Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Little Chopin

I left Edmonton this past Saturday morning for a trip down to Edmonton to see my first concert of the season with the Calgary Philharmonic and what a treat it was.  This concert marked the 3rd time I have heard Polish-Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska perform, the previous occasions being a performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto #4  back in March in Edmonton and several years ago when I was attending university in Windsor, Ontario.

Fialkowska does have a pretty inspirational back story which made the evening's performance extra special.  Back in 2002, she was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer in her left arm, something that would normally be a career ender for an established concert pianist.  Not only did she best the cancer but she also took a long hiatus from her concert career to rehabilitate her damaged arm.  She did this in part by taking a couple of piano concertos written exclusively for the left hand....and then RE-WRITING them so they could be played with the right hand so that she could continue with some semblance of a concert career while she healed.    I found this very interesting to hear about since when you look at your hands you note right away that you don't have a very big gap between your ring finger and baby finger as you do between your thumb and index finger.  In a sense, by playing with the opposite hand, she had to learn to play backwards in a sense.  But persevere she did and at 65 she is still going strong.

Ms. Fialkowska performed Chopin's Piano Concerto #1 and I don't really have much to say other than I throughly enjoyed it.  I had a excellent seat to the left and the side of the stage so I had a great view of her hands as she played.  This woman is  simply amazing when it comes to Chopin.  I should also mention that present in the concert hall was the Head of Mission for the Polish Consulate in Calgary.

The second half of the concert was taken up with Bruckner's Symphony #4.  Bruckner isn't that familiar with me though I have heard parts some of symphonies from time to time.  I have to say that I absolutely loved this piece.  At 70 minutes, it one of the longer symphonies I've heard, but what a tour de force it was.  Dramatic, an absolute beast.  As a brass player in high school, I really appreciated the brass writing......4 trumpets, 3 trombones and tuba, and they were spot on.  Some very nice moments for the viola section as well as they were given a moment to shine.  If one of the goals of an orchestra (and it should be) is to make you curious to explore other great works you might not know then this performance has really made me curious to check out some of Bruckner's other symphonic works as well.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that it halfway through the opening movement when I noticed that Mastro Roberto Minczuk was conducting without a score.  I didn't notice this for the Chopin since the piano was in the way but he wasn't using a score as well that would mean the man basically conducted close to 2 hours' worth of music from memory.  Outstanding memory and musicianship.

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