Janina Fialkowska plays Chopin at Wigmore Hall

Polonaise in E flat minor, Op.26/2; Scherzo in E, Op.54; Waltz in A flat, Op.64/3; Ballade in F, Op.38; Nocturne in E flat, Op.55/2; Mazurkas – in A minor, Op.posth (Notre Temps), in C, Op.56/2 & in C minor, Op.56/3; Scherzo in B minor, Op.20

Janina Fialkowska (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 8 April, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Janina Fialkowska. Photograph: Michael SchilhanslA well planned and executed BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert of Chopin miscellanea, determined initially it seems to illustrate the composer’s ability to juxtapose darkness and light. Janina Fialkowska was entirely at home, sitting at the piano as if in her own music room – not over-familiar, but her ease with the music was palpable.

Her way with Chopin is significant, and in the dances – the mazurkas and waltzes especially – she found the offbeat emphasis and syncopations that give the music its distinctive push and pull. The opening Polonaise painted storm-clouds on the horizon, its brooding left-hand theme bringing recurring gloom, but there were flashes of brilliant light in the right-hand, which was tightly controlled. Fialkowska followed this with the sunniest of Chopin’s four Scherzos, and beautifully illustrated it with capricious lines that glittered, and she had a deceptively easy way with the recurring six-note motif that dominates the piece. The F major Ballade also brought radiance and shadows closely together, the serene opening theme cutting to rather more angst-laden music with Fialkowska portraying an intense struggle.

The mazurkas were well chosen, the reserved posthumous example in A minor and the rustic C major followed by the more substantial and experimental C minor, which unfolded with less predictable contours. The B minor Scherzo was a tour de force, brilliantly played with fire and brimstone, although Fialkowska was unfortunate to miss the top note of the extended right-hand runs on two occasions. Those were minor blemishes, mind, for her superb technique and refusal to bang out the music meant Chopin’s infernal dance was brought across with maximum clarity. Her rubato, too, was convincingly judged. The encore was a persuasive account of the Waltz in E minor (Opus posthumous), Fialkowska’s technique dazzling in the faster music.

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