Review of Polonaise-Fantasie: The Story of a Pianist

by Christopher Axworthy

Review of Polonaise Fantasy: The Story of a Pianist
JW3 in London

Inna Falik’s Love of Life – The extraordinary story of a great artist told with mastery, intelligence and beauty

Inna Faliks in London to play for the first time in the JE3 Arts centre.
Telling her story of growing up in Odessa under the Soviet regime and even playing on the red piano in the room allocated to her family.
A three room appartment allocated to seven people!
Immigration was the word used in 1988 when the family prepared to flee to a freer life in the USA.
Now head of piano at UCLA in Los Angeles she came to London to share her story with us.

Eloquent as a poet but above all an eloquence in music that is so immediate and simple as every note touched places that other musicians can rarely reach.

A first half opening with Shchedrin’s athletic Basso Ostinato. Like a tiger being let out of cage as Inna ravaged this magnificent Yamaha piano with devilish glee .A ‘coup du theatre’ indeed after which we needed the calm aristocratic sounds of Bach’s knotty twine.
Jan Freidlin’s Ballade in Black and White was composed for Inna who gave its premiere in 2011 in Carnegie Hall.It was played with a clarity and total conviction that was enthralling.
After Bach it was Mozart to calm the air now with a performance of his D minor Fantasy of great simplicity and beauty.
The ‘Maiden’s Wish’ was played with wondrous jeux perlé in the style of the pianists of another age, that of pure gold.Scintillating exuberance and aristocratic style made one wonder why this little gem has been so rarely heard in the concert hall since the grandiloquence of Arrau.

Following with the most famous of showpieces :’ La Campanella’.Paganini and Liszt in cahoots to beguile and seduce with seemingly impossible pianistic gymnastics.
Inna played it with amazing clarity and insinuating charm with a kaleidoscope of colours that made this old war horse shine as new.
Streams of gold and silver sounds were thrown off with an ease and precision that were breathtaking in their audacity.
The mighty Polonaise Fantasie, from which this moving tale takes its name, was played with aristocratic style and ravishing beauty.
There was an architectural shape of such intelligence that restored this work to the Olympian heights of beauty and originality penned at the end of Chopin’s all too short life.It gave great meaning to a work that can sometimes ,in lesser hands, appear simply fragmented and structurally weak.
Inna showed us the revolutionary originality of the form that is free but in a highly original frame where Chopin’s genius shines through every bar.
Inna had realised this as she saw in this masterpiece a road plan of her own extraordinary life.

The most moving part was to come, both in words and in music, as Inna described the reappearance of Mischa Shpigelmacher in her life.
Out of the blue an old schoolboy friend suddenly appears at her concerts. A spark is felt as she decides to turn down a sumptuous after concert supper and to flee to Paris with Mr Shpigelmacher becoming fast best friends and an obvious kindred spirit for life.
Now happily married with two teenage children Mr and Mrs Shpigelmacher are still best friends and enjoying together this moving celebration of love in London.

What better music could there be than Beethoven’s op 126 Bagatelles.
Ravishing beauty and quixotic changes of character they were played with the true mastery of someone who listens to the sounds she is creating.
A purity of sound with a fluidity where bar lines seemed not to exist .Even Beethoven’s precise pedal makings in the third were translated into the magical disintegration of the melodic line.A magic disappearing trick interpreted as Beethoven obviously intended.
It contrasted with the ferocious fourth that in turn dissolves into a bagpipe drone on which a fragmented melodic line is allowed to float as if suspended in air.
The purity of the melodic line in the fifth was a lesson in how to let the composers words speak for themselves without any personal intervention from the mere performer.
‘Je sens,je joue,je trasmets’.
The tornado that is unleashed in the sixth broke the spell but created another even more mysterious cloud of sounds where mere words have no place.
Like in the last great trilogy of Sonatas, in particular op 111, the fragments of melody were floated on a bass pedal note like puffs of smoke that Beethoven could see with the vision of the paradise that awaits.
With subtle intelligence and scholarship she could turn these baubles into gems.
Penned in the last moments of Beethoven’s life when he could find the serenity that had eluded him all his life.

Inna imbued them with the same love that she communicated so movingly in this personal story.One that has become even more poignant for the events that are unfolding with disturbing intensity in her homeland where her soul still abides.
Dedicating the performance to her family:her parents,Irene and Simon Faliks who were brave enough to leave the USSR when they did.
Her husband and best friend, then and now, Misha Shpigelmacher. Her two children,Nathaniel and Frida ,as well as to anyone who has ever left a place in search of a better life.
If music be the food of love, play on!

What a story!
Simple great music pouring from a sensitive soul as she communicates the remarkable adventure that is her life.
Fragments pieced together on a constant bass undercurrent which is love itself.
No greater story could there be than this extraordinary ‘Love of life’.

No surprise that I had first heard and met Inna here in the city of dreams :


  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