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.