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Gábor Farkas


Gábor Farkas

The highly-regarded Hungarian-born pianist Gábor Farkas has, in the decade since winning the International Liszt Piano Competition in Weimar alongside the coveted Audience Prize in the same competition in 2009, come to be recognised internationally as a wholly exceptional artist.

As the distinguished British authority on pianists and the repertoire of the piano, Jeremy Nicholas, noted in The Gramophone:

"Liszt's technical challenges are met and surpassed in an impressive debut.

It is a pleasant task to welcome a new name on the block with a debut recording as impressive as any I have heard in the past few years…Gábor Farkas is a name to watch."

Since that remarkable disc debut, the prizes and awards Gábor has garnered are many, culminating in the highest Hungarian State Award for artists - the Franz Liszt Prize - reinforcing a career in which Gábor has appeared again and again across the world. Cities and orchestras in which and with whom he has appeared are too numerous to mention, but include significant return visits to Japan, China and across Europe.

Gábor continues to move and enchant audiences internationally. In recent years he has performed in such famous concert halls as BOZAR in Brussels, the Auditorio National de Musica in Madrid, Teatro la Fenice in Venice, Chatelet in Paris, NCPA Concert Hall in Beijing, Oriental Arts Center in Shanghai, Seoul Art Center in Seoul, Tokyo Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo and the Palace of Arts in Budapest, as well as having been invited to appear in numerous prestigious international festivals, including the Budapest Spring Festival, International Piano Forum Berlin, the Schumann Festival in Zwickau, the Pélerinages Festival in Weimar, Thüringen Bach Festival and the Ferenc Liszt Festival in the Castle of Gödöllo, Hungary.

Since being named soloist for the Official Opening Concert of the Liszt Year 2011 with Zoltán Kocsis conducting the National Philharmonic Orchestra at the Palace of Arts Budapest, and soloist at the Closing Concert of the Chopin Year in 2010 with Sinfonia Varsovia, Gábor has appeared with such internationally known conductors as Ádám Fischer, Tamás Vásáry, Olli Mustonen, Philippe Bender and George Tchitchinadze.

Gábor's debut CD recording, An Evening With Liszt, issued by Warner Classics, won the prestigious Grand Prix recording of the year by the Franz Liszt International Society. His subsequent albums include a live recording of the Official Opening Concert of the Liszt Year, with Zoltán Kocsis and the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, also published by Warner Classics.

As the distinguished conductor and pianist Tamás Vásáry noted:

"The generation Gábor Farkas belongs to boasts a number of excellent pianists; however there are a very few only whom you would call poets of the piano. Gábor is definitely one of them."

Since that comment was made, many thousands of music-lovers throughout the world have endorsed Maestro Vásáry's opinion - and continue to do so.

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CD cover art 1

An Evening with Liszt

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Frédéric Chopin: Chopin: Ballades & Impromptus

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Korngold: Violin Concerto, Violin Sonata

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Liszt: Opera And Song For Solo Piano

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Music for Cello and Piano

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The Schumann Album

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The Soul of Lady Harmsworth

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Concert Review by Jon Sobel, NYC, 2 February 2017
Hungarian pianist Gábor Farkas recorded his new album, Liszt: Opera and Song for Solo Piano (Steinway & Sons), in Steinway Hall in New York – on a Steinway concert grand piano, of course. Appropriately, he marked the release with a concert in the same hall, playing the very same piano. Offering selections from the album along with Robert Schumann's Carnaval, Farkas showed why Liszt-related prizes figure among the numerous honors he has received over the past decade.

The pianist's clean-cut appearance and sober air contrasted with the full-tilt Romantic force he brought to these difficult works. The compact "Meine Freuden" from the Six Chants polonais S.480 (transcriptions Liszt made of his friend Chopin's Op. 74 songs) began with a deeply thoughtful, deliberative opening section with plenty of breathing space and fine melodic clarity. Farkas drew a rich woodsy tone from the piano, making a redolent forest of the piece's busy passages.

In Liszt's "Paraphrase on a Waltz from Gounod's Faust", sharply accented rhythms in the lower register made the bass a little overwhelming, but then, a piano like this one is built to fill a large concert hall with sound, and its full spectrum can overwhelm a small hall. Farkas distinguished the fast treble passages with crisp separation and clarity. The piece is full of Lisztian excess, but the pianist never went beyond what the notes can bear, drawing alternately steely and soft beauty from the melodies. The quiet arpeggios toward the end, haunting in a fleecy sort of way, led into a delicate dance of trills and some very challenging final passages. (I never fail to think, at least at one point during any concert featuring Liszt's piano music, that the composer must have been at least a little bit out of his mind.)

Farkas maintained fine balance and taste through Liszt's transcription of Schumann's "Widmung", giving spectacle its due while steering clear of the sentimental excess one could so easily find in the pretty little piece. It made a peaceful overture to Schumann's brilliant Carnaval, which proved a fitting diversion from the CD that yet maintained the concert's flow.

Through the many miniature movements of the Carnaval the pianist revealed a wide scope of ability and sensibility, beginning with the striding passions of the Preamble, which he gave a rough edge. Deliberate and decisive fortes and pianos marked the "Pierrot", strikingly contrasting legatos and staccatos carried the "Arlequin", Chopinesque romance enlivened the "Valse Noble", and so on. He played the lovely angular melody of the "Chiarina" with such gusto he sacrificed a bit of precision, but the childlike charm he gave to the "Reconnaissance", the focused energy he infused into the cloudbursts of the "Paganini", the plentiful rubato of the "Promenade", and the Brahmsian march at the conclusion reinforced the wholly satisfying and at times quite thrilling rendition of Schumann's popular but challenging showcase of a suite.
Jon Sobel,
"Liszt's technical challenges are met and surpassed in an impressive debut. It is a pleasant task to welcome a new name on the block with a debut recording as impressive as any I have heard in the past few years... A name to watch."
Jeremy Nicholas Gramophone, London 2009.
"There's a place for Farkas in today's competitive field, particularly given all the attention lately given to performers such as Lang Lang and Yundi Li."
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare Magazine
An Evening With Liszt - Gabor Farkas
"Liszt's technical challenges are met and surpassed in an impressive debut. It is a pleasant task to welcome a new name on the block with a debut recording as impressive as any I have heard in the past few years. From the word go you know you are in a safe pair of hands – not that Farkas is inclined to play it safe when it comes to tempi and the music's more perilous passages – with a warm, velvety sound throughout his wide dynamic range, and an innate grasp of Liszt's idiom. The greatest compliment I can pay him is that there are none of the kind of disquieting mannerisms that send you scuttling back to check the score. And when the big technical challenges hove into view (the final page of the Twelfth Rhapsody, the stretta/presto passage towards the end of the Sonata) you know that Farkas will deliver, and then some. The two Verdi paraphrases come off splendidly (the booklet reminds us that, despite Liszt's admiration of Verdi, the two of them never met even though on one occasion they were both in the same audience for the same performance of Massenet's Le Cid). Ogden in the Réminiscences de Boccanegra offers more dramatic contrasts in his classic account, but Farkas makes the ending more convincing and coherent. Pathos comes in the form of the rarely heard Ave Maria (1862) before the fireworks of the Rhapsody and the mighty Sonata. This last is a reading that can hold its own with the best. Farkas thinks in big paragraphs. He has also found a way of binding its “four movements” into a single and compelling narrative. A name to watch."
Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone
"Where Franz Liszt's piano music is concerned it is always good to have an exciting new kid on the block and Gábor Farkas fits the bill with this new release. The uninspiring title given to the recital is to me more evocative of an evening of easy listening music from Katherine Jenkins or Mantovani. Born at Ózd, Hungary in 1981 the up and coming Farkas is a Ph.D. student at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest; an institution with a tradition that can track a direct connection back to the great Liszt himself. Farkas earns his colours in the mighty Sonata with a performance of considerable stature. I was struck by how, right from the first theme, he develops the material with forceful and dramatic power. There are also episodes of remarkable fluency that contain an almost reverential quality such as at 4:06-5:15 and the quest for peace and tranquillity heard at 5:41-7:21. Impressive are the hammer blows of hell and damnation at 10:35-10:48. By contrast the rapt serenity conveyed from 12:05 has a sense of other worldliness. Especially striking is the development of dramatic and natural power (14:36-16:07) and the meditative section (16:19-19:24) is affectionately expressive. With assurance and proficiency the playing from 19:31 heralds a dark and disturbing mood that prepares the ground for the wild and stormy music to follow. At 24:35-25:49 the splendid Andante has a marked Beethovenian character. The conclusion communicates heavenly stillness.

I enjoyed the interesting and reasonably informative booklet essay by Dr. András Batta, Rector of the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest.

The sound quality from the Phoenix Studio in Budapest is cool, clear and well balanced."
Michael Cookson, Music Web International
In case you haven't noticed, 2011 is the Liszt bicentennial, and there has been a torrent of CDs devoted to his music—piano music, in particular—during the last few months. We've come a long way from the days when Liszt's name was thought to be synonymous with superficial display. Indeed, one thing I've learned over the past several months, while exploring the highways and byways of Liszt's oeuvre, is that it is virtually impossible to make generalizations about him and his works. There is always something surprising waiting around the next corner. Gábor Farkas's program, weakly titled An Evening with Liszt, contains a good assortment of works in various genres. In the two operatic transcriptions, we are reminded about Liszt's career in Weimar, where he actually conducted the court's opera theater, as well as about his association with many of the 19th century's greatest musicians. The Ave Maria (or “The Bells of Rome”) reminds us of Liszt's Roman Catholicism and the “trifurcated life” that he lived between Rome, Weimar, and Budapest between 1869 and his death. Liszt's Hungarian identity (and his sometimes uncomfortable relationship with his motherland) is evoked by the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12. Finally, the Sonata in B Minor, although not really a late work, has the quality of summing up and philosophizing about much of what had gone before in Liszt's life as a composer, putting it in a fairly neat package, and then tying a bow onto it. Farkas, who is a Ph.D. student at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, studied with Zoltán Kocsis and Tamás Vásáry, and both of those teachers have contributed a complimentary blurb to this CD's inlay card. Farkas, who is about 30, seems not to have run the international competition gantlet, and I understand that this is his debut recording. This is Liszt for the thinking man, and as such, it might not appeal to those who are looking for excitement of the more visceral kind. I can definitely hear Vásáry's influence, and I can also hear Claudio Arrau's, perhaps even more strongly. Given Hungarian history, it is not at all surprising that Hungarian pianists (think also of Géza Anda and András Schiff) often distance themselves from what sometimes is called the Russian school of playing. And so here we have performances that are grand but never flashy, although there are no shortcomings in technique. Farkas's playing is anything but percussive, and he aims for a rich, almost orchestral sound, aided by his generous use of the sustaining pedal. There is a maturity here that goes beyond his years—a seriousness that emphasizes that Liszt was an intellectual and a philosopher, not simply a prototype for today's rock stars, as sometimes has been asserted. Tempos are on the slow side but not stultifying. I will not want to do without more electrifying performances of the sonata (Pletnev, Nissman, Ousset, Lewis, etc.), nor would I want to give up the late Alan Marks's Nimbus disc of operatic transcriptions, nor Bellucci's. Still, there's a place for Farkas in today's competitive field, particularly given all the attention lately given to performers such as Lang Lang and Yundi Li.
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare Magazin