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CD booklet
Chopin Recital 2

PianoNews (Germany)
September 1, 2012

 ...Without trying to be “cute” about sound, her playing captures with a surety of style and naturalness. This all appears most agreeable without vanity and she manages it totally without any hollow sentiment. Fialkowska goes for a fiery passion when it really matters – in the true sense of the word. There is no exaggeration or overreaching, every expression is chosen wisely and at the same time sensually, rounded, singing, born out of technical clarity. Herein one can feel that Fialkowska is aware of Arthur Rubinstein’s giant Chopin-heritage. He was crucial to her career after her prize-winning performance at the first competition in his name, but at the same time she makes her own, true points without trying to reinvent the wheel.

Fialkowska doesn’t follow any ideal blindly; also in this sense her playing feels liberated. She sets and lives each note consciously.

Marco Frei - PianoNews

BBC Radio 3
August 6, 2012

“…it was certainly worth waiting.
Lovely combination of intimacy and grandeur, idiomatic fluidity characterizes the finest Chopin playing.
Outstanding Chopin. No wonder Arthur Rubinstein thought Fialkowska worth mentoring when she was a youngster…”
 

CD Review - BBC Radio 3

Gramophone
August 1, 2012

 

For her second Chopin album, Janina Fialkowska once again offers a carefully chosen miscellany rather than a more conventional chronology. And, to an even greater extent than before, her performances blaze and challenge with a potent and highly individual sense of drama. Her curtain-raiser, the E-flat minor Polonaise, at once gives the lie to quaint notoins of Chopin as a salon figure. Bold and portentous, it is almost as if the Grim Reaper himself had spoken, with parameters stretched far beyond conventional wisdom, a far cry indeed, say, Pollini's daunting austerity.

For Fialkowska, Chopin can take on something of the dark hued austerity of late Liszt and when you hear her unleash such a formidable tempest of sound in the presto storms of the Second Ballade, you seem to see Delacroix's pianed and tortured portrait of the composer. Her F minor Fantaisie is of a grandeur rarely met with on disc, her Second Scherzo, broadly paced, of a quasi-symphonic breadth and weight. Even in the Op64 A flat Waltz, you sense an underlying unrest, and if Fialkowska sometimes bears down heavily on some Chopin's more intimate and fragrant utterances (the Op55 Nocturne's elegant and multi-directional tracery), there is never any doubting her strength of purpose. All this is a striking advance on earlier recordings, with their more conventional motion of interpretation, and to crown it all Fialkowska has been superbly recorded.

Bryce Morrison - Gramophone

BBC Music Magazine
July 15, 2012

Performance: ★★★★★
Recording: ★★★★★

This is a rich and illuminating fìnd. From the outset you sense Janina Fialkowska's innate, developmental grasp of drama - of the connection between phrases and their dynamic character. Then there's the sheer life in her playing, reflected in the perfectly nouriched and shrewdly apportioned soundm unmarred by any hint of coarseness of ill-defined tone. Without exaggeration, she reveals the deep humanity of Chopin's counterpoint, in wich every strand plays an expressive role. She has a sharp grasp of polyphony (never more evident than in the bewitching E-flat Nocturne). True to Chopin's spirit, the playing is everywhere informed by a classical sense of proportion. Yet, her pacing and exceptional grasp of musical narrative is a masterclass in the art of pianistic rhetoric.

Above all, her rhythm is continuously supple at every level, from note-to-note inflection to the binding together of whole phrases. In all the best senses, Fialkowska is a big pianist. In contrast to accounts of Chopin's own playing (but like his idol Bach), she communicates an abiding and exhilarating physicality. The F major Ballade and F minor Fantasy are by turns exciting, poignant, volcanic, driven and exhausting - this is tragic art on a Shakespearean level. Like her mentor Arthur Rubinstein, she presents a profoundly rounded portrait of Chopin, illuminating both his innate virility as a composer, and his transcendent grace.

Jeremy Siepmann - BBC Music Magazine

The Telegraph - London
July 7, 2012

★★★★

After the success of her earlier Chopin disc, the Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska, who 10 years ago temporarily lost the use of her left arm through cancer - returns to the composer with results that are just as impressive. She treats shorter, simpler pieces such as the Waltz in E minor with just as much respect as bigger beasts such as the Fantaisie in F minor and the Scherzo No.2 in B flat minor, often finding a heart-stopping simplicity that is just as difficult as keyboard heroics.

Paul Gent - The Telegraph (London)

Stereoplay
July 1, 2012

 "CD of the month"

Melancholy and Despair

Already in 2010 during the Chopin anniversary year when her first Chopin album was released, Janina Fialkowska received euphoric reviews from around the world. The same goes for her recent Liszt album full of rarities. Now Canada’s “Grande Dame of the piano” offers a second Chopin-Recital.

Here she manages, in an absolutely captivating way, to dive even deeper into the depths of Chopin’s soul.

And it is again this deeply serious, deeply sad Chopin behind the mask of the celebrated Parisian star of the salons, the serious storyteller and the rebelling patriot who the former student of Rubinstein conjures up, with a disarming straightforwardness and a calm sensual immediacy.

This way she puts the listener immediately into personal contact with the composer, she communicates with him via sounds and includes him magically in a round dance of intimate, tender and passionate monologues.

Already in the opening e flat Major Polonaise Op. 26,2 she avoids any representational splendor as well as any show off bravura playing in lieu of a skeptical investigating attitude, interpreting the long piece more from the point of view of its silent ending, which pours suddenly reality, i.e. Chopin depressed state of mind, into the heroic dance type.

During her one-hour-journey through the variety of forms of Chopin’s cosmos she analyses the obvious to detect the hidden, individual profiles and ties them together to create her own poetic reflection of Chopin’s musical psychology.

With the certainty of a sleepwalker she hits the poetic core and the emotional substance of these miniatures, whether they catch only a moment or a whole drama.

Also the dark, sonorous sound of her warmly tuned instrument supports the charismatic magic of her playing.

Attila Csampai - Stereoplay Magazine (Munich, Germany)

Classical Net
June 21, 2012

 This is superb Chopin playing! I missed the first recital disc in this series – my misfortune, to be sure. Not only is the pianism of Ms. Fialkowska here almost in a category by itself, but the program she selected is most interesting. So many Chopin recordings are all-waltzes or all-mazurkas or all-whatever, and while that kind of offering is entirely acceptable, it doesn't approach the variety and depth of imagination possessed by Chopin. Thus, on this disc you get perhaps Chopin's deepest Polonaise, the E flat minor (Op. 26, #2); one of his best light pieces, the Waltz in A Flat Major (Op. 64, #3); three charming preludes from Op. 28; a trio of Mazurkas from early and late in the composer's career; and such chestnuts as the Second Ballade and Second Scherzo.
Fialkowska's playing in all these works is consistently engaging, capturing the mixture of mystery and stateliness of the F minor Fantasie, the effervescence of such light works as the C sharp minor Prelude (No. 10) and Op. 7 B Flat Major Mazurka, and the drama and angst of the E flat minor Polonaise. She has an innate sense for Chopin's lyricism, whether anguished or love-struck, and for the composer's unsettling mood swings. Try her powerful and passionate account of the B minor Scherzo, wherein she deftly conveys Chopin's multi-faceted emotional palette. She understands Chopin and delivers his music in rich sonorities and with many grades of nuance. It is no wonder Fialkowska is called Canada's First Lady of Chopin.

But to take assessment out of the realm of gender (where it doesn't belong), I would rank Fialkowska with the other great Chopin players of the past, including Rubinstein, Novaes, Cliburn, Arrau, Moravec, Perahia and a few others. Fialkowska's playing is that good. And it is all the more amazing considering her past struggles with a malignant tumor in her left arm, which for a time relegated to her playing left-hand only works (which she transcribed for the right hand), like the Prokofiev Fourth Piano Concerto. I assume there will be another issue in this series and I eagerly await its release. This is a highly entertaining disc, which also features vivid sound reproduction and very informative notes by Ms. Fialkowska.

Robert Cummings - Classical.net

L'Actualité
June 15, 2012

Voici qu'arrive un disque de Chopin qui met en évidence les qualités qui ont dû toucher le pianiste Arthur Rubinstein et lui faire jadis adopter la jeune femme. Fialkowska parle directement du coeur, il n'y a aucun filtre, aucun artifice. Les oeuvres jaillissent comme si elles venaient d'être composées, débarassées du cumul d'une lourde tradition. Fraîcheur, enthousiasme et luminosité, et par-dessus tout, cette simplicité qui évite de faire un sort à chaque note. C'est Chopin sans manuel d'instructions! Cadeau suprême, nous réentendons ces splendeurs comme si c'était la première fois.

Georges Nicholson - L'Actualité

Buffalo News
June 8, 2012

  ★★★½

Pianist Janina Fialkowska, with her Polish background, has said that Chopin is her favorite composer, and she is associated with his music. She was mentored by Arthur Rubinstein, and you can sense his warmth in her work. This disc shows that Fialkowska has recovered from a cancer in her upper arm, which restricted her playing to left-hand pieces for a few years. Her dedication is sweet and old-fashioned: “I dedicate this CD to those of you who love the works of the great Master but who, due to geographical reasons, or because of restrictions due to age or ill-health or a lack of financial resources, cannot attend a ‘live’ all-Chopin recital.”

Fialkowska’s playing, too, is sincere. She is at her best when she is playing most simply, for instance in the quiet and devastating F sharp major Prelude. Be warned, she is very free with the rubato, which is a matter of taste, and some pieces are too herky-jerky for me. But she has a quiet and definite gift.

Mary Kunz Goldman - The Buffalo News

The Sunday Telegraph
May 20, 2012

 ★★★★

Pianist Janina Fialkowska whose career was nearly ended 10 years ago by cancer in her arm, showed her total recovery in one of the finest Chopin recitals given in 2010, his anniversary year. In her follow up release Chopin Recital 2, there are spellbinding performances of the E flat Nocturne and the F minor Fantaisie. Three Preludes include the evergreen F sharp major, its subtle mood changes clearly delineated. But for Chopin-playing of supreme quality, try the F major Ballade and its storm and stress.

Michael Kennedy - The Telegraph (UK)

Financial Times
May 19, 2012

 ★★★★

The pianist remains a supreme Chopin stylist, combining temperament with an unsentimental touch

Having won universal acclaim for her first Chopin recital, it was logical that Fialkowska should proceed to a second. If her latest selection – the Ballade No 2, the Fantaisie in F minor and a selection of Nocturnes, Mazurkas and Waltzes – is a tad less effective, you only have to listen to the Scherzo No 2 to realise she remains a supreme Chopin stylist, combining temperament with an unsentimental touch.

Andrew Clark - Financial Times

Ottawa Citizen
May 11, 2012

★★★½

Although Janina Fialkowska has a broad repertoire that ranges from Mozart to modern music, she is best known for her interpretations of Liszt and Chopin.

This is her fourth ATMA recording of Chopin and, like her 2010 release, it offers a recital of various kind of pieces including three preludes, three waltzes and three mazurkas along with a polonaise, a ballade, a fantasie and a scherzo.

For anyone not already familiar with Fialkowska’s way with the composer’s music, this would make a good introduction. For the rest of us, it’s a welcome occasion to enjoy her robust and idiomatic playing. Particularly outstanding are the ­Fantasie in F, op. 49 and the Ballade, op. 38, also in F.

Richard Todd - Ottawa Citizen

Radio-Canada - Première chaîne
May 8, 2012

Belle parution que voici! Chopin Recital 2 présente un vaste éventail de styles dans lesquels Chopin excellait, interprétés avec une distinction naturelle, fluidité de jeu, mais parfois aussi avec une force insoupçonnée qui envoie des frissons dans l'échine.

Un disque d'une interprète comme on en compte très très peu.

Erich Langlois - Estrie Express

Toronto Star
May 1, 2012

★★★★

Montreal-native pianist Janina Fialkowska is an international treasure, showing setting an example for the world how the music of Frédéric Chopin can be played with virtuosic fire as well as elegant grace. Ever since she began recording again in 2005, following a full recovery from a cancerous tumour in her left arm, Fialkowska has been working her way through that much-adored repertoire of Poland's most famous pianist-composer.

This follow-up to her 2009 Chopin Recital disc has Fialkowska laying out a variety of solo pieces like a concert program, alternating the big and brash with more introspective pieces. The full spectrum of Chopin's styles is represented, including waltzes, a polonaise, a nocturne, a trio of mazurkas and, to close the show, the magnificently virtuosic “Scherzo No. 2, in B-flat minor, Op. 31.”

There is never a single note or emphasis or contour out of place as this remarkable pianist shows off her impeccable technique and sophisticated artistry. Fialkowska fully deserves the lifetime achievement award she will receive from the Governor-General at a special gala event, this coming weekend.

John Terauds - Toronto Star

The WholeNote
May 1, 2012

  Fialkowska is quick, articulate and generous with interpretive variations in her tempi. The impression her playing gives is of an artist revelling in the energy of Chopin’s pianistic dance forms. Her command of this composer’s language leaves no doubt about her convictions to follow Chopin through the turmoil of cascading note clusters and the depths of melancholic harmonies. Her playing gives the impression that she feels quite “in-charge” of this material but never surrenders herself entirely to the seduction of Chopin’s voice. Still, she performs very much from “inside” the music.

Fialkowska is ready to expose both the explosive and the deeply intimate by pushing the piano to its technical limits from massive volume to notes that are barely played. It’s an all-or-nothing approach with immediate impact.

Alex Baran - The WholeNote