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Chopin: Mazurkas

Magazine Gramophone
1 janvier 2015

Janina Fialkowska continues her Chopin odyssey with a subtle and elusive challenge. The 55 Mazurkas (extended from what was once considered 52) are Chopin's confessional diary: joyous, anguished, luxuriant, austere, testy and conciliatory, they are at the very heart of Chopin's genius. The 27 Etydes may be an intimidating lexicon of technique ('boy, did they ever give me grief' - the American pianist Ruth Laredo) but the Mazurkas are sufficiently rooted and ethnic that they can become inaccessible to all but the finest musicians.

Fialkowska, making her courageous return after serious illness, is Canadian but, as her names declares, of Polish origine. And Rubinstein, her longtime mentor, would have been the first to admire her unfailing musical honesty, her refreshing alternative to self-conscious sophistication. Sensitive to the mazurka's 16th-century peasant origins - the reverse of the polonaises, court and regal dances - she is no less aware of Chopin'S alchemy, his transformation of the rudimentary into 'something rich and strange'. She captures 'the wood-note wild' of Op 6 No 3, the hiccuping burst into radiant dance elaboration in Op 41 No 3, and is sufficiently resourceful in Op 37 No 1 (the one Michelangelu, when caught in one of his rare forthcoming moods, played as an encore) to resolve its repetitions. She relishes in the baleful poetry of Op 30 No 4; and if she is more emphatic than resilient in Op 33 No 2 (its popularity acquired in Les Sylphides), she is moving in the F minor and valedictory Mazurka - music, as she hauntingly puts it, full of 'echoes of a Poland lost in time, its mood of deathly exhaustion'. 

You won't hear Horowitz's wicked necromancy in his selection of the Mazurkas, or Argerich's magical fluidity in the Op 59 set. Above all, Rubinstein eclipses everyone in his 1938-39 set on Naxos, his patrician elegance a near-impossible act to follow. I should add for good mesure that my own dream Mazurka performance is again from Rubinstein. This is of Op 56 No 3 in C minor, mercifully immortalised by BBC Legends. In the meantime, for a modern recording, you will find an impressive blend of sense and sensibility from Fialkowska, who is well recorded and presented.
Bryce Morrison - The Gramophone

Magazine BBC Music
1 janvier 2015

Performance ★★★★
Recording ★★★★
« In this latest release her authority, imagination, pianistic command and stylistic flexibility are profoundly impressive »
Jeremy Siepmann - BBC Music

Daily Mail
20 décembre 2014

A salute to a woman of courage, the Canadian Chopin specialist Janina Fialkowska. In 2002 cancer in her left arm halted her career. But she battled back and, thanks to radical surgery, started playing again two years later.
Her new Chopin double album tackles the most tricky part of Chopin's outputL the mazurkas. These are elusive pieces, few of them instant crowd-pleasers but Fialkowska offers compelling performances of 55 of them.
David Mellor - Daily Mail  

Magazine FonoForum
1 décembre 2014


Magazine Pizzicato
20 novembre 2014

Diese CD ist eine Liebes-Erklärung der kanadisch-polnischen Pianistin Janina Fialkowska an Frédéric Chopin. Über die Aufnahme sagt sie selber: “Chopin composed mazurkas his entire life; his last composition was a mazurka. They mirror his life, his development, his moods, his genius, his very essence. They are each and every one of them distilled masterpieces, all so varied, all so creative and touching. I can honestly say that preparing for this recording filled my soul with more happiness than any other project that I have undertaken. Schumann called them ‘cannons under flowers’ and he was right; they are extremely powerful pieces. I call them little parcels of heaven; as close to paradise as one can get.”
Das Spiel der Pianistin zielt darauf ab, die 55 Mazurken klanglich, das heißt farblich, dynamisch und rhythmisch gut zu differenzieren, ohne sich interpretatorisch durch zuviel Gefühl zu versündigen. Sie öffnet die Pakete, die Chopin geschickt hat, mit viel Respekt, aber auch mit unüberhörbar viel Liebe. Das gibt ihrem Spiel eine ‘himmlische’ Intimität, die Interpretationen werden zu einem bewegenden Zwiegespräch zwischen der Interpretin und dem himmlischen Absender.
Janina Fialkowska opens the parcels from heaven as she calls the Mazurkas with both respect and love, and her well nuanced varied performances have to be considered as an intimate dialogue between her and the composer in heaven.
Remy Franck - Pizzicato

1 novembre 2014


Magazine TED - Tendances Électronique & Design
10 octobre 2014

« voilà une solide interprétation, par une solide interprète. Le jeu clair, concentré, les nuances du texte, les atmosphères rustiques et galantes, les trouvailles harmoniques, les mélodies séduisantes, tout cela est fait de très belle manière, pour ne pas dire de façon irréprochable. Cette version est certes un document très fidèle au texte, à la pensée et l’esprit du maître polonais. »
« On sent que Mme Fialkowska aime profondément cette musique. »

Critique complète ici: http://www.quebecaudio.com/index.php/nouvel-album-chopin-mazurkas-integrale-janina-fialkowska/
Guy Marceau - Magazine TED - Tendances Électronique & Design

The Buffalo News
21 septembre 2014

Chopin’s mazurkas have a mood all their own. The dance form itself is quirky and unique. Though a rustic dance from the Polish countryside, the mazurka captivated the upper class, too. As Fialkowska’s interesting liner notes point out, the dance was embraced by the Parisian aristocracy. The rhythm of the mazurka can sound a little off. The emphasis often falls on an unexpected beat. Also, as Fialkowska writes, the mazurkas were often accompanied in folk settings with a kind of bagpipe. That detail explains the strange melodies of some of the mazurkas. The melody lines follow patterns that sound strange to us, with unexpected accidentals. There is sometimes a droning feel. Fialkowska also explains that folk traditions mixed with Catholic Church musical modes, such as can be heard in Gregorian chant. We have Chopin’s mazurka to thank for the much-repeated story that Chopin played so quietly that his fingers were hardly brushing the keys. Berlioz wrote as much, after hearing Chopin play some of them. With these discs, Fialkowska takes you on a long journey through Chopin’s complete mazurkas. It’s a lot to take in one dose, but what a resource this set is, allowing you to glimpse this one or that, see what you like, explore some of the less famous mazurkas, compare and contrast. Her playing is modest and relaxed, often simple on the surface but puzzling beneath. She captures the music’s delicacy and inexplicable melancholy. ΩΩΩ½ 
Mary Kunz Goldman - The Buffalo News

Le Devoir
12 septembre 2014

« Janina Fialkowska, qui propose 55 Mazurkas, est fidèle en tout point à son aura de rigueur et de fidélité : rythmes bien campés, mélodies bien dessinées. (...) en tant qu’intégrale, nous avons là un solide témoignage. »
Christophe Huss - Le Devoir

1 septembre 2014

Artistic: 9/10
Sound: 9/10
Janina Fialkowska’s 2008 and 2011 all-Chopin recital discs for Atma Classique included a total of seven Mazurkas in highly distinctive and original interpretations that boded well for a comprehensive Mazurka survey. Sure enough, my prayers were answered when Fialkowska recorded the cycle in 2012 and 2013, including new versions of the aforementioned seven pieces.

She presents all of the Mazurkas with opus numbers, the two A minor works without opus number (À Émile Gaillard and Notre temps), plus four of the six posthumously published Mazurkas–Fialkowska omits two of doubtful authenticity. Time and again Fialkowska’s conceptions recall her mentor Arthur Rubinstein’s late-period Mazurka playing in regard to lyrical breadth, a thoroughly internalized rubato, and an ability to savor felicitous details without exaggeration or overly lingering.

For example, Fialkowska’s rumination over Op. 24 No. 4’s contrapuntal layers, Op. 50 No. 3’s finely tuned modulations, and Op. 56 No. 3’s melodic melancholy imbues the music with personal poetry. Even familiar favorites emerge with fresh expressive gestures and colorations: the C-sharp minor Op. 63 No. 3 with its unexpected yet discreet tenutos and subtle shifts of voicing in the major-key Trio section; or Op. 68 No. 2, where Fialkowska’s slight emphasis on grace notes rather than the melody notes they embellish gently knocks the simple square-cut phrases out of their comfort zone (sound clip). Similarly, her toying with Op. 56 No. 1’s melody/accompaniment balances propel the phrases over the predictable bar lines, as do the delicious little Op. 6 No. 4’s tiny accelerations and stinging accents.

Naturally there are many valid ways to play the Mazurkas (as Rubinstein’s three markedly different cycles alone prove), making a clear-cut preference difficult. For example, how can you compare Maryla Jonas’ delicate hues to Ignaz Friedman’s epic, large-scale conceptions? Furthermore, some listeners might lean toward other Mazurka cycles’ disparate vantage points, be it Antonio Barbosa-Lima’s impetuous fire, Nikita Magaloff’s classicism, or Garrick Ohlsson’s skittish sleights-of-hand. Yet one can sense that Fialkowska has lived with and thought about these works for a long time, and is able to communicate her intentions with technical authority, intelligent musicality, and palpable style. Her articulate booklet notes and Atma’s fine engineering further seal my recommendation.
Jed Distler - ClassicsToday.com