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Georges Cziffra

Georges Cziffra

Georges Cziffra


Georges (originally György) Cziffra (November 5, 1921–January 17, 1994) was a Hungarian virtuoso pianist. Many of his recordings are regarded as controversial, claimed by some to be showy and unmusical. Others regard these attributions as professional jealousy, as there is generally little doubt that Cziffra had a remarkable virtuoso technique and was a master at improvisation. A son of Hungarian Romas (his father, György Cziffra Sr., was a cimbalom player and played in cabaret halls and restaurants in Paris in the 1910s) Read more on Last.fm
Georges (originally György) Cziffra (November 5, 1921–January 17, 1994) was a Hungarian virtuoso pianist. Many of his recordings are regarded as controversial, claimed by some to be showy and unmusical. Others regard these attributions as professional jealousy, as there is generally little doubt that Cziffra had a remarkable virtuoso technique and was a master at improvisation. A son of Hungarian Romas (his father, György Cziffra Sr., was a cimbalom player and played in cabaret halls and restaurants in Paris in the 1910s), born in Budapest, Cziffra became noted at the age of five, improvising on popular tunes in bars and circuses. His teachers at the Franz Liszt Academy included Ernő Dohnányi. An attempted escape from Soviet-dominated Hungary led to imprisonment and forced labour in the period 1950–1953. In 1956, on the eve of the Hungarian insurrection and after a stunning account of Bartok's second piano concerto (EMI References) Cziffra escaped with his wife (Soleilka - of Egyptian origin) and son to Vienna where his recital at the Brahmsaal caused a sensation.

News of this event reached The New Yorker. His Paris debut the following year caused a furore - his London debut at the Royal Festival Hall in Liszt's first concerto and Hungarian Fantasy similarly. His meteoric career continued with concerts throughout Europe and debuts at the Ravinia Festival (Grieg and Liszt concertos with Carl Shuricht) and Carnegie Hall New York with Thomas Schippers. He always performed with a large leather wristband, as a memento of his years in labour.

Georges Cziffra died in Senlis, France, 72 years old, from a heart attack resulting from series of complications from lung cancer due to smoking and alcohol. Cziffra is most known for his extravagant recordings of Franz Liszt's virtuoso works. He also recorded many of Frédéric Chopin's compositions and those of Robert Schumann (his account of Carnaval de Vienne admired by Alfred Cortot) Cziffra also made a famous transcription of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee, written in interlocking octaves. Cziffra's son, György Cziffra, Jr., was a professional conductor and participated in several concerts and recordings with his father. However, his promising career was cut short due to his untimely death from a burning accident in his home in 1981, an event that sparked a progressively diminishing morale in Cziffra, Sr. Cziffra never again performed or recorded with an orchestra, and some critics have commented that the severe emotional blow had an impact on his playing quality as well.

While many thought that his pianism deteriorated after the death of his son, some felt that his playing was deeper than before. Early Years Georges Cziffra was born into dire poverty in 1921. Before he was born, his parents had been living in France. During World War I the French government expelled all residents whose countries of origins were fighting against France. Cziffra's father, a Hungarian citizen, was imprisoned and his mother was forced to move to Budapest with her two daughters and only five kilograms of luggage.

She was billeted into a single room built on stilts above a marsh, where the Cziffra family would live for years. His father was released from prison and Georges arrived some time later. His earliest training in piano came from watching his sister practice. She had decided she was going to learn the piano after being lucky enough to find a job which allowed her to save the required amount of money. As she practised, Georges, a weak and often ill child, watched from his makeshift bed in fascination.

When he felt strong enough, he would try to mimic his sister, and became greatly enthusiastic about the sounds he could make. He learnt without sheet music, but by asking his parents to sing him tunes for him and playing them back, improvising additional material as he became more adept. By the time he was five he attracted the attention of a travelling circus who hired him as the star of their show, and his improvisations (on tunes suggested by the audience) were very successful. This involvement with the circus at an early age (and for only a few weeks) was to haunt the rest of his career, as some critics used it as an example of his poor musical heritage and low taste, while others saw in it a remarkable and prodigious talent. He soon came to attention of the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and was, at 9, the youngest student ever admitted. He was also admitted against the rules of the institution, which stipulated that in order to enter the candidate must have studied a full course of preliminary studies at a music school.

He soon astonished his teachers who allowed him to attend the advanced masterclasses, normally reserved for adult students. This was run by Istvan Thoman, a pupil of Liszt and the teacher of Bartók and Dohnányi. Adult Years In 1942, at the age of 21, Georges was called up to fight. He had within the previous year married his wife Soleilka, who was with child when he entered military training. During the war he was a foot soldier, tank commander, and deserter.

He was the only man from his battalion to survive. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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