Cziffra, György [Georges]
- Bryce Morrison
(b Budapest, Nov 5, 1921; d Paris, Jan 17, 1994). French pianist of Hungarian birth. Born in dire poverty, he earned money as a child for his family by improvising on popular melodies at a local circus. In 1930 he took up serious study with Dohnányi at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, and between 1933 and 1941 he gave numerous successful concerts in Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Hungary. Conscription into the army led to his capture as a prisoner-of-war; and in 1950 he was again imprisoned, this time for his political beliefs. In 1956 he escaped with his wife and son to Vienna, where his début recital the same year caused a furore. Further concerts in Paris and London confirmed his extraordinary virtuoso status, and in such works as Balakirev’s Islamey and Liszt’s Transcendental Studies and Spanish Rhapsody he found an ideal outlet for his scorching bravura. Of his many recordings, those of Liszt are exceptional, while a recital of his own paraphrases – brilliantly vulgar confections – is spun off with dazzling panache. Cziffra’s response to the critical backlash he suffered from the more sober-minded members of his audiences was unforgiving; and in his memoirs, ...