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

Q&A: Piano professor shares how Soviet Union background influences her music

See below for an excerpt from Susana Alcantar of The Daily Bruin’s recent Q&A with Inna, detailing the pianist’s experience with Frederic Rzewski’s protest piece “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!”:

DB: Could you explain the context of “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!”

IF: As all great pieces of music, “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” is a lifetime kind of piece, a work that stays and evolves with an artist for many, many years. I find it to be a piece that is at once incredibly, mathematically and masterfully structured, and improvisatory in scope, expression and flair.

Read the full article here.

Washington Post

by Simon Chin

Reducing Mahler’s Sixth Symphony to a piano recital

Sunday’s concert at the National Gallery of Art posed an existential question: Is Mahler really Mahler without the cowbell?

For the Austrian composer, the rustic ring of the cowbell took on profound significance in his symphonies, representing cosmic solitude in the face of eternity. Pianists Inna Faliks and Daniel Schlosberg put that proposition to the test, doing away with the cowbell — and every other orchestral instrument — in a herculean performance of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony arranged for piano.

This four-hands version, arranged by Alexander Zemlinsky, comes from an age when amateurs relied on piano transcriptions to become acquainted with the latest symphonies at home. But when listeners can now freely stream countless versions of Mahler’s symphonies performed by the world’s best orchestras, is this relic — one never intended for public performance — anything other than a curiosity or mere technical feat?

Schlosberg, in his program note, suggests that listeners could discover “unexpected details and structures” in this more intimately scaled version. But what came through more strongly in this performance was a sense of the Sixth Symphony as a mood piece. The duo offered a highly personal and subjective reading, full of shifts in color and tempo, with individual passages brimming with character: the manic frenzy of the first movement coda and the coiled energy of the scherzo.

Yet as Faliks and Schlosberg tackled this monumental, 80-minute challenge, they faced an obstacle beyond their control: the muddy acoustics of the West Garden Court, which obliterated inner detail. The pastoral interlude in the first movement, with Zemlinsky’s intrusive tremolos a poor stand-in for Mahler’s distant cowbells, could never hope to achieve a sense of cosmic stillness. Likewise, the dramatic structure of the finale disintegrated into large washes of sound.

The emotional weight of this most tragic of symphonies was felt only when the textures were thinned away: in the hauntingly spare lyricism of the slow movement and, most powerfully, at the conclusion, as the music burst with its final, horrifying crash and faded away into oblivion. The effect was devastating and most definitely Mahler.

Full Article

Reviews from the Ravinia Festival and more!

Reviews from Inna’s recent performances at the Ravinia Festival, with Camerata Pacifica, and at the Newport Festival:

“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.”

Classical Voice North America, September 2017

“…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.”

Providence Journal (Newport Music Festival), July 2017

“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 simplyenthralling 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.

Stage and Cinema, September 2017

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.

  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