This is a spectacular collection of amazing compositions played by a brilliant master.
The reason I give it only four stars is that I have now bought this CD twice and both copies fail to play on the 10th track of the CD. The pressing is damaged - it doesn't play as a CD and it can't be ripped without errors. So Hungarian Rhapsody #15 in A-minor just won't play through.
It's still one of my favorites, but it is defective.
This disc brings together a selection of the Hungarian Rhapsodies recorded on various dates between 1972 and 1975. The recording venue was the same throughout which may help to explain the consistency of the recorded sound. In addition, the latest remastering has proved to be very successful and gives good tone, depth and clear textures.
Cziffra was something of a controversial pianist, born in Budapest and whose parents were gypsies. The gypsy musical heritage was very much in his blood so to speak and Cziffra was used to performing gypsy style music publicly in bars and circuses from the age of five. Thereafter he developed a phenomenal piano virtuosity with the help of formal tuition to which was allied an instinctive aura of showmanship and love of display.
He took to these Hungarian Rhapsodies very naturally and was famed for his performances of them throughout his life. They were, and are on this disc, very uniquely distinctive in their free-wheeling manner with extensive use of rubato and wide dynamics. The result of this upon the listener is to either find the performances thrilling or simply wearing. They are a complete opposite to Szidon's fine, but more controlled, set of the complete Rhapsodies.
Because of their nature as performances and also their incompleteness as a set, I would suggest that this disc makes a strong case for being bought as an alternative sample with the Szidon set being the main reference point for the music. A little of Cziffra goes a long way but is such a strong statement of such gypsy styled authenticity that it must also qualify for serious consideration as a purchase. There is a strong case for owning both views and that seems the best option.
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