Janina Fialkowska Plays Grieg’s Lyric Pieces

A selection of Lyric Pieces

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COMPOSERS: Grieg
LABELS: ATMA Classique
ALBUM TITLE: Grieg: Lyric Pieces
WORKS: Lyric Pieces
PERFORMER: Janina Fialkowska (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ACD 2 2696

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Janina Fialkowska is one of today’s most dependable pianists – bold, poetic, virtuosic and very much more. Yet here I feel a certain measure of frustration (albeit at a very high level). Given 25 of these miniatures, filleted from a total of 66, I would have welcomed a less broadly predictable range of expressive devices, both within the individual pieces and between them. Part of the problem lies with Grieg, though he never intended an entire meal of hors d’oeuvres. This cornucopian approach poses special challenges to the imagination, and technique, of the player. That Fialkowska has both in rich supply is abundantly clear in her recordings of Chopin’s mazurkas, and much else besides; but here, in both atmosphere and structural plotting, she adopts what appears to be a more restricted and generalised repertoire of expression and dramatic tension.

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A contributory factor is her choice of a strictly chronological order. A more adventurous juxtaposition, however unconventional, might have yielded a greater variety and degree of contrast than we get here. These reservations aside, however, this is an engaging, characteristically elegant and pianistically commanding recital. Some of Fialkowska’s most vivid characterisations have, too, an element of surprise: her almost mischievous account of ‘Butterfly’ is more redolent of a hummingbird – lively, darting, energetic, quite entrancing. ‘Little Bird’ is even more characterful, but now the portrait is spot on. Jeremy Siepmann