An internationally known Canadian pianist of Polish extraction, Janina Fialkowska is widely regarded as an extraordinary interpreter of the Romantic repertoire, particularly excelling as a performer of Chopin and Liszt. To be acclaimed as an interpreter of both Chopin and Liszt is a remarkable achievement for any pianist, given that these composers, both demanding a transcendental technique, represent profoundly different, even incompatible, musical universes. Often described as pianist who overcomes the most harrowing technical obstacles with a confidence suggesting elegant nonchalance, Fialkowska also plays with deep, passionate involvement, convincingly communicating, as critics have affirmed, her profound spiritual identification with the music. Because of her Polish heritage and affinity with Polish music, Fialkowska is frequently associated with Chopin's music. Nevertheless, her repertoire is wide, ranging from Bach and Beethoven to Bartok and Lutoslawski, and she indefatigably champions contemporary Polish and Canadian music.
Born in Montreal, Fialkowska started studying piano at the age of five. Having started her formal musical education at the École de Musique Vincent d'Indy in Montreal, Fialkowska attended the Université de Montréal, where she graduated. In 1969, she won First Prize in the Radio Canada National Talent Festival, later travelling to Paris, where she studied with Yvonne Lefebure. Fialkowska later studied with Sascha Gorodnitzki at the Juilliard School of Music. In 1974, she won First Prize in the inaugural Arthur Rubinstein Master Piano Competition in Israel, also receiving tremendous support and encouragement from Rubinstein himself, who declared her an admirable pianist. Following this triumph, Fialkowska embarked on a brilliant international career, performing with the most acclaimed orchestra of Europe and North America, and working with many eminent conductors, including Charles Dutoit, Kyril Kondrashin, and Sir George Solti. Among her many accomplishments are world premieres of piano concertos by Franz Liszt (1990), Libby Larsen (1991), and Marjan Mozetich (2000). In 1992, she gave the North American premiere of Andrzej Panufnik's piano concerto. Fialkowska also founded Piano Six and Piano Plus, groups of prominent Canadian musicians taking music to remote areas of Canada. In 2002, a cancerous tumor was removed from Fialkowska's left arm. During her recovery, she transcribed the Ravel and Prokofiev concertos for left hand in order to perform with her right hand. Since then, she has returned fully to performing and recording, releasing chamber ensemble versions of Mozart and Chopin concertos and premiering a new concerto by John Burge inspired by Chopin for the 2010 Chopin anniversary.