Chopin: Etudes, Sonatas, Impromtus / Fialkowska

Album cover art for upc 722056255424
Label: ATMA
Catalog: ACD22554
Format: CD

Janina Fialkowska - Piano

Wholenote Discoveries - October 2010
“… (Chopin’s) youth was spent entirely in Poland, a country which had, until his time, produced no composers of distinction….” Although I have to attribute the words of Judith Rice–Lesage in the liner notes of this album to her wilful ignorance of Polish cultural history, she is absolutely right in the assertion that Chopin was a genius nobody could take credit for. The masters of the past, Bach and Beethoven in particular, had an impact on the young Frederic, but it is true that he influenced many more composers than influenced him. Though he cannot be credited with creating new musical forms (save for the Mazurka), the forms that he inherited flourished when shaped by his brilliant mind. If nobody “created” Chopin, is there “something” that accounts for his genius? I dare say yes, and that is the Polish national character. A nebulous and ill-defined term, to be sure, but it’s enough to cast a glance at the Chopin memorial in the Warsaw Lazienki (Baths) Park to grasp it. There he is, leaning into and cradled by an enormous weeping willow. The melodic ease, the romantic, almost tragic melancholy, the spirited and irrepressible response to the world around him – those are “Polish” traits. Is it any wonder that some of the best interpreters of his music are his countrymen and women? Janina Fialkowska was born in Montreal to Polish parents and became the standard-bearer for Polish music in Canada. Her playing is passionate and precise, easily handling Chopin's scores, notoriously crowded with notes for the right hand. That in itself is a proof of both her spirit and her artistry, as Ms. Fialkowska nearly lost the use of her right hand due to cancer only a few years ago. This remarkable recording proves the point that “you don’t have to be Polish to play Chopin – but it sure helps!” Concert Note: Janina Fialkowska is featured in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor in period performances on a 19th century Pleyel piano with Tafelmusik October 7-10 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Robert Tomas

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