2012 Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Classical Music)
For over 35 years, concert pianist Janina Fialkowska has been enchanting audiences and critics around the world with her lyrical interpretations of the classical and Romantic repertoire, particularly Chopin, Mozart and Liszt. She has appeared as a guest soloist with prestigious international ensembles, and her discography includes several JUNO-nominated recordings. As the founder of the Piano Six music outreach program, she has championed works by Canadian composers and brought the joy of live classical music to thousands of Canadians living in remote communities.
Ms. Fialkowska was born in Montreal in 1951 and studied piano in Montreal, Paris (with Yvonne Lefébure) and New York (at the Juilliard School with Sascha Gorodnitzki). She made her debut as a piano soloist with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra at the age of 11, and placed first in the 1969 CBC National Talent Festival.
Her career was launched in 1974, when renowned pianist Arthur Rubinstein became her mentor after her prize-winning performance at his inaugural Master Piano Competition. Since then she has performed with the foremost orchestras in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and has won special recognition for a series of important premieres, notably Liszt’s newly discovered Third Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony in 1990.
As the founding director (1993) of the Chalmers Award-winning Piano Six project and its successor, Piano Plus, she has brought some of Canada’s greatest classical music artists together with Canadians who, for geographical or financial reasons, would otherwise be unable to experience this calibre of live performance.
In 2002 Ms. Fialkowska developed a malignant tumour in her left arm. Undaunted, she transcribed and performed (with her right hand) the left-hand concertos of Ravel and Prokofiev. After successful surgery, she resumed her two-handed career in 2004.
“My thing about playing the piano is the lyricism,” she says. “That’s why I’m so happy playing Mozart, Chopin, Liszt and Schumann, because that’s where I find that lyricism. I feel I’m doing what I was meant to do in life, what I can do well.”
Awards and honours include Officer of the Order of Canada (2001), the Paul de Hueck and Norman Walford Career Achievement Award (2007), the Turzanski Foundation Award (2011), and honorary doctorates from Acadia and Queen’s Universities.