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CD booklet
Chopin Recital 3

Stereoplay (Germany)
July 20, 2017

“Audiophile CD of the Month” (10 out of 10)

A psychological portrait of a torn soul

Artur Rubinstein, who heard Janina Fialkowska in 1974 for the first time, spontaneously called her a “born Chopin interpreter”. Since then the Canadian (born in 1951) conquered the whole world with her highly intelligent Chopin and Liszt playing. Her first two Chopin albums, released in 2010 and 2012 received euphoric reviews worldwide. Now, a third recital, dedicated to Chopin’s later works has been released and it plunges even deeper into the depths of the Polish piano revolutionary, who in a few years fundamentally changed and refined the pianistic technique, the palette of sound colors and his instrument’s catalogue of compositional forms.

Chopin’s highly complex later works, in which clearly defined characters of the various categories loosen up more and more, forms in a way the thematic foundation of the album with the experimental Polonaise-Fantaisie, the fourth Scherzo and the fourth Ballade, complemented by smaller forms such as nocturnes, waltzes and preludes into a poetic “dream” journey, which captivates one immediately in a wondrous way. Through Fialkowska’s charismatic power of storytelling this is compressed into a story, into a seismogram of Chopin’s soul in his last years.

It is amazing, how one can furnish such a personal selection of different pieces with such an inner “logic”. Bravura, pathos and perfume are completely alien to Fialkowska, rigorously she aims to the human truths behind all the splendor, to the islands of deep melancholy and the small and big outbursts of desperation, which she models with startling straightforwardness, also in the often neglected left hand’s “counter world”. Her dynamics are dramatic and her tempo variations are from another, sensitive world.

But what impresses most is the simple, natural, almost naked poetry of her sound, which combines in a wondrous way warmth with clarity, feeling with intellect, breathing and outline without frills. Fialkowska creates for the listener a feeling that she is playing only for him or her.

The Polonaise-Fantaisie, forward-looking, enigmatic and harmonically bold, Chopin’s last stroke of a genius, becomes through her a highly differentiated psychological portrait of a torn soul undulating between pain, hope and desperation. And in this way, she also gets, with an unerring instinct, to their poetic core of the smaller pieces: an album that captivates and won’t let you go.

Attila Csampai - Stereoplay (Allemagne)
Full review in German, click HERE 

English translation : Harry Oesterle 

Augsburger Allgemeine
July 7, 2017

(5 Sterne von 5)

Chapeau für diesen Chopin

Zum dritten Mal bündelt die Pianistin Janina Fialkowska ihre lebenslange Auseinandersetzung mit Chopin in einem CD-Recital. Besonders souverän tritt die intime Kennerschaft diesmal in der Interpretation der Polonaise-Fantasie hervor, jener ungemein dichten letzten Klavierkomposition Chopins. Überlegen spannt Fialkowska hier den Bogen des Geschehens, jede noch so unscheinbare Phrase hat ihren Sinn, und nichts erscheint dabei gewollt herausgehoben oder künstlich mit Bedeutung beladen. Die nahe Augsburg lebende kanadische Pianistin kombiniert in ihrem Recital weitere Oeuvre-Schwergewichte wie die 4. Ballade und das 4. Scherzo mit Kompakterem wie (jeweils zwei) Nocturnes, Walzern und Préludes. Auch hier entstehen unter Fialkowskas Händen Perlen an Natürlichkeit und Eleganz, und einmal mehr staunt man über den untrüglichen Sinn der Interpretin für pianistische Elastizität auf kleinstem Raum – der Kardinaltugend jeglichen Chopin-Spiels.

Stefan Dosch - Augsburger Allgemeine

English Translation:

(5 stars out of 5)

Chapeau for this Chopin

It’s the third time that pianist Janina Fialkowska consolidates her live-long examination of Chopin in a CD recital. This time in a very commanding way, this intimate connoisseurship emerges in the interpretation of the “Polonaise-Fantaisie”, this tremendously dense last composition of Chopin.

With superiority she demonstrates the entire spectrum of events: even the most inconspicuous phrase has its sense and nothing appears intentionally emphasized or loaded with artificial meaning.

The pianist who lives close to Augsburg combines in her recital more heavyweights like the “Fourth Ballade” and the “Fourth Scherzo” with more compact pieces like -two of each- nocturnes, waltzes and preludes. Also here under Fialkowska´s hands pearls of naturalness arise and once again one marvels at the performer´s unerring instinct for pianistic elasticity in the smallest space – the cardinal virtue of any Chopin playing.

 

Artamag
July 6, 2017

THÉRAPIE CHOPIN

Quoi dans l’œuvre de Chopin de plus insaisissable, et de plus musicalement difficile, que la Polonaise-fantaisie ? Rien. Je connais pléthore de pianistes qui s’y cassent les doigts (mais surtout l’art) dès les premiers accords. On n’entre pas ici par force, mais par éloquence. Et puis ensuite cela divague, ton de ballade, polonaise remémorée, mais esseulée, un grand nocturne sans fin qui erre et ne veut pas finir : si l’on n’est pas poète, si on ne parle pas « le Chopin », on y comprend rien.

Sauvée d’une longue maladie, Janina Fialkowska revient à Chopin, source de son art, et chacun des disques qu’elle lui consacre est une renaissance. Dans ce troisième récital, elle herborise chez Chopin tout ce qui se rapproche de cette Polonaise-fantaisie qui ouvre son disque : le discours clair, ardent, et pourtant cette angoisse qui progressivement cède devant une sorte de musique de l’infini, si ce n’est pas la grâce !

Tout en découlera, Nocturnes-noctuelles immenses, Quatrième Scherzo fuligineux, Valses lentes à dissoudre leurs rubans (avec une étrangeté dans celle en si mineur), Impromptu en sol bémol perdu dans ses divagations, deux Préludes mesurés pour se terminer par une des plus parfaites Quatrième Ballade que j’ai jamais croisées.

Ce Chopin évident, désarmant de naturel, porté par un si beau jeu de clavier où chantent de vrais chanteurs de bel canto est comme venu d’un autre âge, celui des Cortot, des Lortat, des Rubinstein – un éden qui réconforte, une thérapie par le son.

Jean-Charles Hoffelé - Artamag
 

Pizzicato
June 26, 2017

Highly sensitive Chopin interpretations

For her 3rd recital with works by Frédéric Chopin, Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska once again put together a coherent program which begins with a very thoughtful presentation of the Polonaise-Fantaisie op. 61. And this thoughtfulness remains a constant of her interpretation during a large part of the program with two Nocturnes, two Waltzes, an Impromptu, two Préludes.

Even in the contrast-rich 4th Scherzo this pensiveness is expressed in the middle section after a rather lively beginning, and before the playfulness prevails once again. And then with the barely half-minute long Prélude op. 28/14, she clears the table disquietingly from all drama and returns with great sensitivity to the core of Chopin’s music, which is exactly the reflectiveness and poetry where within, dark thoughts could also be mixed, as Fialkowska shows with a willful sense of rhythm in the Prélude op. 28 Nr. 15.

The opposition of thoughtful, intimate and effervescent passages before the almost hectic coda gives the 4th Ballade a lot of expressive power. A beautiful, highly sensitively interpreted program.

Remy Franck - Pizzicato
English Translation: Harry Oesterle

Original version in German
Die kanadische Pianistin Janina Fialkowska hat auch für ihr 3. Recital mit Werken von Frédéric Chopin ein kohärentes Programm zusammengestellt, das mit einer sehr reflektiven Darstellung der Polonaise-Fantaisie op. 61 beginnt. Und dieses Reflektive bleibt während eines großen Teils des Programms eine Konstante der Interpretation, in den zwei ‘Nocturnes’, zwei Walzern, einem ‘Impromptu’, zwei ‘Préludes’. Sogar im kontrastreichen 4. Scherzo kommt nach dem hier besonders quirligen Beginn diese Nachdenklichkeit im Mittelteil zum Ausdruck, ehe das Verspielte wieder Oberhand gewinnt. Und dann wischt das knapp halbminütige ‘Prélude’ op. 28/14 etwas unwirsch jede Dramatik vom Tisch, und die Pianistin kehrt mit großer Sensibilität zum Kern der Chopin-Musik zurück, eben zu dem Reflektiven, dem Poetischen, in das sich durchaus auch dunkle Gedanken mischen können, wie Fialkowska mit einer eigensinnigen Rhythmik im ‘Prélude’ op. 28 Nr. 15 zeigt. Die Opposition von reflektiven, intimen und aufbrausenden Passagen vor der fast hektischen Coda gibt der 4. Ballade viel Ausdruckskraft. Ein schönes, hoch sensibel gedeutetes Programm! 

The WholeNote
May 31, 2017

Janina Fialkowska continues her Chopin recording project with Chopin Recital 3 (ATMA Classique ACD2 2728). Fialkowska’s discs have proven consistently excellent. Her performances are marked by the welcome maturity that artists of her stature need as a hallmark of their career. Finding the “sweet spot” in a performance is what the creative quest is about. What seasoned performers know is that the “spot” is not where you last found it. It lies at the intersection of the performer’s awareness of self and their deepest awareness of the composer’s voice. This is the place we reliably find Fialkowska in her performances. What alters and enriches her playing is the desire to speak more clearly, more profoundly and more simply. Take, for example, the persistent pulse of the “raindrops” in Prelude in D-flat Major Op.28 No.15. Fialkowska treats this device as if it had true thematic significance. While only a simple rhythmic figure, she turns it into Chopin’s hypnotic, swinging watch while she moves through both turbulence and repose, all the while holding the experience together with a simple pulse.

It may, in fact, be Fialkowska’s command of the distance between the great heights to which Chopin so often rises and the nearly out of reach places to which he retreats that imbues her playing with such power. The disc’s opening track, Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-flat Major Op.61 is an eloquent example of this ability. It’s present in everything she plays and makes this a very collectible series.

Terry Robins - TheWholeNote 

TheArtDesk.com
April 27, 2017

You wouldn’t guess it from her name, but Janina Fialkowska isn’t actually Polish. You wouldn’t guess from her Chopin either, which is sensitive and supple, always emotive and deeply idiomatic. The Canadian pianist (her father was Polish) has recently come to wider attention for her Chopin interpretations through a series of well-received albums on the ATMA label, making this all-Chopin Wigmore Hall recital a particularly attractive proposition.

There is a directness to Fialkowska’s interpretations that is both disarming and immediately engaging. The melody always leads, with the left-hand chords providing texture and background as much as harmonic support. Contrasts – of phrases, sections, dynamics – are duly acknowledged but never exaggerated for dramatic effect. Even her programme avoided the extremes of Chopin’s output: the only Nocturne was one of the most upbeat, the Op. 9/3, and although she presented two scherzos, one of them, No. 4, was a surprisingly relaxed affair.

There were occasional fireworks here, but these were carefully spaced to structure the programme. The first half was organised around the tumultuous Ballade No. 2 and the equally virtuosic F-Minor Fantasie, Op. 49. Fialkowska’s technique here was impeccable, every note precisely placed, but with judicious pedalling to blend together the cascading passages. The finale of the Fantasie was particularly effective for the subtlety with which it was prepared, Fialkowska gradually increasing the dynamic, yet all the time maintaining the warmth of tone and evenness of texture. Between these towering peaks, two waltzes, Opp. 69/2 and 42, presented together as a pair. Here, and in the other dance-based works, the Polonaise, Op. 26/2, and the Three Mazurkas, Op. 50, Fialkowska took surprising liberties with the underlying beat, yet did so with such grace and assurance that the offset rhythms felt entirely natural.

The Fourth Scherzo that opened the second half felt a little underplayed, as if the sheer decorum (a key Chopin virtue) had finally got the better of the music’s emotional thrust. But the Op. 28 Preludes that followed (Nos. 14 and 15) returned us the immediacy and engagement that had characterised the first half. The "Raindrop" Prelude was a highlight, the deep chordal passages of the central section delivered with an intensity and focus, given all the more expressive power by the moderate dynamic.

To conclude, a truly memorable reading of the Scherzo No. 1, Op. 20. Melody again predominated, with Fialkowska providing the ideal balance between discipline and expressive freedom. In the central section, time seemed to stand still, as the harmonic progressions dissolved into pure texture. And then a return of the tumultuous power that Fialkowska keeps in reserve and only rarely sets loose, for a stunning bravura finale.

Gavin Dixon - TheArtDesk.com 

ICI Musique
April 13, 2017

La pianiste canadienne Janina Fialkowska sort un troisième récital consacré à Chopin, sous étiquette Atma. Chopin Recital 3 permet à l’artiste de poursuivre un parcours sans faille dans l’univers profondément poétique et expressif du compositeur.

La Polonaise-fantaisie op. 61, d’une surprenante modernité pour son époque, mais inévitablement touchante de sensibilité, reçoit toutes les nuances voulues. Deux nocturnes, deux valses, un impromptu (l’op. 51), deux préludes (dont celui dit de « la goutte d’eau »), un scherzo empreint de légèreté et, finalement, la fabuleuse Ballade en fa mineur, op. 54; tout cela est magnifiquement équilibré.

Janina Fialkowska, en plus d’être une interprète sensible qui sait toucher au cœur de l’auditeur en insufflant vie et amour dans ces partitions, est assurément une programmatrice intelligente. Elle sait alterner les atmosphères inhérentes à chaque pièce, ce qui évite tout sentiment de monotonie.

En ce sens, la pianiste colle parfaitement à la personnalité riche et panachée de Chopin. Fialkowska dit de ce dernier : Génie poétique, pianiste virtuose, romantique réticent, ironiste intelligent, gentleman impeccable, invalide chronique, ami loyal, professeur bien-aimé, exilé nostalgique, dandy charmeur, innovateur étonnant, patriote passionné, âme aimable : voilà autant de facettes de la personnalité de Chopin.

Il s’agit d’un très beau récital, à l’image des deux précédents et, on le souhaite (mais qui en doute?) du prochain, le quatrième, qu’on nous annonce comme le dernier de la série. On a déjà hâte!

Frédéric Cardin - ICI Musique