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‘Understated’ (appropriately so); ‘natural’; ‘responsive to the composer’s needs’; ‘lets the music peak for itself’; ‘little searching for exaggerated effects’: these are qualities that have been singled out for praise in Janina Fialkowska’s previous recordings and they apply in bucketloads to this latest disc. The combination of Schubert’s early Sonata No 7 (1817 – he was just 20) with the late, final quartet of Impromptus (he was still only 31) is neatly judged, the Sonata beginning to show the move towards later Beethoven, while the Impromptus look beyond, to the self-defining structures of high Romanticism.

In the Sonata, Fialkowska is more classically inclined than, say, András Schiff; she is quicker in places as well, but without sounding prosaic. The music is allowed to breathe and reveal itself without overbearing layers of interpretation. It is regrettable that she does not play the repeats in the minuet, although in the context of her performance this is effective enough. Her no-nonsense approach pays dividends in a reading of subtle simplicity, poetic and beautifully shaped.

In the Impromptus, Fialkowska is closer to Radu Lupu and Paul Lewis in pacing and timing overall than, say, Krystian Zimerman. Her pacing of the famous melody from Rosamunde in the third Impromptu is just right (Lupu, for example, on Decca is too slow here), and she shapes the ensuing variations with authority. Her sure touch secures a marvellously varied and nuanced reading, nowhere more so than in the expansive first Impromptu with its hints of classical sonata form. If overall I still prefer Lewis (on Harmonia mundi) in these late pieces, this in no way undervalues Fialkowska’s sensitive handling.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica

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