ATMA ACD2 2597
Polish sausage is loved for its deep flavours that linger long after the blush of its immediate gratification to the palette. Our reluctance, however, to use food as a frequent metaphor for art means that the only place you’ll ever see Chopin likened to Kolbassa is… well, right here.
Janina Fialkowska is a Canadian pianistic stalwart – more amazing still because of her recovery from a 2002 cancer surgery that threatened her career. Her performance of the Chopin standards in this recording is remarkably strong. Her masculine keyboard energy is undiminished and her feminine subtleties as seductive as ever. This Yin and Yang are so beautifully balanced in her interpretations that one quickly forgets the performer while being drawn deeply into the swirling emotions that make Chopin’s music unique.
Stepping out of the way of the music is something Fialkowska does with clever and manipulative grace. One easily takes the bait offered by her technical perfection and is drawn toward the fiery melancholy of Chopin’s world.
Most unusual in these performances is the jarring pull-apart of the three-four rhythm in the C sharp minor Waltz (Op. 64 No.2) and the D Major Mazurka (Op. 33 No.2). The irregularity of the left hand “oom-pa-pa” is taken to its absolute limit without ever compromising the pulse of the music. This is a high risk interpretation but carried off convincingly because Fialkowska’s Polish roots run deep and true – and her musicianship is impeccable.
The audio balance of this recording leaves just the perfect amount of room space around the piano. And although the Steinway Fialkowska uses sounds a bit brighter and harder in the mid range than we generally hear from these instruments, this disc should definitely be a part of your Chopin collection.