “Rachmaninoff also had intense sadness and joy in his life,” he added, suggesting that the Smetana piece is also reflective of the life of its composer. The work is bold and elegant, containing obvious suggestions of flowing water (a steady beat emanating from the cellos and basses) as the violins play a sprightly melody accentuated by clear winds. The music is powerful in a gentle, aesthetically pleasing way. There was great majesty and confidence in the performance, but it is a happy confidence, a celebration of life and progress, devoid of fury.

The audience showed its admiration for the performance with a standing ovation. Rachmaninoff’s C Minor Concerto, Op. 18, followed with Ukrainian-born pianist Inna Faliks as the soloist. Ms. Falik’s mastery is solid, and her performance with the symphony was strong and polished. Her precision and power was impressive, though piano and orchestra could have meshed more smoothly. In fact, while for the most part the orchestra sounded cohesive, the instrumental sections were not consistently in sync. The final movement was played energetically, and again audience applause was loud and long.

The program concluded with Dvorak’s “New World” Ninth Symphony, Op. 95. The smoothness of the phrasing in the strings provided a foundation for the familiar themes and was reminiscent of the Smetana work. This E Minor work from 1893 contains fewer contrasts than the expressive Moldau and flows more steadily forward without marked passages of serenity or tumult. The music had quite a lulling effect in the warm Hogan, especially in the Largo where the instruments sounded most graceful and closely attuned to each other. As the piece gained momentum in the final Allegro the orchestra gained sonority and power, becoming more unified at the end.

It was a successful audition for the conductor. The fact of repeated standing ovations spoke volumes for the quality of the performance, but in addition there was a sense in the auditorium that many would be returning for the next two concerts and their candidate conductors, Christian Baldini (Nov. 8) and Marc Taddei (Jan. 31).

Full Review

Peninsula Reviews

by Richard Lynde

Inna Faliks began the “Music/Words” series in New York, and with her recent relocation as head of the Herb Alpert Piano Department at UCLA, has continued this unique and memorable practice to our state and county. In Ellen Bass, she could not have picked a better partner. Our poet said that for her this new way of thinking about music is “a conversation.” It began with her quiet reading of “Relax,” about bad things that will happen, such as fungus on tomatoes, cats run over, even a lesbian wife, all stated with a wry humor: like those to follow, what she called “talking poems” meant to be read aloud, something she is very good at. Faliks then took to the keyboard in Schedrin’s (b. 1932) “Basso Ostinato,” a blizzard of sound that was wild, fast, jazzy like Gershwin and reflective of Prokofiev and Stravinsky, a tour de force with underlying humor and perfect control.

Then Ellen Bass read again, this time, “Jazz,” about sending her poems out into the world as if a child, a modern take on our great 17th century American Ann Bradstreet’s own similar feelings. In “Waiting for Rain” she tells how the ancient philosopher Lucretius got her through the night with his idea of atoms “combining” and “recombining” amid the void. “When you return,” magically has eggs going back to shells, “letters unwrite themselves” and diamonds to coal to rotting leaves. Amazing imagery, fresh and immediate.

Next, Inna Faliks played the Mozart (1756-91) “Fantasie in D Minor K. 397,” a brief, intensely moody departure from his sonatas, which she made startling with its shifts between the opening Andante, then Adagio than a Presto played almost too fast to hear, but with perfect accuracy to end the high mini drama. Then, in “If you know,” Bass told of ticket takers touching palms with concert goers, followed by “God’s Grief” with startling images of God, Joan of Arc, Houdini – her words as magical as his magic tricks. In “God in Trouble” a beached whale decomposes, then in “Listening” she imagines having heard Keats read his “Autumn” to a friend. To “words like wine/ I listened with my spine,” both funny and profound.

Then in a brilliant stroke for both performers and audience, Faliks departed from the printed program which had Bass reading between movements of the huge Brahms (1833-97) “Sonata No. 2 in F Sharp Minor,” written and played by the composer in 1853 when he was “only” 20 and full of storm and stress along with tenderness. In the often fiendishly difficult and architecturally perfect four-movement work, played straight through and received with tumultuous applause, the noble work was the best-performed these ears have heard on this mighty Yamaha since Yevgeny Sudbin in a big Scriabin sonata almost two years ago. The Brahms began with a huge attack blaring forth the “allegro, not too fast but with energy.” The “andante with expression” was a stroll with purpose, a meditation that becomes intense and moody, alternating playfulness with severity, then lushness – typical of Brahms, and with Faliks sitting, as usual, with her face right over the keys, as expressive as the notes she was playing. The moving Scherzo was hardly a musical “joke,” but a brief lead up to the “Finale,” played with a gripping intensity, blazing keys played flat-fingered for speed like Horowitz, then a maternal tenderness like the famous Brahms “Lullaby,” coherent in all its many moods, and ending with a big bang. All gave a standing ovation.

Then Bass read three concluding poems, ending with “Reincarnation,” not returning as the “totem of a shaman,” but rather as an OYSTER! Very funny, very apt, very original, like all of her works. Faliks then concluded the intermissionless 110-minute program, which passed as if in a dream, with Liszt’s (1811-86) “La Campanella,” a glittering whimsical bon-bon that left a grateful audience with church bells ringing in our heads.

“…in a brilliant stroke for both performers and audience, Faliks… had [Ellen] Bass reading between movements of the huge Brahms (1833-97) “Sonata No. 2 in F Sharp Minor,” written and played by the composer in 1853 when he was “only” 20 and full of storm and stress along with tenderness. In the often fiendishly difficult and architecturally perfect four-movement work, played straight through and received with tumultuous applause, the noble work was the best-performed these ears have heard on this mighty Yamaha since Yevgeny Sudbin in a big Scriabin sonata almost two years ago. The Brahms began with a huge attack blaring forth the “allegro, not too fast but with energy.” The “andante with expression” was a stroll with purpose, a meditation that becomes intense and moody, alternating playfulness with severity, then lushness – typical of Brahms, and with Faliks sitting, as usual, with her face right over the keys, as expressive as the notes she was playing. The moving Scherzo was hardly a musical “joke,” but a brief lead up to the “Finale,” played with a gripping intensity, blazing keys played flat-fingered for speed like Horowitz, then a maternal tenderness like the famous Brahms “Lullaby,” coherent in all its many moods, and ending with a big bang. All gave a standing ovation.”

Full Review

  1. La Campanella, Paganini - Liszt Inna Faliks 4:53
  2. Rzewski "The People United Shall Never Be Defeated" (excerpt, improvised cadenza) Inna Faliks 8:36
  3. Beethoven Eroica Variations Inna Faliks 9:59
  4. Gershwin: Prelude 3 in E-flat Minor Inna Faliks 1:25
  5. Mozart Piano Concerto #20 - II Inna Faliks with Chamber Orchestra of St. Matthews 10:27
  6. Gaspard de la Nuit (1908) : Scarbo - Ravel Inna Faliks 9:07
  7. Sirota by Lev 'Ljova' Zhurbin Inna Faliks 7:45