Janina Fialkowska’s recital of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces has a remarkable quality of naturalness and ease. Usually, when a reviewer says that somebody seems not to have put much thought into their interpretation - that’s a harsh criticism. In this case, though, we have the Lyric Pieces, which can fall apart when an artist overthinks their simple beauty. Fialkowska has, obviously, brought her full powers as an artist and musician to bear in this recital but the result sounds as easy, unadorned and pristine as if the music was playing itself.
It’s a happy thing to hear. Take the very first piece, the famous “Arietta,” which opens almost every Grieg recital. After hearing so many pianists insert cute little pauses, or use this lovely melody as a vehicle for personal expression, Fialkowska's reading comes as a relief. In her hands, it sounds like the simplest thing in the world. That’s not easy to do.
“Notturno” and “Canon” are other stand-out readings. She takes “March of the Trolls,” much more slowly than usual. Most pianists who programme this are using it as a virtuoso show-off number; here, it is still something you can reasonably call a Lyric Piece. Fialkowska also programmes the pieces so that there’s a growing melancholy tinge as the album progresses: “At Your Feet” and “Evening in the Mountains” back-to-back, especially, create this feeling. The sadness hangs over the following cradle-song like a shadow.
I enjoyed this album immensely. It is wonderful. Really, there are only two kinds of Grieg Lyric Piece recitals: the wonderful kind and the dull kind. Gilels on DG remains the most famous of the former type. With excellent recorded sound, too — I listened to an eClassical download — this is an easy recommendation. Can you ever have too many good Grieg albums? I can’t.