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In her 2014 debut recording, Eta Carinae, Belarussian-born, London-resident Olga Stezhko provided personal interpretations of a selection of late works by Busoni and Scriabin. In her long-awaited successor, she has turned to Debussy, marking the centenary of his death in 2018.

This new album was originally planned to include Children’s Corner (1906-8) and Suite bergamasque (1890-1, rev 1905) framed by the two books of Images (1905; 1907). Stezhko then fell in love with the solo piano version of 6 Épigraphes antiques (1914, arr 1915). More often performed in their original four-hand version, these wonderful miniatures are given a subtle, fluent reading that beautifully captures their delicious, at times severe, restraint.

Stezhko’s live performances of Images have garnered much critical praise. In the first book, Stezhko’s swift tempi outpace rivals like Thibaudet (Decca), but she is equally evocative in ‘Reflets dans l’eau’ and the concluding ‘Mouvement’ rattles along with winning verve. In the second book, Stezhko holds her own, even in ‘Poissons d’or’ (without quite matching Thibaudet’s glitter), and Palermo Classica’s greater immediacy of sound emphasises the clean precision of her playing.

The recorded sound may well be the clinching factor for many listeners. Engineers Antonio Zarcone and Pasha Mansurov have miked Stezhko very closely compared with the dreamy acoustics enjoyed by Thibaudet and Angela Hewitt (Hyperion). This gives Children’s Corner and the Suite bergamasque a very intimate feeling – almost as if one were looking over Stezhko’s shoulder. Her involving interpretations are decidedly those of a young player, still to some degree getting to know the music, and she communicates that excitement of discovery throughout.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2019 - ©Rhinegold Publishing