Miracles in Eaton Square Janina Fialkowska at St Peter’s
It was wonderful to have Janina Fialkowska back with us again after a second miraculous recovery from a life threatening illness.
To have her back and playing so wonderfully well.
Listening to the magical sounds that she conjured up from a Fazioli piano we could fully understand why Rubinstein had been in tears with her moving performances at the very first Rubinstein Competition.
Infact although Emanuel Ax won first prize she got Rubinstein’s very special prize of concerts worldwide following in his shadow.
Both she and her good friend Emanuel Ax have since been feted by music lovers worldwide.
She even came to Rome to play in the theatre that my wife,Ileana Ghione and I had just opened.
She was promoted by the Canadian Embassy and Guido Agosti who had been on that first Rubinstein jury came to applaud her too.
She became a great friend and came back as many times as her worldwide career would allow.
She even brought Harry her future husband to meet us.
She gave a concert in 2006 in memory of my wife who had died on stage a few months earlier in December 2005..
Playing the Chopin Barcarolle she whispered to me in the wings afterwards that,that was
Very special people for me indeed both Janina and Ileana.
But already some years ago she was told by her doctors that she would never play the piano again due to a growth in her left arm.
Miraculously she proved them all wrong.
Infact she made her come back just a year after this dramatic prediction , in a little town in Bavaria to which her friends flocked.
She played the Chopin B minor Sonata just to prove her point that her seriously weakened left arm was ready to go again.
It is exactly the left hand in the Finale of the Sonata which is feared by every pianist.
She has been playing even better since.
The critics noting that the great virtuoso pianist had now acquired an even more profound voice.
And now years later another illness has struck but also another miracle and she is with us again playing so beautifully.
” Des Abends” was even more beautiful than her mentor Artur Rubinstein.
Jeux d’eau was a miracle of sound and one could almost see “ The river god who laughs at the water as it caresses him “to quote De Regnier.
The Mazuka op 50 n.3 was like a miniature painting in sound.
I have never heard it played with such layers of colour and such character.
A real tone poem with a heartrending story to tell.
The second Ballade and the F minor Fantasie were given passionate performances but always with that nobility and simplicity that was so much the mark of Rubinstein’s then revolutionary break with tradition.
The final beseeching notes of the Fantasie before being enveloped by a wave of sound in many ways made me think of Ravel’s Ondine.
Only the final noble chords reminding me that we were at the end of a marvellous journey with Chopin.
The second Ballade too from the tender almost Schumannesque (it is in fact dedicated to Schumann) melody being so violently interrupted by Chopin’s storm.
A real virtuoso performance that lead so beautifully into the magical mazukas that make up op 50.
The Mozart Sonata was a real lesson of how one can keep the classical style but make the phrasing so much clearer by a subtle change of colour and shape.
I found the first movement a little too fast to allow the Maestoso marking to take effect But it was so beautifully shaped and the development section so dramatic with the trills glowing so beautifully.The chromatic scale that leads back to the recapitulation was quite miraculous.
The opening of the slow Andante cantabile was sung with such a beautifully pure expressive voice and the phrases shaped to absolute perfection .The tempestuous middle section took us aback as a storm that gradually awakens as the clouds thicken
The Presto was taken as Mozart had indicated but played with a clarity and sotto voce that made the appearance in the left hand almost whispered so much more dramatic instead of the usual rather jagged performances that this work is usually treated to.
I thought the magical change of key could have had a slightly more relaxed tempo but such was Janina’s vision that we were swept away by the whispered urgency of Mozart’s message .
The Fantasiestucke op 12 by Schumann were played much as I remember Rubinstein in his last performances in London.
Every movement had a marvellous story to tell and was a little tone poem in its own right.
From the magical sounds of Des Abends to the dramatic outburst in Aufschwung.
The beautiful lines woven so movingly in Warum to be answered by the whimsical chords of Grillen.
In der Nacht and Traumes Wirren showed us that here was still the great virtuoso that we had always known but with a voice that made every note speak so tellingly.
The story she had to tell in Fabel truly reminded me of Rubinstein who could make the simplest of pieces talk as never before.
The grandiosity of Ende vom Lied was followed by a disintigration that was depicted so clearly we could almost imagine the end of a story beautifully told and so back to sleep.
Just one short encore …infact the minute waltz played with the clarity and charm of a true Chopin player who has polish blood in her veins.
The spirit of Rubinstein was obviously hovering over Eaton Square last night.