Pianist Inna Faliks Finds Kindred Spirits

The Schmanns, Beethoven and Ravel Explored

By: - Dec 13, 2021

Inna Faliks is a superb concert pianist, who also heads the piano studies department at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Her recordings are devoted to revealing kindred spirits.

Husband and wife, Robert and Clara Schumann, are offered together in The Schumann Project. Their entwined influence is suggested. Faliks had first played Clara’s Piano Concerto in A Major with the Chicago Symphony when she was fifteen. Clara was fifteen when she composed the work. Faliks’ teacher in Chicago was preparing Robert’s Carnival at the time. Faliks herd it day after day, and has kept the composer’s magical, whimsical, heart-felt language central to her repertoire.

Her appreciation for Clara’s individual voice is clear in her recording of the Piano Sonata in G Minor. The work was composed for Robert when Clara was 22. Moments of brilliance are heightened by the subtle shaping of phrases, and the ever present breath of the work. Uncomfortable chromaticism, and unusual tenderness speak clearly. The drama and pain of the first movement are followed by a thoughtful adagio and conclude with a romping Scherzo.

Clara was a partner of her husband’s. You can hear her musical ideas quoted his work (without attribution). The Symphonic Etudes were written when Robert at 26, four years before he married Clara. He was in love with another woman. The Etudes move from dark to ebullient.  Some were posthumously published. Faliks places them where she feels they speak most powerfully and dramatically.

Her notion of kindred spirits takes a different turn in Reimagine: Beethoven and Ravel.  For the recording she asked a group of contemporary composers to respond to Beethoven’s Bagatelles, his last work for piano and also Ravel’s notoriously challenging Gaspard de la Nuit. In the Beethoven. we hear the responses and then the original. Composers bore in on key elements. Often notes are repeated.  Arpeggios are too. A small work becomes suddenly urgent. A bagatelle can be spread cross the keyboard.

It would be interesting to compare the pianist’s version of the original before starting on this journey.  Was Faliks influenced by the interpreter when she returned to the original.  Worth listening.

Each of the composers who responded to Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit comments.  Paolo Prestini on the Ondine movement, as she responds both to Ravel’s music and the poem on which it was based.  “Each wave is a water sprite who swims in the stream, each stream is a footpath which leads toward my palace, and my palace is a fluid structure which lies at the bottom of the lake, a triangle of fire, earth and air.”

For Timo Andres, the original Le Gibet is both fascinating and repulsive.  He reverses Ravel’s trajectory, leaving the dark chords and silenced singer to the end notes.

Billy Childs took on Scarbo, finding in the work a black man, pursued by a lynch mob or the KKK. The pursuit is edgy and frightening.   

Faliks comes to New York for holiday performance. She has a Barge concert on December 16.

You too can be a kindred spirit.

  • Program: Selections from Reimagine Beethoven and Ravel     All New York Premieres
    • Peter Golub Bagatelle
    • Beethoven Bagatelle op 126 # 1
    • Tamir Hendelman Bagatelle
    • Beethoven Bagatelle opus 126 # 2
    • Richard DanielpourBagatelle “Childhood NIghtmare”
    • BeethovenBagatelle opus 126 #4
    • Mark CarlsonSweet Nothings
    • Beethoven Bagatelle # 5
    • Billy Childs“Pursuit” (in response to Scarbo)
    • Ravel Scarbo (from Gaspard de la Nuit)

Her recordings are available from MSR Classics and Navonarecords.