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

Atlanta Audio Club Review

By Phil Muse

BEETHOVEN: PIANO SONATA NO.32, POLONAISE, FANTAISIE, “EROICA” VARIATIONS

“Inna Faliks, an American pianist of Ukrainian origin, has already won many honors in competitions, given numerous master classes, and taken up residencies in conservatories and universities on three continents. What distinguishes her from other keyboard artists with impressive resumes is a keen perception of the harmonic and physical structure of the music she plays and an unerring ability to convey this to us in terms of emotion, clarity, and style. She puts them over in one irresistible package better than anyone you are likely to encounter. The fact that she is a Yamaha Artist also plays a part, as the beautifully defined registration of her instrument seems to free her to concentrate on matters of interpretation and communication.”

Atlanta Audio Club Review

By Phil Muse

BEETHOVEN: PIANO SONATA NO.32, POLONAISE, FANTAISIE, “EROICA” VARIATIONS

“Inna Faliks, an American pianist of Ukrainian origin, has already won many honors in competitions, given numerous master classes, and taken up residencies in conservatories and universities on three continents. What distinguishes her from other keyboard artists with impressive resumes is a keen perception of the harmonic and physical structure of the music she plays and an unerring ability to convey this to us in terms of emotion, clarity, and style. She puts them over in one irresistible package better than anyone you are likely to encounter. The fact that she is a Yamaha Artist also plays a part, as the beautifully defined registration of her instrument seems to free her to concentrate on matters of interpretation and communication.”

Links to all Corona Fridays performances:

Since March 20, 2020, Inna has been presenting short informal concerts from her home, dubbed “Corona Fridays.” Here are the 12 installments, thus far, of the video series – written about beautifully in this article on the Ampersand blog. Each episode features music that is newer, older – and words, of some kind – whether poetry that stands on its own, or is part of the piece, as in the case of Veronika Krausas’s “Master and Margarita” Suite.

Corona Fridays 1: Shchedrin, Chopin, and more 

Corona Fridays 2: Ravel, Tchaikovsky, and Chopin

Corona Fridays 3: Beethoven, Golub, Danielpour, and more

Corona Fridays 4: Pajama Children’s Edition

Corona Fridays 5: Beethoven, Paganini-Liszt, and poetry by Jesse Ball

Corona Fridays 6: Mozart, Takemitsu, and Chopin

Corona Fridays 7: Pajama Children’s Edition

Corona Fridays 8: Tchaikovsky and Freidlin

Corona Fridays 9: Ljova and Wieck-Schumann

Corona Fridays 10: Krausas and Wieck-Schumann

Corona Fridays 11: Krausas, Ljova, and Liszt

Corona Fridays 12: Kids Edition

Corona Fridays 14: Scarlatti and Maya Miro Johnson

Corona Fridays 15: Pajama Fridays with Frida and Nathaniel

Corona Fridays 16: Chopin Etude Sandwich

Corona Fridays 17: Schumann, Rachmaninoff

Corona Fridays 18: Curtis Summerfest Young Composers Celebration 

Corona Fridays 19: Pajama Fridays Edition: Schubert, Mark Carlson, Beethoven. Poetry by Helen Winslow and Carl Sandburg read by Frida and Nathaniel

Corona Fridays 20:  Brahms, Tamir Hendelman, Beethoven

Corona Fridays 21: Chopin, William Carlos Williams, Richard Danielpour

Corona Fridays 22 :Beethoven, Paola Prestini, Oni Buchanan poem

Corona Fridays 23: Rilke poem and Chopin (Polonaise-Fantasie)

Corona Fridays 24: Ravel and Timo Andres 

Corona Fridays 25: Friday the 13th Edition. Emily Dickinson poem, Chick Corea, Franz Liszt

Corona Fridays 26: Giraud, David Serkin Ludwig, Brahms

Corona Fridays 27: Brahms, Danielpour, Corea, Gershwin

Corona Fridays 28: Waltzes by Brahms, Krausas, Tchaikovsky

New Isler’s Insights Mini-Review

By Donald Isler

Voices – A Three Movement Suite for Piano and Historical Recordings by Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin
Inna Faliks, Pianist

This work should be of interest to those interested in Jewish traditional music, modern compositional techniques, and excellent pianism. The first movement was completed some years before the other two, and I liked it when I first heard it. The idea of a pianist on stage accompanying musicians from long ago struck me as wild, but exciting, and still does.

In that first movement one hears a repeated D minor chord over and over, but it has a mesmerizing effect, and leads into the body of the movement, where the pianist accompanies a 1912 recording of the famous cantor, Gershon Sirota (born 1874 – died in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising – 1943) and his choir.

Is the past, past, or is it really part of the present?! This performance makes you rethink this………

The second movement, Zhok, features Ms. Faliks playing with a recording of a klezmer trumpet player, and that, in turn, leads to the finale, Freydele, in which she plays with a 1953 recording of the Yiddish cantor (they had female cantors in those days?!) and actress, Freydele Osher. The Suite concludes with a calmer, smaller version of the D minor motive which one heard at the beginning of the work.

A very big part of the success of this performance is the fact that the pianist, Inna Faliks, who commissioned Voices, is so impressive. She has strength, technique, intensity, and an ear for interesting sonorities that’s constantly at work.

Well worth hearing!

Donald Isler

  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