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Janina Fialkowska's ultimate piano playlist

Editorial Staff

By Matthew Parsons

Janina Fialkowska is a musical treasure house. As an interpreter of Chopin, she stands among the greatest pianists in the world.

When we reached out to Fialkowska to pick out some of her favourite piano recordings ever, she wasn't sure she could manage it. "I just finished my last concert of the year," she told us by email, "and now I only have a few days to complete some very difficult tax returns which terrify me."

She came to her senses an hour later. "I've ignored my taxes," she wrote, "and decided it was much more fun to figure out some of my favourite CDs."

When you've checked out the list of stellar piano performances from some of the greatest pianists ever, we're sure you'll be as glad as we are that she made that choice.

1. Angela Hewitt: Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier

I've started with the 48 Bach preludes and fugues. Since all keyboard music seems to have evolved from these works, I decided I should include them on my list — and what better version than Angela Hewitt's stellar performances on Hyperion?

Editor's note: You should definitely check out those Hyperion recordings, but in the meantime, here's Hewitt with a live performance from this work.

3. Arthur Rubinstein: various selections

I make no bones about it: my favourite pianist has always been, ever since I was a little girl, Arthur Rubinstein. And, although his recordings were never quite as magical as the live performances, they still move me more than anyone else's! And, of course his Chopin is without equal.

So I actually have four Rubinstein selections: his live recording from his Moscow recital in 1964, his Chopin F minor piano concerto with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia orchestra (the later one with Previn is not as good), the Schumann Fantasiestucke, and finally his French album, most notably his interpretation of his old friend Francis Poulenc's works.

Editor's note: Here are selections from the 1964 recital, and one track each from Schumann and Poulenc. Finding that Chopin concerto with Ormandy is left as an exercise for the reader.

3. Radu Lupu: Schubert's Impromptus, op. 142

Another pianist who I put right up there with Rubinstein is Radu Lupu; whether it is Schumann or Schubert or Bartok or Brahms, he always transports one into another mysterious, beautiful world of amazing sound and atmosphere. I love his recording of the Schubert impromptus opus 142 or the Schubert B flat sonata ... amongst others!"

4. Krystian Zimerman: Brahms's Ballades, op. 10

Krystian Zimerman is another favourite of mine. He doesn't record anymore but luckily did some marvellous recordings in the early stages of his career. I always thought his best composer was Brahms, so one of my favourite recordings of his is of the four Brahms ballades.

5. Sviatoslav Richter: Ravel's Miroirs

Someone who opened my eyes to all the possibilities of colours and textures one could achieve on the piano was Sviatoslav Richter. I heard him in the '60s when he was first allowed out of the Soviet Union and played in Montreal; I will never forget his Scriabin and his French music. He made a gorgeous CD of the Ravel Miroirs.

6. Martha Argerich: Liszt's B minor sonata

And, then there is Martha Argerich ... a force of nature. One of the greatest pianistic talents of all time who can take one's breath away with her unbelievably powerful performances. I heard her play the Liszt sonata when I was a student at the Juilliard School in the '70s. It was a total revelation; her recording of his work is magnificent.

7. Stewart Goodyear: Beethoven's sonatas

And finally, I can't not mention Beethoven somewhere and I truly am impressed with my fellow Canadian Stewart Goodyear's recordings of the Beethoven sonatas — an impressive achievement indeed.

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