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

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

More from Newport Music Festival and Music in the Mountains

Here are two lovely preview articles from some of last month’s engagements!

First, a personal essay I wrote about my new recording, “Polonaise-Fantasie, Story of a Pianist,” for the Newport Music Festival:

I know that I am the artist that I am now, partially thanks to growing up in the Odessa of the past – seven people in a three-room apartment, surrounded by books, music, ideas and friends (one of whom is Misha. You will meet him in the story. He is my husband and the father of my two children).

Recording this story, and this music, is the most personal project I have ever done.

Full article here.

Second, here’s a nice article on my appearance at the Music in the Mountains Festival in Durango:

The Ukranian-born pianist has played in our festival before, so she knows the territory and the drill. If you want a sneak peek, there will be an open rehearsal from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at the Festival Tent. You can also see and hear Faliks play a number of different works on YouTube. Calm, elegant and self-possessed, she’s a marvelous musician whom critics have described as playing with “grace and raw power.”

Faliks has had a distinguished concert and recording career. She’s also professor of piano and head of keyboard studies at the UCLA Department of Music, which frees her to concertize at summer festivals all over the world, including ours.

Full article here.

Newport Music Festival

It was lovely to return to the Newport Music Festival for a week of intense and magical music-making. Here’s an excerpt from the Providence Journal’s review of my performance of Beethoven Opus 111.

“…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.

…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.”

(Newport Music Festival), July 2017

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

Spring News

Dear Friends,

Happy Spring!

It is with boundless excitement that I share with you the flurry of upcoming premieres and performances this spring, and look forward to a thrilling summer. Join me for concerts in Chicago, New Haven, NYC, Los Angeles, Music/Words with the Poetry Foundation, as well as the brand new Dialogues Festival at UCLA, featuring at least 20 world premieres.

These lead into great summer appearances—my return to Newport Festival, concerto with the wonderful orchestra at Music in the Mountains Festival, and my Ravinia Festival debut, which heralds an exciting 17-18 season.

degas dancers
Inna Faliks performing Music/Words at the Getty, in celebration of Degas’s Russian Dancers

April 7—Chicago, IL
12pm: WFMT Live Broadcast @ Pianoforte Chicago
6pm: Recital @ Pianoforte Chicago

April 9—New Haven, CT
3 pm: Recital @ Lyric Hall (Impromptu Classical Series)

*World Premieres by Drozdoff, plus music of Schubert, Freidlin, Takemitsu

April 11—New York, NY
7:30pm: Recital @ Hunter College, Ida Lang Hall (Impromptu Classical Series)

April 12—New York, NY
6:00pm: Recital @ Yamaha Artist Services (6@6 Series)

May 2—Los Angeles, CA
7:30pm: Inna Faliks & Friends at UCLA @ Schoenberg Hall, UCLA

*Solo and chamber music, including Shostakovich Quintet with faculty and alumni. If you missed this in March, here is your chance to hear it again!

May 27—Chicago, IL
7:00pm, Music/Words @ The Poetry Foundation

May 29—Chicago, IL
8:00pm: Live Recital Series on WFMT Chicago Classical Radio

June 1,2,3—Los Angeles, CA
7:30 pm: Dialogues Festival at UCLA @ Ostin Recording Studio

*I am thrilled to put together this festival, where at least sixteen world premieres will be unveiled! Celebrating the link between past and present, this festival explores new music composed in response to Beethoven, Ravel, Schumann, by composers such as Richard Danielpour, Timo Andres, Tamir Hendelman, Ian Krouse, Paola Prestini, and more. The Dialogues Festival also juxtaposes works by Richard Danielpour and Chopin, and presents new compositions by UCLA student composers in response to Bach’s Aria from the Goldberg Variations. Featuring: Inna Faliks (piano), David Kaplan (piano), UCLA piano students, and UCLA composition students.

I look forward to seeing you and hearing from you this spring!.

warmest regards,
Inna

Winter Newsletter

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Dear Friends,

Happy 2017!

The year is off to a galloping start, after the whirlwind of fall and early winter.

I returned from a tour of China’s major halls, all architectural and acoustic masterpieces, including the Beijing Center for Performing Arts, the Shanghai Oriental Arts Theater, Tianjin Grand Theater, and more (pictures below)!

I enjoyed my debut with the fantastic group Camerata Pacifica, a collaboration with Bodytraffic modern dance (described as “electrifying and energizing” by the LA Times), and right after that, a very moving experience: playing Beethoven 3rd Concerto on my home turf, with UCLA Philharmonia and Neal Stulberg. You can see the video here.

For another chance to hear this piece, come to the February 19th concert with Peninsula Symphony, and Gary Berkson, details below.

Immediately after the New Year, I completed my forthcoming 2-disc set for Delos, “Polonaise Fantasie, Story of a Pianist”, a monologue-recital of my essays, read by actress-par-excellence Rebecca Mozo, with music ranging from Bach to Chopin to Carter to Birtwistle. Look out for a 2017 release!

Here a some upcoming winter dates to share with you—please come to these if you can, and keep in touch!

January 29
Inna plays Wanderer
LACMA, Sundays Live, 6 pm – recital and livestream.
http://www.lacma.org/event/inna-faliks-4

February 19th
Beethoven 3rd, Peninsula Symphony
Gary Berkson, conductor
http://www.pensym.org/

March 4th
Music/Words at the Getty, in celebration of Degas’s Russian Dancers
http://www.getty.edu/visit/cal/events/ev_1438.html

March 19th
Dilijan Series (Lark Music Society), Zipper Hall
Schostakovich Trio and Quintet
Some of my most beloved chamber music works, with my esteemed colleagues Movses Pogossian, Antonio Lysy, and others.
More information here

May this year be filled with hope, beauty and music for you all.

Warmest,
Inna

 

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Two Breathtaking Concerts in North Carolina

Check out these rave reviews from Inna’s concert and recital at the University of North Carolina earlier this month:

“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.”

CVNC, May 2016

“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.”

CVNC, May 2016

  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