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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2003
First of all, buy this CD, for there is nothing like it in the world.
There is a certain style and technique that every composer demands of his performers. No performer is universally perfect, but some come closer to achieving the particular style of a given composer that other performers. Artur Schnabel, despite his clumsy fingerwork, gives us the definitive Beethoven interpretations with his broad-sighted view of the structure of the sonatas, combined with great rhythmic vitality and dynamic contrasts. Glenn Gould, despite his near-total oblivion to Baroque performance practice, gives us the most contrapuntally lucid, rhythmically and dynamically even, and inspiring readings of the Bach keyboard works ever recorded. And Gyorgy Cziffra, despite his outrageous fluctuations in tempo and alterations of the score, provides the most thrilling and technically dazzling plowing through of these 10 hungarian rhapsodies. Cziffra plays the hungarian rhapsodies extravertedly, with wit, finesse, THE greatest technique I have ever heard, occasionally with a tempo, and usually with what Liszt wrote. The last two comments are where contraversy arises. Cziffra added passages and notes into some of the rhapsodies that slightly change the flavor of the music, but it always sounds like Liszt. He also omits the fast scale near the end of number 15 (I don't know why; throughout he plays much harder scales brilliantly), but the performance does not suffer at all from his odd decisions. Also, Cziffra was trained in the 20s and 30s, when alterations of the score were very commonplace (the university had not yet become the primary patron of the music at that point; therefore the intellectual piety towards the composers' marks had not yet developped). Listen to recordings of Busoni, Paderewski, Godowsky, and other people of the 20s-30s play; they all make changes that are often quite striking and odd to our ears (if we know the music). These recordings were made in the 60s, so Cziffra is an anachronism, but that does not make him a lesser artist; he simply abided by the rules of a different era. Secondly, he makes abrupt changes in tempo all the time. If this were a recording of the Beethoven sonatas, such tempo changes would merit a rating of 1 star. But it is a recording of the Liszt rhapsodies hongroises, and everything is for effect. The tempo changes, as brought off by Cziffra, provide a certain change in character where it is needed (or where Cziffra deems it appropriate), and does not detract from the direction of the music at all. Notice that whenever the music actually is going somewhere, which is about 40% of the time in the rhapsodies, Cziffra plays straightly, with rubato (within a tempo) dictated by the phrasing and harmony of the music. Thus, Cziffra commits no sins in his oddities.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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66 of 68 people found the following review helpful
This was one of my favorite recordings as a child--it was made in the Sixties, and is digitally remastered here on CD. I must have listened to that old vinyl recording until the grooves were transparent. It is so wonderful to have it on CD so I can enjoy it once more.
I am not actually a huge fan of Liszt--but my Mom was and is. Her favorite piece that she played on our piano was Hungarian Rhapsody #6, and our whole family loved to listen to this recording for its insane tempi, the rhythmic variations and pure fire in the expression. Would that we could ever play a tenth as well as Cziffra.
Cziffra, who was a Hungarian Gypsy (Rom, more properly) had a career that read like an adventure novel. He was imprisoned during the war, made to carry bricks and mortar hods with those precious hands. He ended up in Paris, playing in jazz clubs (now that would have been something to hear!) His life was never easy, though he did enjoy, finally, monstrous popularity both in France and internationally.
This recording is perhaps the most characteristic of his playing, as the Rhapsodies are a fine canvas for exuberant expression and frank liberties not only with tempo and rhythm but even with the score itself. This is a recording that makes my heart palpitate every time I play it. It is over the top--but then, so was Liszt himself. Absolutely breathtaking.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2001
Hungarian Rhapsodies #2, #6, and #8~#15 total of 10 are included. Cziffra was one of the great pianists of the 20th Century and a unique super virtuoso player. Few pianists can match this kind of speed and energy, may be only Horowitz at his prime. Gramophone comment: "Cziffra, with his superb technique, Hungarian birthright and virtuoso flair, is the ideal exponent of this music."
These pieces were recorded in the early 70's and recently remastered by EMI Classics using Abbey Road Technology. It sounds to me like a digital recording. Excellent.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2006
I've heard many Hungarian Rhapsodies and basically bought this CD

to see if he could outdo Horowitz's performance of the #2 Rhapsody. But after buying it, I realized Horowitz dressed up the original score to create the ultimate Hungarian Rhapsody #2, namely his own. He engineered a truely mind-boggling Showpiece. But to my knowledge, he didn't create a more complex variation with any other of Liszt's works. However, I now truly believe and feel (literally) after hearing Cziffra, that he wins first prize in regard to absolute mastery on all levels for these 10 Rhapsodies choosen to be recorded. And why not? He's playing from his soul literally, being that his parents were both Hungarian gypsies. In the excellent linear notes is written the following - "More succinctly, for Marcel Dupre, Cziffra was 'la reincarnation de Liszt'". I don't doubt that for a moment.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Most all the previous reviewers have got it right about this CD, which is remastered from stereo analog tapes recorded in Paris in the years 1972-75. Cziffra seems at the top of his form and in his most natural milieu as he tackles these gypsy-influenced Hungarian virtuoso piano works, seemingly without difficulty but with plenty of instinctive passion and sparkling bravura. Knowledge of the early hardships of this son of impoverished and oppressed Roma parents make us root for his success, but such feelings must yield to objective evidence in evaluating his performances. Happily, the evidence is almost totally in his favor as we observe the precision, balance, and interpretive authority which accompany the brilliant extravagance of his playing.

This student of a student of Liszt (István Thomán) and of the celebrated pianist-composer-conductor Ernö Dohnányi is well schooled in the art of virtuoso pianism, despite his lack of early training. It must be due to prodigious natural gifts that he was able to overcome original deficiencies eventually to win the attention of such renowned mentors. In any case, he emerged from behind the iron curtain in 1956 to astound the world with his masterful performances, such as those included here.

Despite the claims of a few, there is no empty banging here, nor sloppiness nor emotional excess. The Rhapsodies are Hungarian/Roma-inspired pieces raised to a level of artistry through the compositional efforts and talents of Franz Liszt. György Cziffra comes to them with the best of credentials, and the results speak for themselves most eloquently!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 27, 2008
Georges Cziffra is, without doubt, the original full-throttle pianist. When he put the pedal-to-the-metal, so to speak, virtually no other performer could touch him for sheer, unbridled virtuosity. This recording of ten of the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies form EMI Classics Great Recordings of the Century is proof positive of my claim. Just listen to No.2 in C-sharp minor ( you know the one ) and you will be absolutely convinced. It is nine plus minutes of gloriously invigorating mayhem. This is the cd that made me an instant Cziffra devotee. True, some of his other recordings could be below the high standard set here ( though, I find the Chopin Waltzes certainly enjoyable, if not stellar, ) but on this collection he achieves the legendary status he so richly deserves. This Liszt cd by Cziffra help put the "Great" in Great Recordings of the Century.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2011
One of my favourite cds. Ok, Cziffra's take is really something different, and one may think, not too faithful to the score, but if there's freedom to be taken with `classical' music, then these pieces call for it! While I prefer Horowit's second, or Argerich's sixth, this set is exhilarating and a joy to listen to. Like going to the rollercoaster! Highly recommended.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2006
Most people are familiar with at least Rhapsody 2 from watching Warner Brothers' cartoons, if for no other reason. That delightful piece is included but there is so much more! This is a wonderful album to enjoy.

Among my favorites is the short but delightful number 11 in A minor. It is a joy to hear but, then again, all of these are.

Do not expect orchestral arrangements. This is for the piano by itself.

Listen and enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2012
Incredible, thats the only word. Czifrra has demonstrated why he was the 20th century master of Liszt, with few exceptions. I bought this only because I was able to see Cziffra warming up on an old TV broadcast. His technique is just jaw dropping and in keeping with the composition.
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on April 25, 2015
I cannot imagine feeling indifferent about the way Cziffra plays Liszt. I suspect you will either love it or hate it. I love it. And the sound quality of this recording is excellent.
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