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Alicja Fiderkiewicz – celebrity recital
César FRANCK (1822-1890) Prélude, choral et fugue
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) Impromptu No.2 in F sharp, Op.36; Impromptu No.3 in G flat, Op.51; Barcarolle in F sharp, Op.60; Nocturne No.7 in C sharp minor, Op.27/1
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963) Sonata No.3 in B flat
Alicja Fiderkiewicz (piano)
rec. 24 August 2004, Whiteley Hall, Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester. DDD

The annual piano festival of Chethams School of Music is now a well-established feature of the summer festival scene and attracts many star pianists to its teaching roster. Alicja Fiderkiewicz is perhaps less well-known than some; her potted biography in the notes leaps strangely from 1975 to 2004 though she has been associated with Chethams for some time. The selection of critical notices (excessively long, as seems to be commonplace in notes now), is, naturally, extremely positive while perpetuating a few ridiculous examples of critic-speak. To quote the Daily Telegraph: "[she] … demonstrated the truth of the great Rubinstein’s saying – that ‘only Poles can play Chopin properly’ …". The great Rubinstein should never have made such a chauvinistic generalisation in the first place (starting with the Hungarian Liszt, pianists of every nationality have excelled in Chopin’s music) and the fact that a Pole plays it well today demonstrates nothing.

Be all that as it may, Alicja Fiderkiewicz, in her live recital from the fourth annual Chethams festival does demonstrate a natural feeling for Chopin. The gentle, even homely, Impromptus receive unexaggerated performances while the Barcarolle - not Polish, nor even Venetian but wholly Chopin – is similarly straightforward. The performance lacks the delicacy of that of Alwin Bär in his contribution to Brilliant’s complete set of Chopin’s piano music (an amazing bargain). In the Nocturne, Maria João Pires on Deutsche Grammophon is much more dramatic though some have found her performances of the complete Nocturnes a distortion of Chopin’s understated style. She is certainly favoured with a much better recording and a livelier acoustic than is Alicja Fiderkiewicz on the present disc. Dunelm’s sound quality is dull and restricted which may be due to the live concert situation.

Alicja Fiderkiewicz gives a strong performance of the Hindemith sonata, one of those works I am glad to have heard but may pass up at a second opportunity. The work is agreeable enough with four well-contrasted movements but leaves no very distinct impression. However, if you are a devotee of this composer, you will find that the performance conforms to none of the Hindemithian clichés; it is not dry or mechanistic but sensitive with plenty of light and shade. The Franck receives a powerful performance that doesn’t displace memories of those by Hough and Perahia. All in all, this is a well played recital, somewhat undermined by the recording quality.

Roger Blackburn



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