NEW RELEASE – available from March 4.

CHOPIN Ballades (complete). Impromptus (complete)  Gábor Farkas (pn)  HUNGAROTON 32829 (57:35)

The day after I started listening to this CD to review it, it appeared on my streaming service, Naxos Music Library, in fairly decent sound. This sort of thing is becoming more familiar for classical music listeners and critics. It poses a special challenge for reviewers. If a listener can just hear a new CD with a click, what happens to the process of scanning reviews to decide what albums are worth spending money on? From this standpoint, the music critic may be becoming superfluous. You might use reviews to decide what CDs you want to stream, although that’s a fair amount of effort to go to when the album basically is standing right in front of you. I think the only way classical music record critics will survive is by giving the reader a feeling of extra value than merely a thumbs up or thumbs down. I hope our readers receive an experience of enjoying the music along with the critic’s perception of what is worth cherishing in it. I do appreciate that many classical listeners, even with streaming, will desire the higher sound quality of a CD. But make no mistake about it, the days are numbered for when a listener will read a critic to learn whether the streaming album he’s already listened to is good or bad. I’ve long known I’m a dinosaur. Now I get the pleasure of watching my species go extinct.

Gábor Farkas is a marvelous interpreter of Romantic piano music. His previous CDs of Liszt’s transcriptions and Schumann’s Carnaval and Symphonic Etudes are endearing. Farkas was born in 1981, and received his doctorate from the Liszt Academy in Budapest under the tutelage of the late, wonderful Zoltan Kocsis. The Farkas we hear on this Chopin album is a mature and thoughtful interpreter. He possesses a big sound and enviable technique, with a special understanding of texture and tone color. This is noticeable on the present CD even in the difference—in tonal quality—between the ballades and the impromptus. The ballades have a thicker, richer sound, while the impromptus are more linear and relaxed. George Sand wrote of Chopin that “his compositions were all but pale shadows of his improvisations.” The impromptus in Farkas’s hands possess a breeziness that seems intrinsic to improvisation. Throughout the disc, Farkas demonstrates the ability to furnish the line of Chopin’s argument from the very first notes. The few notes that begin the Fantaisie-Impromptu immediately establish the whirlwind of emotion the piece will entail. The same observation may apply to the Fourth Ballade, where the opening phrases seems to have been picked out of the sky.

The First Ballade, with its performance history in Vladimir Horowitz’s hands, exhibits Farkas’s mastery of Chopin’s idiom. The work’s contrapuntal richness is fully realized in Farkas’s interpretation, as brilliant structures flow and breathe with no slighting of architecture. Yet there are other times, as in the Second and Third Ballades, when Farkas speaks very directly, with unfussy, natural lyricism. The disc’s sound engineering is crisp yet multihued, reflecting an artist whose attack at the keyboard is swift—reminding me of the great Alexis Weissenberg. I have an excellent, early digital CD of these works by Bella Davidovich, but I really don’t want to engage in comparisons of other pianists with Farkas. His disc is its own complete artistic statement, and will enrich any CD collection with its individuality and accomplishment. This is the sort of recording that made me want to be a music critic. I only hope that our gracious readers will keep us around for the mutual pleasure of us both. Dave Saemann

Five stars: Brawny, sinuous Chopin.

An Evening With Liszt – Gabor Farkas

„Liszt’s technical challenges are met and surpassed in an impressive debut.
It is a pleasant task to welcome a new name on the block with a debut recording as impressive as any I have heard in the past few years. From the word go you know you are in a safe pair of hands – not that Farkas is inclined to play it safe when it comes to tempi and the music’s more perilous passages – with a warm, velvety sound throughout his wide dynamic range, and an innate grasp of Liszt’s idiom.
The greatest compliment I can pay him is that there are none of the kind of disquieting mannerisms that send you scuttling back to check the score. And when the big technical challenges hove into view (the final page of the Twelfth Rhapsody, the stretta/presto passage towards the end of the Sonata) you know that Farkas will deliver, and then some.
The two Verdi paraphrases come off splendidly (the booklet reminds us that, despite Liszt’s admiration of Verdi, the two of them never met even though on one occasion they were both in the same audience for the same performance of Massenet’s Le Cid). Ogden in the Réminiscences de Boccanegra offers more dramatic contrasts in his classic account, but Farkas makes the ending more convincing and coherent.
Pathos comes in the form of the rarely heard Ave Maria (1862) before the fireworks of the Rhapsody and the mighty Sonata. This last is a reading that can hold its own with the best. Farkas thinks in big paragraphs. He has also found a way of binding its “four movements” into a single and compelling narrative. A name to watch.”

Jeremy Nicholas

Music Web International

See this review by Michael Cookson in full at
„Where Franz Liszt’s piano music is concerned it is always good to have an exciting new kid on the block and Gábor Farkas fits the bill with this new release. The uninspiring title given to the recital is to me more evocative of an evening of easy listening music from Katherine Jenkins or Mantovani. Born at Ózd, Hungary in 1981 the up and coming Farkas is a Ph.D. student at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest; an institution with a tradition that can track a direct connection back to the great Liszt himself.
Farkas earns his colours in the mighty Sonata with a performance of considerable stature. I was struck by how, right from the first theme, he develops the material with forceful and dramatic power. There are also episodes of remarkable fluency that contain an almost reverential quality such as at 4:06-5:15 and the quest for peace and tranquillity heard at 5:41-7:21. Impressive are the hammer blows of hell and damnation at 10:35-10:48. By contrast the rapt serenity conveyed from 12:05 has a sense of other worldliness. Especially striking is the development of dramatic and natural power (14:36-16:07) and the meditative section (16:19-19:24) is affectionately expressive. With assurance and proficiency the playing from 19:31 heralds a dark and disturbing mood that prepares the ground for the wild and stormy music to follow. At 24:35-25:49 the splendid Andante has a marked Beethovenian character. The conclusion communicates heavenly stillness.

I enjoyed the interesting and reasonably informative booklet essay by Dr. András Batta, Rector of the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest.

The sound quality from the Phoenix Studio in Budapest is cool, clear and well balanced.”

Michael Cookson

Corriere del Ticino


Inaugurazione di gran classe con Gábor Farkas

Il giovane pianista ungherese Gábor Farkas ha tenuto domenica pomeriggio all’Auditorio della RSI a Lugano, con successo, il concerto inaugurale della rassegna «Celebrating Liszt» promossa dalla Piano Association International in collaborazione con la Rete Due e il Corriere del Ticino.

Ad eccezione di Les jeux de la Villa d’Este e della Rapsodia ungheresen. 12, il pianista ha interpretato pagine lisztiane poco eseguite, quali Waldesrauschen, Wiegenlied, En rêve, Valse- Improptu, Miserere dal Trovatore di Verdi e Ave Maria.

Il programma, molto interessante, è stato scelto con grande oculatezza; ha infatti messo in luce le peculiarità del compositore magiaro in ogni suo aspetto, da quello tecnico a quello espressivo.

La grandezza di Liszt consiste soprattutto nell’ «invenzione» della sonorità, elemento idoneo alla traduzione del proprio pensiero musicale.

Liszt non fu, al contrario di quanto comunemente si pensa, un rivoluzionario in senso stretto del pianismo, bensì un geniale innovatore. Se da un punto di vista espressivo può essere considerato un drammaturgo del pianoforte, da un punto di vista tecnico-virtuosistico si rivela un sinfonista della tastiera. Paradossalmente si può affermare che Liszt ebbe sulla tecnica pianistica un’influenza maggiore che non lo stesso Paganini su quella violinistica.

Nel concerto di Gábor Farkas, pur non mancando l’elemento tecnico (Rapsodia ungherese e Miserere dal Trovatore), è emersa la poetica romantica e intimistica lisztiana, sovente trascurata. Il suo pianismo, pulito e scintillante, è stato nel contempo inventivo nella timbrica e nella dinamica. Ha esibito un notevole controllo del suono ed è stato in grado di passare a improvvisi «pianissimo» estremamente curati. Ha affrontato le pagine lisztiane con sicurezza e intelligenza interpretativa, oltre

che con una cura del suono molto attenta e con una precisione che, in Liszt, è sempre un presupposto fondamentale. Nella sua lettura si sono notati trasparenza e dolcezza di fraseggio, amabilità di toni nei

passaggi veloci e seducente cantabilità nei momenti lirico-espressivi. Il suo tocco è nitido e brillante e la sua tecnica assolutamente impeccabile. La sua è stata una lezione di finezza interpretativa. Un’esecuzione, in definitiva, di elevato livello. Due i bis concessi: pezzi lirici di Chopin nella trascrizione di Liszt. Farkas seguirà prossimamente corsi di perfezionamento con William Grant Naboré all’International Piano Academy Lake Como a Dongo.