Juliana Steinbach’s Hit and Miss Debussy

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 8

We are not told if the Blüthner piano utilized in these recordings is a vintage instrument, yet its mellow tonal qualities certainly evoke the “hammerless” aesthetic Debussy spoke about in reference to how he wanted his piano music to sound. If Juliana Steinbach does not consistently match the scintillation and virtuosic sheen that distinguish the best Debussy players past and present, it still is worth hearing her strongest efforts throughout the first volume of a projected cycle devoted to the composer’s complete solo piano works.

These include expansive and lovingly shaded performances of the opening and closing waltzes, Rèverie, and the Mazurka. By contrast, Suite bergamasque’s outer movements and Pour le piano’s concluding toccata are a little on the heavy and listless side, while Reflets dans l’eau and Poissons d’or lack the supple mood changes and effortless passagework you hear from Michelangeli, Moravec, Aimard, and Bavouzet, among many others. Yet Mouvements’ perpetual motion textures are beautifully pinpointed and controlled, with all of the accents and stresses perfectly placed and differentiated. The roomy yet ample engineering befits this repertoire, while Debussy scholar Roy Howat provides extensive and informative annotations.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Hommage à Debussy: Works for Piano Vol. 1
Reference Recording: Bavouzet (Chandos); Tirimo (Regis)

    Valse romantique; Rèverie; Mazurka; Suite bergamasque; Pour le piano; Images Books I & II; Valse: La plus que lente

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