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