CD review: Grieg Lyric Pieces from Janina Fialkowska

First published in the Guardian on 19 June, 2015

There’s been a spate of Lyric Pieces recently: Stephen Hough’s no-nonsense collection on Hyperion, Javier Perianes’s sunny accounts for Harmonia Mundi, and this — an uncluttered, intimate, sweetly solemn offering from Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska. She doesn’t quite match the other two for colour or flare, but the elegant poise of her playing is all the explanation you’d need for why so many great pianists are seduced by the seemingly simple pieces. Grieg wrote 66 of them; Fialkowska begins and ends with the same selection as Hough — Arietta Op. 12 and Remembrances Op 71 — and includes luminous, spacious performances of Berceuse, Album Leaf, Notturno and Evening in the Mountains. Her Butterfly and Little Bird flutter weightlessly, her Wedding Day at Troldhaugen is chipper and joyous, but there’s a touching melancholy that lingers through all of it. I was a bit put off by the sound of the piano, a twangy thing recorded in Quebec’s Palais Montcalm. But Fialkowska is a Chopin interpreter at heart, and she would make these melodies sing on anything.