Janina Fialkowska


At a glance

Janina Fialkowska


Indeed, lesser mortals may well weep with envy at such unfaltering authority. She has done her one time mentor, Arthur Rubinstein, proud.


Beloved the world over for her exquisite pianism, Janina Fialkowska has enchanted audiences for over thirty years with her glorious lyrical sound and her profound sense of musical integrity.

Biography —

Beloved the world over for her exquisite pianism, Janina Fialkowska has enchanted audiences for almost forty years with her glorious lyrical sound, her sterling musicianship and her profound sense of musical integrity. Blending her vast experience with her refreshingly natural approach “Fialkowska has become an artist of rare distinction as well as retaining all the virtuosity of her youth” (La Presse, Montreal).

Celebrated for her interpretations of the classical and romantic repertoire, she is particularly distinguished as one of the great interpreters of the piano works of Chopin and Mozart. She has also won acclaim as a champion of the music of Franz Liszt as well as of twentieth-century Polish composers, both in concert and on disc.

Born to a Canadian mother and a Polish father in Montreal, Janina Fialkowska started to study the piano with her mother at the age of five. Eventually she entered the Ecole de Musique Vincent d’Indy, studying under the tutelage of Mlle. Yvonne Hubert. The University of Montreal awarded her both advanced degrees of “Baccalaureat” and “Maitrise” by the time she was only 17.

In 1969, her career was greatly advanced by two events: winning the first prize in the Radio Canada National Talent Festival and travelling to Paris to study with Yvonne Lefebure. One year later, she entered the Juilliard School of Music in New York, where she first studied with Sascha Gorodnitzki and later became his assistant for five years.

In 1974 her career was launched by Arthur Rubinstein after her prize-winning performance at his inaugural Master Piano Competition in Israel.

In touring Europe and Asia, Ms Fialkowska has appeared as guest artist with such prestigious orchestras as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, the Halle Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, the BBC Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic, the Scottish National Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic and the French and Belgium National Radio Orchestras as well as the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. She has also performed with the Israel Philharmonic, the Osaka Philharmonic and the Hong Kong Philharmonic and has worked with such renowned conductors as Sir Andrew Davis, Charles Dutoit, Hans Graf, Bernard Haitink, Kyril Kondrashin, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Sir Roger Norrington, Sir Georg Solti, Leonard Slatkin, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski and Klaus Tennstedt as well as those represented by the “younger” generation such as Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Thomas Dausgaard, Eiji Oue, Fabien Gabel and Grzegorz Nowak.

In 1992 the CBC produced a sixty-minute television documentary, “The World of Janina Fialkowska” that aired to great acclaim throughout Canada. This program won a Special Jury Prize at the 1992 San Francisco International Film Festival. More recently, the CBC produced in 2013 the 45 minute performance-documentary “An evening with Janina Fialkowska” based on a recital she gave in Montreal in February that year.

Janina Fialkowska is much sought-after for her master classes worldwide. She is the founder of the “International Piano Academy” held annually at the Bavarian Music Academy in Marktoberdorf, Germany. There she passes on the traditions of her own teachers from the Russian piano school of Anton Rubinstein and the French school of Alfred Cortot as well as her unique musical experiences as Arthur Rubinstein’s protégé. She also serves regularly as a jury member of some of the world’s most famous international piano competitions.

Ms Fialkowska is an “Officer of the Order of Canada” and holds honorary doctorates from Acadia University, Queen’s University and Wilfrid Laurier University. She is the recipient of the “2012 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement in Classical Music”, Canada’s foremost honour for excellence in the performing arts. She was the first woman instrumentalist to be so honoured.

In January 2002 at the onset of a major European tour encompassing eight different countries, Ms. Fialkowska’s career was brought to a dramatic halt by the discovery of a tumour in her left arm. After successful surgery to remove the cancer, Ms Fialkowska underwent further surgery in January 2003; a rare muscle-transfer procedure. After 18 months of performing the Ravel and Prokofiev “concertos for the left hand” which she transcribed for her right hand she has resumed her two-handed career beginning with a tremendously successful and highly emotional recital held in Germany in January 2004.

Ms Fialkowska has recorded for RCA Red Seal, Naxos, CBC Records, Opening Day and since 2008 she has worked exclusively for the ATMA classique label producing eleven tremendously successful recordings with them so far. Her discography includes CDs with several solo albums featuring music by Grieg, Chopin, Liszt, Schubert and Szymanowski as well as the highly praised CD, “La jongleuse – Salon pieces and encores.” She has also recorded her popular CD of the Paderewski piano concerto with the Polish National Radio Orchestra, the rarely heard piano concerto by Moritz Moszkowski, the three Liszt piano concertos with the Calgary Philharmonic, Hans Graf conducting and a live-recording of the two Chopin piano concertos with the Vancouver Symphony, Bramwell Tovey conducting (“Definite concerto disc”, The Guardian). Released to the highest critical acclaim were performances of piano concertos by Chopin and Mozart in authentic versions consisting of piano solo and string quintet accompaniment.

Ms Fialkowska’s latest disc, of Grieg Lyric Pieces, was given 5 stars by The Telegraph, which described her as “an interpreter of sublime inspiration”. Her “Chopin Recital” disc made it into the Gramophone classic charts as well as among the London’s Sunday Times Top 10 “Best classical recordings of the year”. It also won a nomination for the “International Classical Music Award 2011”. Bryce Morrison raved in Gramophone Magazine about her double album “Chopin: Etudes, Impromptus, Sonatas”: “Indeed, lesser mortals may well weep with envy at such unfaltering authority.” Her CD “Liszt Recital” was hailed as “The most beautiful Liszt CD of this decade” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) and the London Times stated: “… the playing is magical.” In 2013 she received the coveted “Instrumentalist of the year” award from the BBC Music Magazine for her recording “Chopin Recital No.2”.

During the past two seasons Ms Fialkowska was heard in concert in London in two recitals at Wigmore Hall as well as in performances in New York City, Houston, Montreal, Toronto, Berlin, Bremen and Düsseldorf amongst others. Recent highlights include a 65th Birthday tour of concerts around the world, the release of her Grieg Lyric Pieces disc as well as the release of her much-anticipated complete Chopin Mazurkas; a tour with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and concerts with Tenerife Symphony Orchestra and the Vancouver Symphony.

Ms Fialkowska and her husband, cultural manager Harry Oesterle, reside in Bavaria, Germany.

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Reviews —

...a musician of extraordinary sensibility and captivating, artless purity... an interpreter of sublime inspiration.

The Telegraph

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.

Classics Today

Besides her exquisite artistry, Fialkowska has become equally lauded for her fighting spirit as she battled a cancer diagnosis that stole the use of her left arm in 2002. She returned to a full schedule of concertizing, recording and teaching an unbelievable two years later after undergoing several delicate surgeries on her arm -- a fact that is difficult to believe after hearing her perform like a tiger Friday night.

Holly Harris, The Winnipeg Free Press

Although the Pleyel piano does not have the brilliant shimmer of a modern concert grand, Fialkowska suffused it with a golden glow and silken technique that illuminated every note of this much-loved piece … … this was an evening to remember for a long time.

John Terauds, The Toronto Star

An eloquent sense of rhythm conspired with fine adjustments of volume to produce a performance of rare intimacy and feeling. The understated tone of the instrument made filigree seem expository rather than decorative. I can think of many performances on brilliant modern pianos that have given us more sound and less music.

Arthur Kaptainis, The Gazette (Montreal)

The performance wasn’t about the soloist, as it normally would be in a Chopin concerto. That being said, Fialkowska was a standout from the moment she stepped on stage with her majestic black tailcoat. The E-minor concerto under her hands and on the Pleyel piano — Chopin’s instrument of choice — was light, crisp, and full of life. Perhaps it’s the half-Polish blood in her, Fialkowska has a natural flamboyance in this music without even having to try hard.

L.H. Tiffany Hsieh, La Scena Musicale

We have had many celebrated executants in London in this Chopin anniversary year -- Zimerman, Pollini and Yundi Li among them -- but none has taken my breath away quite like Fialkowska.

Barry Millington, The Evening Standard (London)

Selected Discography —

SCHUBERT - Sonata & Impromptus (65th Birthday Album)

perfect combination of grace and virtuosity


GRIEG - Lyric Pieces

This new disc of Grieg miniatures by the Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska once again identifies her as a musician of extraordinary sensibility and captivating, artless purity... she is an interpreter of sublime inspiration.

The Telegraph

CHOPIN - Complete Mazurkas

Janina Fialkowska now presents her masterpiece, since her complete recording of Chopin's 55 Mazurkas matches up absolutely to Rubinstein's three complete recordings.

Fono Forum Magazine Germany

SCHUBERT Piano Sonatas D. 664 & D. 894

Fialkowska plays with a sustained commitment…[her] seasoned touch is a tribute to her mature understanding of Schubert’s actual intentions. Fialkowska’s Schubert is the real McCoy.

The WholeNote

MOZART - Mozart Concertos 13 & 14

Fialkowska crafts pure poetry with a multitude of fine modulations from her 10 fleet fingers. She knows exactly when to be bold and when to pull back and drape a silken veil over her keyboard.

Toronto Star

CHOPIN - Chopin Recital 2

…her pacing and exceptional grasp of musical narrative is a masterclass in the art of pianistic rhetoric.

BBC Music Magazine

CHOPIN - Piano concertos

She displays a formidable mastery, taking Chopin’s early poetic ardour firmly in hand.

Gramophone Magazine

CHOPIN - Recital

There is a new and unmistakable joie de vivre, an almost improvisatory abandon and, frequently, a sense of sheer unbuttoned fun not normally associated with either Fialkowska or Chopin.

BBC Music Magazine
See full discography

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  • Nicola Semple