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Georges Cziffra

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Georges Cziffra on an EMI DVD cover

Georges (originally György) Cziffra (November 5, 1921January 17, 1994) was a Hungarian virtuoso pianist. Many of his recordings are regarded as controversial, claimed by some to be showy and unmusical. There is generally little doubt, however, that Cziffra had superior technique and was a master at improvisation.

A son of Hungarian gypsies, born in Budapest, Cziffra became noted at the age of five, improvising on popular tunes in bars and circuses. His teachers at the Franz Liszt Academy included Ernö Dohnányi.

An attempted escape from Soviet-dominated Hungary led to imprisonment and forced labour in the period 19501953. In 1956, however, after further trials, Cziffra was given permission to go to Vienna — where he commenced his international career — and later to London and France. He always performed with a large leather wristband, as a memento of his years in labour. Georges Cziffra died in Senlis, France, 72 years old.

Cziffra is most known for his extravagant recordings of Franz Liszt's virtuoso works. He also recorded many of Frédéric Chopin's compositions. Cziffra also made a famous transcription of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee, written in octaves and chords.

Cziffra's son, György Cziffra, Jr., is a professional conductor and participated in several concerts and recordings with his father.

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