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

Los Angeles Times review

by Mark Swed

Commentary: What is Ukrainian music, and what does it say about the war?

The first week of May, I attended four concerts. All four, whether by chance or intent, had a connection with Ukraine. That was obvious the first day of May at a benefit concert for Ukraine put on by the Wende Museum and Jacaranda Music at the Robert Frost Auditorium in Culver City. And while Ukrainian American pianist Inna Faliks’ Ukraine-centric recital several days later at the Wende contained no Ukrainian music, its programmatic theme was “The Master and Margarita,” a novel by the Ukraine-born author Mikhail Bulgakov.

At her Wende recital earlier this month, Faliks premiered Veronika Krausas’ “Master & Margarita” Suite, written for the occasion. In the Russian novel, the devil visits and wreaks marvelous havoc on Soviet Moscow. In her suite of seven sly dances, Krausas, who is a Canadian American Los Angeles composer of Lithuanian heritage, lightly waltzes around and toys with fanciful passages from Bulgakov’s novel. As with Silvestrov, what isn’t there is as intriguing as what is. Each dance is a kind of fantasy, full of musical hints. Crossing borders is, and has always been, the way of music.

 

Spring News

• Inna Faliks’ book, the musical memoir Weight in the Fingertips, will be published in 2023 by Globe Pequot.

• Inna was recently profiled in a Cleveland Classical feature by Jarrett Hoffman titled “The Story of a Pianist” —Ukrainian-born Inna Faliks on her monologue-recital & her home country”.  You can read the article by clicking here.

• More performances on the horizon! Be sure to check the calendar for upcoming dates.

Ihr Opernratgeber review

by Sven Godenrath

Reimagine: Beethoven & Ravel

The Bagatelle by Peter Golub, played by Inna Faliks, impresses with its sparkling elegance and the subtle sparkling piano. The same applies to Bagatelle No. 1, no. 3 , no. 5 and no. 6 by Ludwig van Beethoven, the Bagatelle by Richard Danielpour, Sweet Nothings by Mark Carlsons… The Bagatelle by Tamir Hendelman is rhythmically accentuated, as is Bagatelle No. 2 and no. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven, Etude 2a by Ian Krause, Bagatelle by Daniel Leikowitz.

January Radio spots

• On Sunday, January 16 at 8 pm EST, Inna Falik’s performance of Pursuit by Billy Childs will be featured on Modern Notebook on WSMR-FM. Tune in online here.

• Jed Distler devoted an hour-long episode of his award-winning radio program, Between the Keys to Inna Faliks, including an in-depth interview. The program aired on WWFM radio on January 11 and 12, and is available on demand at this link.

• Also on WWFM, Inna Faliks’s extensive, two-part interview with WWFM’s Cadenza host David Osenberg is available on-demand. Listen to Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

ConcertoNet

Review of Inna’s performance at NYC’s Bargemusic Here and Now Winter Festival

by Henry Rolnick

Whew!!! No other words describe it.

Stunning performance by Inna Faliks … a BargeMusic concert which whirled away from its hour-plus duration to a minute-to-minute revelation.

The last two works showed two miracles: First was the Pursuit (in response to “Scarbo”) by Billy Childs.
Mr. Childs’ piece was unfamiliar. The familiar miracle was Ms. Faliks. She succeed with digital faultlessness in Ravel’s original.

Ravel wrote [“Scarbo”] the year of Einstein’s great time/space discovery, yet Ms. Faliks turned his pre-quantum mechanics into a personal cosmic journey of hide-and-seek shadows and blazing light, a cosmic chase and a moonlit nightmare.

Full Review

Berkshire Fine Arts

Review of Inna’s performance at NYC’s Bargemusic Here and Now Winter Festival

by Susan Hall

Inna Faliks is a superb concert pianist, who also heads the piano studies department at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Her recordings are devoted to revealing kindred spirits. … You too can be a kindred spirit.

Husband and wife, Robert and Clara Schumann, are offered together in The Schumann Project. Faliks has kept the composers’ magical, whimsical, heart-felt language central to her repertoire. … Her appreciation for Clara’s individual voice is clear in her recording of the Piano Sonata in G Minor. [Clara Schumann’s] Etudes move from dark to ebullient. Faliks places them where she feels they speak most powerfully and dramatically.

For the recording [Reimagine: Beethoven and Ravel, Faliks] asked a group of contemporary composers to respond to Beethoven’s Bagatelles, his last work for piano and also Ravel’s notoriously challenging Gaspard de la Nuit. Worth listening.

Full Review

Pizzicato review

by Remy Franck

Reimagine: Beethoven & Ravel

Ukrainian-born American pianist Inna Faliks has asked nine contemporary composers, including Richard Danielpour, Paola Prestini, Billy Childs, and Timo Andres, to write a short piece of music on each of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Bagatelles, Op. 126, and Maurice Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit.

The results, as might be expected, are of varying interest. Richard Danielpour, Ian Krouse and David Lefkovitz have succeeded in creating particularly characteristic new Bagatelles.

In contrast to Beethoven’s Opus, where each new Bagatelle is followed by Beethoven’s, in Ravel’s case only the contemporary interpretations of Ondine, le Gibet and Scarbo are heard, with Paola Prestini’s vision of Ondine and Billy Child’s “Pursuit” to Scarbo being particularly pleasing.

In all the pieces of this original program, ultimately the pianist herself impresses the most thanks to a technically brilliant playing, which is rhythmically immensely secure and also sensitive enough to make the right moods audible with dynamic as well as color nuances, both in the Beethoven original and in the new compositions.

The album contains detailed texts by Inna Faliks, and also from the composers, who report about their own pieces.

American Record Guide review

by James Harrington

Reimagine: Beethoven & Ravel

The title may be “Reimagine” but the concept is yet another amazing product of Inna Faliks‘s extraordinary imagination. Besides the quality of the music and her exceptional pianism, we have to consider other great aspects of this recording. The program alternates a newly composed Bagatelle response with each of Beethoven’s original six Bagatelles, OP.126. The second part of the program is a series of responses to Ravel’s Gaspard del la Nuit, which has been a part of her repertoire for quite some time now.(MSR 1333, Jan/Feb 2010). We should also honor Faliks for commissioning works from mine composers during the pandemic. All were written specifically for her, and these are world premiere recordings. Her booklet essay is outstanding, and each of the composers contributes a paragraph.

The foundations for this project go back to her studies with Gilbert Kalish. She gives him credit for introducing her to the compositional response idea. Two excellent Faliks recordings also add to the foundation of “Reimagine”: Beethoven (MSR 1446, Mar/Apr 2014) and Ravel (above). Her comments about alternating the Beethoven with newly composed responses are worth quoting here. “I hope that the emerging dialog between then and now points out the unique character of the original while forming a wholly new sonic adventure.” She could not have succeeded better.

Her Gaspard de la Nuit recording from over 10 years ago is still memorable, and she would probably include it in a full recital program with the pieces on this disc. The new works are every bit as demanding as Ravel’s notorious original. ‘Ondine’, the water spirit, gets treated to a pair of Variations on a Spell by Paola Prestini: ‘Water Sprite’ and ‘Bell Tolls’. ‘Le Gibet’, the hanging corpse, inspired Timo Andres to use a forward-moving ostinato that ends with dark chords in his ‘Old Ground’. ‘Scarbo’, the goblin up to nighttime mischief, was taken by Billy Childs to an even darker place in ‘Pursuit’. He used the theme of a black man pursued by either a slave catcher, a KKK mob, or even the police. He calls Faliks’s interpretation of the piece extraordinary. She refers to his new work as one that is as fiendishly difficult to play as Ravel’s finger-buster. ‘Pursuit’ was released as a downloadable single on Navona back in May.

This release continues a lengthening list of great recordings from Faliks. I have been fortunate to see her perform in person a couple of times and have communicated with her via email from time to time. She told me that she hopes to be in New York this coming season for this “Reimagine” program. You can be sure I will be there.

  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