Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Inna Faliks: Pianist More Important than Story

Not too long ago the mail brought me a Delos CD entitled Polonaise-fantaisie: The Story of a Pianist. This amounts to an audio document of a recital-monologue conceived by the Odessa-born pianist Inna Faliks. The monologue itself was autobiographical, with selections of solo piano music serving to separate the episodes of the narrative. On the recording Faliks only plays the piano, and the text is narrated by the actress Rebecca Mozo, currently based in Los Angeles.

I have to confess that I am skeptical about musicians who choose to talk about themselves. I suspect that my proclivities date all the way back to the eve of my high school graduation, when I cancelled all other plans in order to stay home to watch the CBS broadcast of the ballet “The Flood,” choreographed by George Balanchine to an original score by Igor Stravinsky. It was the first time I ever heard Stravinsky speak. My guess is that anyone who saw that broadcast still remembers what he said:
I don’t want to tell you more; I only want to play you more.
Decades (and no end of unkind biographical accounts) later, I still feel that the only way a musician (composer or performer) can express himself/herself is through making music.

To be fair, the Amazon.com Web page of Faliks’ album bears the “Amazon’s Choice” seal of approval. My guess is that this acknowledgement comes from having received only five-star customer reviews. Unfortunately, glowing as those reviews were, they came from only five customers! Even a college freshman squeaking by with a “gentleman’s C” in statistics would probably recognize the lack of mathematical significance in this evaluation.

Normally, I would just let an album like this slide, falling back on that classic quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln:
People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.
Nevertheless, listening to this album left me with another one of those Stravinsky moments: I really wish she had played more and told less. This was because the playing on the album included Elliot Carter’s “Retrouvailles” and two short pieces by Harrison Birtwistle, “Ookooing Bird” and “Living with Music” (the former, unfortunately, consigned to the background behind Mozo’s narration). There is even a creditable account of George Gershwin’s three piano preludes.

Faliks deserves more time devoted to listening her be a pianist, and those interested in her background would probably be just as satisfied with a printed version of her text.

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