We recently went to see (hear) Janina Fialkowska perform Chopin's concerto No 2 in F minor. It was wonderful and the highlight for me of a marvelous concert. As a consequence I immediately bought this version of the concerto. Whilst a recording can never replace the thrill of being at a live performance it is nonetheless a great substitute. I love Chopin's nocturnes and never paid much attention to his concertos; I didn't know what I'd been missing.
Janina Fialkowska is a Canadian pianist whose name was familiar to me from her winning the first Arthur Rubinstein competition in 1974. But until recently I had never heard her perform either live or on record. Then last year I got her Chopin solo disc Chopin Recital and was mightily impressed, especially with its poetic qualities. So it was a no-brainer to get this new disc of her playing the Chopin piano concertos. (It appears she has been recording a lot of Chopin recently, most likely because this is the composer's 200th birthday year. She has also recorded the Etudes, Sonatas and Impromptus on a 2CD set, which I have not heard.)
This disc is a real winner. Just listen to the clips from the middle movements of the two concertos to hear what I've described as poetic playing. Her unfailingly gorgeous tone is wedded to an ability to mold each phrase beautifully. As a pianist I am in awe of her seemingly effortless but special pedaling. Her legatos are silken. The technique heard in the display passages in the outer movements is breathtaking. (I will need to get her recording of the Etudes to hear more of this.)
She is sensitively accompanied by the fine Vancouver Symphony conducted by their long-time music director, Bramwell Tovey. Chopin's sometimes muddy orchestration is clarified in these performances.
Fialkowska has recorded the Concertos before in the unusual transcriptions for string quintet of the orchestral accompaniment. I have not heard those performances.