American Record Guide

by James Harrington

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.

Fanfare

by Colin Clarke

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.

Full Review

James Wegg Reviews

by James Wegg

My life till now, through words and sound

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.

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.

American Record Guide

by James Harrington

In the old days of stores with a large selection of classical CDs, I browsed for hours and would have purchased this on the basis of its content alone. Here is my favorite piano sonata and my favorite set of variations, in a program with a couple of compositions I didn’t know — an unbeatable Beethoven recital. Played with strength and imagination, the performances are hard to beat. The program is perfectly ordered, opening with the lighter-weight but charming Polonaise, followed by the hefty Variations. The Fantasia is a substantial eight-minute work vaguely reminiscent of Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and offers an interesting break before one of the greatest piano works of all time, Beethoven’s final sonata.

Faliks’s excellent first CD included Rachmaninoff Sonata 2 and Gaspard de la Nuit (MSR 1333, Jan/Feb 2010). I have seen her perform in New York on two occasions and have a non-commercial earlier recording of Sonata 32. She teaches at UCLA and performs all over the USA and also in Italy and Israel. She is a pioneer in Yahama’s newest technology that allows long distance playing and teaching piano via the Internet, video, and their Disklavier recording and reproducing pianos.

Her competition in the big pieces is formidable. I have spent many years listening to Richter (Olympic 339, May/June 1994) and Brendel (Vox 3017, Mar/Apr 1993) play the variations, and with this new recording in my collection, I doubt that I’ll return to the old favorites as often. I find a couple of these variations rare examples of Beethoven’s musical humor — and Faliks does not miss them. I don’t have a specific favorite for the sonata, though I’ve seen Barenboim perform it twice (EMI 72912, Mar/Apr 1999). Faliks captures the turbulent aspect of the first movement just right. From the stately theme to the jazzy dance elements of the middle variations to the heaven-bound trills in the upper reaches of the piano, II balances perfectly.

I have purchased many CDs on the basis of their content. Rarely have performances measured up to the music as well as here.

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.

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

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.

  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