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Les sons et les parfums...

Barczablog
15 septembre 2019

Janina Fialkowska has made a delightful new recording of French piano music titled “Les sons et les parfums…”

You might know that phrase from Baudelaire’s Fleurs du mal, in a wonderfully evocative poem “Harmonie du soir”, where music is as fundamental to the evening as a sunset or the air we breathe. Recalling Walter Pater’s famous saying that “all art aspires to the condition of music”, this poem is practically a sermon, both an invitation & an exhortation. Of course it’s an uncommon title for an album, perhaps an indication that this is a change of direction for Fialkowska, who I know mostly as an interpreter of Chopin, Liszt, and eastern Europeans with some ventures into German rep.

But I couldn’t help noticing how the opening cut sounded like something Chopin would have written, an easy-going Impromptu by Tailleferre that put me in mind of Chopin’s A-flat Impromptu, with its flowing lyricism. Did Fialkowska mean to open as though making a segue from Chopin into the French rep? Or maybe it’s all in my mind. But of course Chopin himself is a perfect bridge, an exile from Poland who was after all half French. Tailleferre’s easy & melodic textures open the doorway in the gentlest way for what’s to come.

But the liner notes suggest that this is if anything a sentimental journey for the pianist, familiar rep from the past that she has played many times in the past. Perhaps it’s who she has always been even if the French pieces can’t be found in her discography.

Better late than never..!
It’s a fascinating and well-conceived survey that brings us into the 20th century from the final decades of the 19th.
 Impromptu by Germaine Tailleferre
 Nocturne #4 by Gabriel Fauré
 Intermezzo by Francis Poulenc
 Habanera by Emmanuel Chabrier
 Poissons d’or by Claude Debussy
 Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir by Claude Debussy
 Reflets dans l’eau by Claude Debussy
 Clair de lune by Claude Debussy
 Jeux d’eau by Maurice Ravel
 Sonatine by Maurice Ravel
If these works are not well-known to you, the album will persuade you of their importance, very easy to listen to. There’s variety even though they hang together like a well-curated exhibit of art by several painters.

Fialkowska’s sound is very clear, mostly sparing in the use of the pedal, without any noticeable blur even when many notes are being sounded, as transparent & sparkling as a clean aquarium full of koi. For the most part this sounds very relaxed, without the kind of drama one associates with virtuoso display. We’re hearing a pianist who is so self-assured that she gets inside the music. The water pieces by Ravel & Debussy have lots of atmospheric effects, decisively coloured and yet ultimately very calm & tranquil. This is pianism of the highest order without struggle or conflict.

I will resist the temptation to use the “I” word that is so often used when speaking of Ravel & Debussy, a descriptor imported from the realm of painting. I don’t use the word because I believe it’s misapplied when speaking of Debussy, and likely as well with Ravel. These evocative compositions conjure visual images of water & fish & moonlight in Fialkowska’s interpretations. If you find it helpful to think of the painterly qualities of music in this period, especially if it reminds you of the colours & effects found in paintings by Renoir or Monet, then by all means, seize the association. However you choose to understand the music, you’ll hear confident and accurate playing inviting you to an encounter of warmth and tenderness.

Leslie Barcza - barczablog
 

La Scena musicale
6 septembre 2019

***** (5 stars)
Montreal-born and internationally celebrated pianist Janina Fialkowska has recorded 13 CDs for ATMA Classique but none better than this one. This carefully selected survey of French piano music ranges from Fauré’s Nocturne Op. 36 No. 4 in E flat major to Ravel’s Jeux d’eau and Sonatine. Fialkowska plays everything with a sure sense of style.

The first four pieces, by Tailleferre, Fauré, Poulenc and Chabrier, are beautifully crafted salon miniatures. Each demonstrates how its composer can find something original and interesting to say in a piece only a few minutes in length. But then we come to Debussy’s Poissons d’or and a whole new world of musical expression. One is struck anew how Debussy can conjure such a range of colours from the piano!

The CD takes its title from Debussy’s Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir (Préludes, Book I, No. 4) – actually a quotation from Beaudelaire – and Fialkowska lets us hear every subtle melodic and harmonic change.

Fialkowska’s playing is masterly, from the familiar quiet beauty of Debussy’s Clair de lune to the spectacular final Animé from Ravel’s Sonatine.

La Scena musicale – Paul Robinson
 

Les Artszé
19 août 2019

Un disque-récital de Janina Fialkowska comportant une magnifique interprétation de la sonatine de Maurice Ravel

La célèbre pianiste québécoise résidant désormais en Bavière Janina Fialkowska nous offre Les sons et les parfums …, un nouvel album récital cette fois-ci de musique française pour piano. Elle poursuit toujours une carrière de soliste très active (partout dans le monde et récemment encore auprès du Concours Van Cliburn comme auditrice de premier jury). Nous la suivons avec intérêt depuis ses années d’étude avec Yvonne Hubert, le fleuron de l’enseignement du piano au Canada français (avec Natalie Pépin et Marc Durand).

Ce disque constitue, en somme, un beau divertissement grand public. On y réentend le même nocturne de Fauré (le 4ième) qu’on retrouve sur le récent disque Fauré chez Chandos de Louis Lortie: de ces deux versions récentes de ce nocturne par des artistes d’ici, on pourrait difficilement départager la plus belle venant de ces deux émules de la défunte élève de Fauré lui-même… mais la version de David Jalbert (Endeavour Classics) d’une intégrale de tous ces treize nocturnes est inégalable…même celle de Jean-Philippe Collard (EMI) prend le second rang. Rappelons que madame Yvonne Hubert fut au Conservatoire de Paris la protégée du compositeur Fauré aussi directeur de l’institution et que tous ces noms sont contemporains, bien entendu, du phénoménal pianiste Alfred Cortot. Madame Fialkowska fut l’élève-phare de madame Hubert. Tous les grands pianistes québécois d’aujourd’hui (Laplante, Lortie, Hamelin, Fialkowska jadis Turini) étaient de cette écurie redoutable en lice lors des concours internationaux pour piano lors desquels ils raflaient les meilleurs places.

Pour résumer en peu de mots la qualité de ce disque d’écoute très facile, on a la joie d’y entendre du Germaine Tailleferre, cette compositrice du Groupe des Six (un impromptu en la majeur). Ensuite un très bel Intermezzo de Francis Poulenc (en la bémol majeur, le troisième de la série) et des fragments d’oeuvres en morceaux de Debussy duquel on eût souhaité la Suite Bergamasque entière plutôt qu’un seul extrait sur quatre composantes. Pourtant les plus sublimes réussites de cet album demeurent les Jeux d’eau de Ravel et surtout la Sonatine en trois mouvements faisant 13 minutes où madame Fialkowska atteint des sommets d’aisance technique et puise d’une intarissable source poétique. Indéniablement, elle y rejoint son confrère d’études à l’École Normale de musique, André Laplante, comme une des plus élégantes interprètes de Ravel.

Eric Sabourin - Les Artszé