One of the world’s greatest living pianists is set to enchant the audience at a top music festival.
Virtuoso Janina Fialkowska, 65, will be one of the stars of the North Wales International Music Festival, which gets underway at St Asaph Cathedral on Saturday, September 17.
She will be conducting a piano masterclass on Thursday, September 22 and will be giving a recital the following evening, including pieces by Grieg, Schumann and Chopin.
The festival will be held with the support of the Arts Council of Wales and Tŷ Cerdd and continues until Saturday, October 1.
It’s been a busy year for Fialkowska as she has celebrated her 65th birthday criss-crossing the globe for a gruelling series of concerts and recitals but she says she is very much looking forward to performing in North Wales.
Montreal-born Fialkowska, the daughter of a Canadian mother and Polish father, is recognised as one of the great interpreters of the music of Chopin and Mozart.
She said: “It’s been an ambition of mine to perform in Wales. It’s a land with a reputation for having the best singers and choirs and audiences who really love music.
“Performing at the North Wales International Music Festival is something I am really excited about and looking forward to.
“I am particularly excited about conducting a master class with some very talented young people. I enjoy letting them play and then giving them my advice, which very often, I’d say about 80 per cent of the time, is about reinforcing what their piano teachers have already told them.
“A lot of the time it’s about offering experience that you get from years of performing and sometimes just hearing a different view can help. I always enjoy master classes and working with talented young people.”
Fialkowska began learning the piano aged five, encouraged by her mother who was also a pianist.
She said: “I practiced very hard but performed in public very little. I was lucky in that my mother shielded me from that whole child prodigy scene. I did however make my solo debut with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra aged 12.
“I now live in Germany, in Bavaria, but still perform in Canada a great deal and go at least three or four times a year. This year has been very busy though as I embarked on a tour to celebrate my 65th birthday.
“I have finished the first half having performed in Germany, Canada, Japan, Northern Ireland, Spain, Portugal and England.
“Before I travel to St Asaph I’ll be performing in Poland at the International Chopin Piano Festival and immediately after St Asaph I’ll be returning to Canada for a further series of concerts and recitals.”
Fialkowska says that, of all the great composers, it’s the work of Chopin that she adores most, although Mozart comes a close second.
She added: “Chopin devoted almost his entire output to the piano and he really understood the modern keyboard. It just feels so good to play and his works have the greatest melodies. It’s totally satisfying.
“Pianists have to understand a composer. If it’s not in your blood you simply can’t perform a work as it is meant to be performed. Yes you need talent to play but you also need an affinity with the composer and know exactly what he was trying to say.
“Even in my advanced years I practice for at least three hours a day, every day.
“It’s like an athlete; you have to keep in training and using all the muscles your repertoire requires. So even when I’m at home and taking a break from performing I practice every day.”
Her programme at the North Wales International Music Festival will include works by a range of composers.
She said: “I have been requested to perform lyrical pieces by Edvard Grieg and I will also be performing some work by Schumann. But of course I will also include work by Chopin.
“I never tire of playing Chopin and I hope the North Wales International Music Festival audience will enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoy performing it.”
The festival’s artistic director, Ann Atkinson, believes this year’s festival will be one of the best ever, including the world premiere of royal composer Professor Paul Mealor’s second symphony.
She said: “We have a fantastic and varied programme for this year’s festival including an Aspire/Inspire concert featuring the Royal harpist, Anne Denholm, as well as Iwan Llewelyn Jones, Siwan Rhys and pupils from Ysgol Glan Clwyd and the Denbighshire Music Co-operative.
“And we also have concert performances by classical guitarist Miloš Karadaglić, West End soprano Margaret Preece, who will perform songs inspired by Rodgers and Hammerstein, NEW Sinfonia, violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen, and vocal groups Ex Cathedra, The Vale of Clwyd Singers and the Festival Choir.
“Janina Fialkowska is a truly remarkable and talented pianist whose career has seen her grace many of the world’s top concert halls. She has also performed with some of the very best orchestras.
“It will be a thrill to hear her perform. The North Wales International Music Festival is all about bringing the very best classical music and musicians to North Wales and they simply don’t come any bigger or better than Janina Fialkowska.
“There is something in the programme for everyone and it really is going to be an amazing and very exciting festival which is a must for every fan of classical music in North Wales and beyond.”
To find out more about The North Wales International Music Festival please visit www.nwimf.com. Tickets are available from Theatr Clwyd, 01352 701521 or Cathedral Frames, St Asaph, 01745 582929.