Here's your disc of the week for Oct. 13, 2013. Each week CBC Radio 2's In Concert looks at new classical music releases and selects one recording that you'll want to know about.

Artist: Janina Fialkowska, piano.

Repertoire: Piano sonatas by Franz Schubert.

Label: ATMA Classique.

The music of Franz Schubert, says the great Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska, is "very difficult to pull off ... because in fact there are no extremes, there is no Grand Canyon, there is no Niagara Falls. It's more like a wonderful meadow, with a whole lot of life going on underneath."

Well, here's a chance to take a stroll through a very splendid musical meadow indeed — one blanketed in wild flowers, a pale blue sky lingering overhead, the smell of spring grass released with every step. A place of such great beauty, it's enough to make you weep.


Fialkowska performs the first movement (Allegro moderato) of Schubert's Piano Sonata No. 13 in A Major, D664.


This is the latest release from Fialkowska, who in the last couple of years has issued a series of outstanding recordings as if making up for lost time. And perhaps she is. Fialkowska's life and career were threatened in the early 2000s when she was treated for a rare form of cancer. She returned to the stage with a vengeance and is now playing and recording with a sense of intense purpose.

For this recording she's chosen two of Schubert's transcendent sonatas for piano. The first is the Sonata No. 13 in A major, written in 1819 when Schubert was 22 and living in the Austrian countryside, a place he described as "unimaginably lovely." The disc also features the Sonata No. 18 in G major, written seven years later, a work of luminous beauty.

According to one of Schubert's friends, the composer played his own music with "beautiful touch, a quiet hand, clear, neat playing full of insight and feeling." The same could be said of Fialkowska. This is subtle, lyrical playing, showing such easy virtuosity that you're never aware of the complexity and technical peril with which Schubert challenges even the most intrepid performer.

But what I like best is the sense of intimacy that surrounds the entire project. It's as though you've been invited to join composer and pianist on an afternoon stroll through that gorgeous meadow, to savour the air and sky and share their mutual joy in the sublime.

posted by Denise Ball on Oct 12, 2013