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Schubert: Sonata and Impromptus

Audio-Video Club of Atlanta
August 8, 2016

Fialkowska’s tone is always gorgeous, shimmery, bright when needed, and more full bodied when the music calls for it, though not as bold in sound as some other performers. This is indeed a very sophisticated performance, displaying great sensitivity and emotion.

The first Impromptu in F minor displays more outbursts and drama than in any of the sonata movements, while also possessing some of the most tender moments. Schubert employs much of the same techniques that Beethoven does when repeating musical material, always adding something new or varied to heighten the interest. While Schubert has often been criticized for being somewhat repetitive, one does not sense this at all while listening to Fialkowska’s performance. The music holds one’s interest from start to finish.

The second Impromptu in A-flat could have sounded a bit fuller bodied in the opening chords, and louder and more forceful forte chords would have been more characteristic of the dramatic impulse that Schubert was trying to achieve. There also could have been more weight to the shorter-valued notes, to provide a better sense of repose, while giving more weight to the inner voices of the chords would make for a more “choral” sound and less of the French—Chopinesque melody-dominant sound, which isn’t quite as appropriate for this Impromptu as it is for the B-flat Impromptu which follows. Aside from this minor criticism, it is still a beautiful rendition of one of the more popular of these Impromptus.

Based on my impressions of this CD, I will definitely be listening to more of Fialkowska’s performances and hope to hear her perform live someday. This Schubert performance compares favorably with those of Maria Joao Pires, but is of a completely different sound and style. While Pires offers more dynamic contrasts and a bolder sound with more reverb on her Deutsche Gramophone CD, there is a special tenderness and intimacy in this recording which is quite special. Strongly Recommended!

Phil Muse - Audio-Video Club of Atlanta

June 28, 2016

« Comme cela fait du bien de retrouver Janina Fialkowska. J’ai toujours adoré cette pianiste canadienne qui joue avec un tel chic les partitions les plus piégeuses de Liszt ou de Szymanowski, au point de regretter qu’on offre trop rarement de vraies occasions à la musicienne de paraître. Quelques disques Chopin en disaient déjà assez long, mais la voilà de nouveau chez Schubert après un premier album regroupant les 13e et 18e Sonates. Test absolu.»

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Jean Charles Hoffelé - ArtMag

American Record Guide
June 24, 2016

The two sets of Impromptus are among the most beloved of Schubert’s piano music. British pianist Clifford Curzon introduced me to some of these pieces at the first piano recital I attended. While memories of that concert remain in my memory, along with his treasured recording, Israeli-born Amir Katz makes a strong impression as well and adds yet another really fine performance to the many currently available. This was probably to be expected from a pianist who can boast of studies with Leon Fleisher and Murray Perahia—two pianists who have conquered this music.

Impromptus D 899:1 and D 935:4 impress us at once with their light touch before embarking on their journeys. If other pianists have plumbed the depths with more angst than Katz, his playing gives a mostly refreshing and untroubled view of the composer. His tone production is smooth and silken, and he never seeks to add something that is not already present in the music. Both sound and notes are very good.

Fialkowska has only given us the second set of Impromptus. They are weightier performances than Katz and more reflective of the inner beauty of this music. This is especially so in D 935:1, where the music has a tinge of sadness and takes on a more profound utterance. This approach is also present elsewhere. In D 935:4 Katz gives us more of the composer’s wit, with playing that sparkles brilliantly. While Fialkowska’s efforts are quite wonderful here as well, it is clear that Katz has the upper hand.

The E-flat Sonata opens gently in an almost Mozartean manner. Fialkowska makes a most entrancing exposition of Schubert’s delightfully fresh ländler-like ideas. Unlike the frigid winters of her Canadian homeland, her playing has warmth and plenty of charm to thoroughly captivate the listener. Unlike some of the other sonatas by this composer, the music is not prolix and seems just right in dimensions as to be readily absorbed by the listener. The Andante molto introduces some storm clouds, but they are quickly dispelled; and in the ensuing Minuet all is again right with the world. In the closing Allegretto moderato charm and grace predominate, and all is assimilated to great satisfaction by this patrician pianist at her unfaltering best.

With warm plush sound and truly splendid notes we join in wishing Janina the best for her 65th birthday. She continues to look and sound like the consummate artist she obviously is. Both these recordings will find space in my collection.
© Alan Becker - American Record Guide 

Der Spiegel
June 18, 2016

The Grande Dame of the piano, Janina Fialkowska, is of a totally different caliber. In her new Schubert album, the Canadian pianist, born in Montreal in 1951, approaches the richly profound composer respectfully, but with a powerful signature grasp. Especially the four late Impromptus op. 142 are turned out with unpretentious clarity that is so authentic and clear, it is a joy.

One can pamper Schubert, or darken or burry him with nothing but sentiment, but then he is gone. However these doomsday pieces don’t work without pain: Janina Fialkowska succeeds in this tightrope walk above the abyss impressively and conclusively. Even in the elfish f-minor conclusion of No.4 there remains still a lot of thoughtfulness, which only reinforces the overall impression. A noble distance which is most becoming is also found in Fialkowska’s interpretation of Schubert’s 7th piano sonata Op. 122.

Giltburg and Fialkowska: two possibilities to handle romanticism and virtuosity, away from all effect-seeking, but very convincing.

Werner Theurich - Der Spiegel

[Translated from German by Harry Oesterle, text in German HERE]

June 9, 2016

"Janina Fialkowska previously impressed me with her accounts of Schubert's Sonatas D 664 and 894. Her reading of the E flat major Sonata, D 568, is no less compelling..." Full review HERE 

May 28, 2016

Beautiful Schubert Interpretations

After her Schubert recording of 2013 Janina Fialkowska presents another recording devoted to the works of this composer.

She plays the E-flat-Sonata of the 20 year old, being here significantly more “classically-minded” than in the later sonatas, with an innate feeling for colors and sound nuances. The tempi are pleasantly relaxed, even when in the “Moments musicaux” rhythms are concisely accentuated. Thus the music flows naturally without showing off in very satisfying and, above all in the impromptus, again and again moving interpretations. 4 out of 5

Rémy Franck - Pizzicato

Augsburger Allemagne
May 13, 2016

Schubert’s Sonata No. 7 in E-flat major … when one hears the piece on Janina Fialkowska’s recording, one can only marvel. The characteristics and moods, colors and differentiations she draws from the four movements, has a veritable quality of discovery. All of this Janina Fialkowska presents in a manner that is so characteristic of her and which one can’t esteem highly enough: naturalness. Nothing in this sonata – same goes for the following Impromptus op. 142 – is forced out for effect, but all is left to develop organically: an art, which perhaps doesn’t unfold its charm at first listening, but by repeated listening the more compelling it becomes.  

For the full review in German: HERE

April 5, 2016

For a pianist who conquered cancer in her arm muscle and subsequent complicated surgery, the performance of Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska is remarkable. Like - for instance - Mitsuko Uchida (Philips ......) and Radu Lupu ( Decca ....) , she shows an innate sense for investigating the lyricism and expression of these sonatas, which she performs eloquently and well-considered. She also does this in a completely natural way, without emphasis and with great attention to structures and details. A valuable addition to the Schubert sonata discography is the result. As well, the quality of the recordings is very satisfying. Forthe full review in Dutch, click HERE 

The WholeNote
March 28, 2016

 «Janina Fialkowska’s new recording of Schubert – Piano Sonata No.7; Four Impromptus (ATMA ACD2 2699) is an example of familiar repertoire rethought, reconsidered and reinvented. Nothing has been turned on its head nor has Schubert been over-examined for missed content. The genius of his ideas lies in both their lyric value and in the exquisite nature of his supporting accompaniments. What Fialkowska has done is to redraw the emotional map that guides her playing through Schubert’s straightforward material. She plays the Impromptu No.2 in A-flat Major Op.142 D935 as if it were something sacred. The opening idea is delivered in utter simplicity and the middle section rises to a speed and intensity not often heard. This pulls the work’s emotional poles further apart and gives greater impact to the quiet ending. The other three impromptus, too, are wonderfully recast.
The Piano Sonata No.7 in E -flat Major Op.122 D568 benefits from a release of tempo strictures in the second and third movements. Fialkowska gives Schubert’s simple ideas an airy freedom that feels so completely right. She is, as ever, the mature interpreter we have come to admire.»

Alex Barran - The WholeNote

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March 18, 2016

 «This new recording of Franz Schubert is a must for anyone who loves his piano repertoire.»

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