Theatre Review: Janina Fialkowska Plays Chopin

Janina Fialkowska
Janina Fialkowska

When it comes to talented musicians, few have shown more of a commitment to their profession than pianist Janina Fialkowska.

Diagnosed in 2002 with shoulder cancer, there were two years when Janina was unable to play the piano with both hands.

But following on from successful treatment, Janina has since fought back and is now once again able to entertain crowds across the world with amazing piano performances.

Last night I visited Northampton’s Royal & Derngate to enjoy a concert by Janina and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Fabien Gabel.

The evening began with a smooth rendition of Brahms’ Tragic Overture, before Janina made her way on to the stage to give a performance of music by the composer her playing is most strongly linked with, Chopin.

It is said that Janina’s famous mentor Arthur Rubinstein once called the pianist a “born Chopin interpretor,” and I could see why.

Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is very much a piece led by the piano, rather than the kind of concerto which has its themes at times shared by the orchestra. So for the lead performer it must be relentless.

But Janina maintained concentration throughout, completing Chopin’s astonishingly rapid fingerwork passages with apparent ease.

Perhaps my favourite time in the concerto is the slower second movement in which the piano part becomes more melodic and less frenetic, a chance for Janina to prove her great skills in musicality, bringing out the beauty in Chopin’s writing.

There is no sign in Janina’s playing of the physical struggle she once went through and I would thoroughly recommend one of her concerts to anyone who loves great music brilliantly played.

When Janina left the stage, the RPO took over once more with Beethoven’s well known Pastoral Symphony, which was also beautifully played and served as a nice January reminder for the audience that spring is around the corner.