Hungarian Gypsy Style in the Lisztian Spirit: Georges Cziffra's Two Transcriptions of Brahms' Fifth Hungarian Dance

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Elizabeth Loparits (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
George Kiorpes

Abstract: Georges (György) Cziffra (1921-1994), the piano virtuoso of Hungarian gypsy origin, developed bewildering skills of improvisation and technical brilliance at the piano. His deep fascination with Franz Liszt's music influenced his playing style and musical spirit, and his critics, highly speaking of his Romantic pianism and especially emphasizing his virtuosity, often held him as one of the most outstanding Liszt performers of our age. Cziffra's love for Hungarian themes moved him to perform and record numerous improvisations based on Magyar melodies. Later in his life he preserved many of his own extemporized adaptations in notation, including his transcriptions of fifteen of the Hungarian Dances by Johannes Brahms. The focus of the paper is on Georges Cziffra's two piano transcriptions (1957 and 1982-83) of Brahms' Fifth Hungarian Dance (1868). The examination and analysis of these two versions in comparison with the original Hungarian sources and Brahms' own arrangement reveal Cziffra's style as a virtuoso improviser and transcriber. Examples from Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies serve to identify the Lisztian features in Cziffra's transcriptions. The characteristic elements of the Hungarian gypsy musicians' improvisatory style, which influenced and inspired both Liszt and Brahms, as well as Cziffra, receive particular attention. Chapter 2 offers a brief history of the Hungarian gypsy musicians, depicts their life and social status in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, examines the most characteristic elements of their performance technique, and portrays their musical-stylistic influence on Hungarian music, the stylistic conglomeration of which became the foundation for the renowned style hongrois. Chapter 3 examines the acquaintance of Liszt and Brahms with Hungarian music in the gypsy style and reviews basic information about Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies and Brahms' Hungarian Dances. Chapter 4 offers biographical information about György Cziffra and investigates his association with the music of Liszt, Brahms, and the Hungarian gypsy musicians. Cziffra's musical and transcribing style and a general discussion of his Transcriptions: Grandes Etudes de Concert I (Frankfurt: Peters, 1995) are also included here. Chapter 5 consists of information about the sources of the popular themes that Brahms used for the Hungarian Dances. Then the focus of this chapter is on the evolution of the Fifth Hungarian Dance from its sources through Brahms to the transcriptions of Cziffra, including the examination of Cziffra's 1957 transcription in comparison to the 1982-83 version. Selected examples of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies are provided to support the identification of Lisztian features in Cziffra's work. The detection of the characteristic elements of the Hungarian gypsies' improvisatory style will receive particular attention.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2008
Music, Brahms' Fifth Hungarian Dance (1868)
Georges (György) Cziffra $d 1921-1994.
Gypsies $z Hungary $x Music.
Music $z Europe $x Hungarian influences.
Brahms, Johannes, $d 1833-1897. $t Ungarische Ta¨nze. $n Nr. 5
Piano music $x History and criticism.

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