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Chopin: Complete Mazurkas / Janina Fialkowska

Chopin / Janina Fialkowska Release Date: 09/09/2014
Label: Atma Classique Catalog #: 22682 Spars Code: DDD
Composer:  Frédéric Chopin Performer:  Janina Fialkowska Number of Discs: 2
Recorded in: Stereo

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
Read more 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. 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,
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