There is a plethora of fine, young pianists, most much too good for the fate that awaits them. Every once in a while one stumbles on a pianist who stands head and shoulders above the rest. Mark Farago is such a pianist.
I was searching for recordings of the Liszt "Harmonies du Soir" when I found a performance posted by someone who goes by the name of nikolaimedtner on YouTube. What beautiful playing, incredible detail, wondrous touch, and one of the most supremely convincing interpretations of this work I have ever heard. Only the performance by Sviatoslav Richter is more to my liking and that takes nothing away from this performance by Mark Farago.
His recordings of the Rachmaninov Préludes are also beautifully played. Interestingly, his interpretations not have the dark, brooding quality displayed by some of the great Russian pianists. Rather he exploits some of the other elements that are in this music and usually neglected. In the Opus 32 B minor Prélude, I hear sonorities reminiscent of Ravel; in the Opus 23 D minor Prélude, a hint of the polyphony of Bach. Each Prélude seems to have been contemplated anew, without external influence, and a fresh vision of the music is the result. The Corelli Variations are stunningly played. And again, Mark Farago's conceptions are completely convincing.
I find the Chopin performances below to be excellent. This is big, bold Chopin, beautifully crafted. sensitively played, and structurally very sound. This is especially true in the longer Polonaise-Fantaisie, a huge success in my book as I have never heard a performance of this piece that I found satisfying as a cohesive entity with a real direction. The Opus 26 Polonaise is perfection, a polonaise as a stately dance rather than the thundering gallops we are accustomed to hearing.
The Scherzi are scherzi and Mark Farago takes greater liberties with these pieces, as he should. There are some very interesting things going on in these performances.
I must come back to Mark Farago and Franz Liszt. The more I listen to his Liszt, the more I believe we have found in him the true voice of the great master. His technical capabilities are unimpeachable but he manages to understate the technical aspects which allows the musical qualities to come to the fore.
I have been having this argument concerning the quality of Liszt's music all my life, my contention being that Liszt is a much greater composer than many, if not most, give him credit for.
Mark Farago's affinity for this music allows us to hear Liszt as he deserves to be heard. His understanding of the structure and meaning of these compositions is masterful. The length of his line is such that moments of technical difficulty are reduced to their appropriate context within a larger span of the composer's thought and become part of achieving the expression of that thought and not ends in themselves. And Farago pays careful attention to the titles given by Liszt to his music.
The performance of the third Consolation is a case in point. This is a lovely work, melodious, languid, transparent. It is usually played with a stronger feeling of resignation, a gentle hopelessness. [Lesser pianists imbue it with the wrong kind of sentimentality, conjuring images of Liszt, hair covering his face, playing to a swooning gaggle of admirers. I admit to having played it that way myself at university, to great, albeit meaningless, acclaim.] However, it is a consolation which the dictionary defines as the act of consoling or state of being consoled; solace. By definition it is not meant to be an extended sigh of sadness. I can be wistful, but should end with a sense of hope.
When I first heard the performance of this piece by Mark Farago, I was surprised. It seemed to me that his playing was a bit dry. On subsequent hearings I realized what it was he was expressing and, more importantly, what it was that Liszt was expressing, more an utterance of a priest, perhaps, than a lover. It is a significantly more profound work than I, having loved it all my life, ever imagined. A composer capable of this kind of subtlety is a great composer, and a pianist capable of perceiving and communicating said subtlety is a great artist.
Fargo's performance of the "Chasse Neige" of Liszt, on the other hand, left me holding my breath from the first, and long after it was over for fear of making a sound.
Other recordings by Mark Farago are also offered here. His playing of composers as diverse as Mozart (listen to inner voices!), Mussorgsky (The Pictures at an Exhibition, beautiful as the work is, can drag in spots. Mark Farago's performance makes it fresh and exciting, it moves, and it may become my favorite interpretation of this piece.), Grieg, Ravel, Scriabin and Prokofiev (the Precipitato!! - thrilling and leaves me breathless) is wonderful. I would dearly love to hear him play Beethoven.
I suspect you will walk away from all this believing, as I do, that Mark Farago is as good as just about anybody and way better than many who have very successful careers. Blessedly, there is a large number of recordings so I will distribute them among several pages. Get ready for a feast.
The big surprise is the way Mark Farago plays of the Fairy Tales by Nikolai Medtner, his favorite composer, incidentally. The music comes to life, it sparkles, and a composer I had previously relegated, in these very pages, to the second rank must be rethought.
And below, Mark Farago plays the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Robert Schumann.
Bach English Suite n°1 in A Major BWV 806 Recorded live in 2009
1. Prélude 2. Allemande 3. Courante I - Courante II - Doubles I & II 4. Sarabande 5. Bourrée I & II 6. Gigue
Bach English Suite n°3 in G minor BWV 808 Recorded live in 2009
1. Prélude 2. Allemande 3. Courante 4. Sarabande 5. Gavotte I & II 6. Gigue
Bach English Suite n°6 in D minor BWV 811 Recorded live in 2009
1. Prélude 2. Allemande 3. Courante 4. Sarabande 5. Gavotte I & II 6. Gigue
Mozart Adagio in B minor KV 540 Recorded live in 2003
Schubert Moment Musical in f minor D 780 No.3 Recorded live in 2011
Schubert Four Impromptus, D 899
1 in C minor - 12:06 ➢ 2 in E♭ major beginning at 18:30 ➢ 3 in G♭ major - 26:35 ➢ 4 in A♭ major
Schumann "Träumerei" from Kinderszenen, Op 15~7 recorded live in 2007
Schumann Kreisleriana, Op 16 recorded live in 2007
i Äußerst bewegt ii Sehr innig und nicht zu rasch iii Sehr aufgeregt iv Sehr langsam v Sehr lebhaft vi Sehr langsam vii Sehr rasch viii Schnell und spielend
Schumann Fantasy in C Major, Op 17 recorded live in 1995
i Durchaus fantastisch und leidenschaftlich vorzutragen - Im Legenden-Ton - Tempo primo ii Mäßig. Durchaus energisch - Etwas langsamer - Viel bewegter iii Langsam getragen. Durchweg leise zu halten - Etwas bewegter
Franck Prélude Chorale et Fugue recorded live in 2004
Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre, Op 40 from a live broadcast on Hungarian TV in 2005
Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition recorded live in 2003
Promenade - Gnomus - Promenade - The Old castle - Promenade Tuileries: Children quarrelling after play - Bydlo - Promenade - Ballett of the unhatched chicks Two Polish Jews, one rich, the other poor (Samuel Goldenberg and Smuyle) - Limoges, the market place Catacombae: Sepulchrum Romanum - Con mortuis in lingua mortua - Baba Yaga - The Great Gate of Kiev
Tchaikovsky October: "Autumn's Song" 10 from "The Seasons" Op 37b recorded live in 2003
Scriabin Etudes in C♯ minor, Op 2~1 - in F♯ minor, Op 8~2 - in D♯ minor, Op 8~12 recorded live in 2006
Scriabin Feuillet d'album, Op 58 recorded live in 2006
Scriabin Sonata 7, Op 64 "White Mass" Recorded live in 2003
Scriabin Piano Sonata 10, Op 70 recorded live in 2006
Ravel Miroirs Recorded live in 2008
1 Noctuelles 2 Oiseaux tristes 3 Une barque sur l'océan 4 Alborada del gracioso 5 La Vallée des cloches
Medtner Fairy Tales recorded live in 2007
in B♭ minor, Op 20~1 - in F minor, Op 42~1 "Russian Tale" - in G minor, Op 48~2 "Tale of the Elves" - in B minor "Campanella", Op 20~2
in A minor, Op 51~2 - in E minor, Op 34~2 - in F minor, Op 26~3
Prokofiev 10 Pieces from Romeo and Juliet, Op 75 1 National Dance - 2 Scena - 3 Minuet - 4 Juliet as a young girl - 5 Masks - 6 Montagues and Capulets 7 Friar Laurence - 8 Mercutio - 9 Dance of the girls with the lilies - 10 Romeo and Juliet before parting recorded live in 2003
Prokofiev Piano Sonata n°7 in Bb major, Op 83 i Allegro inquieto - ii Andante caloroso - iii Precipitato recorded in 1994
Here is my new book, a murder mystery with a musical polemic