Juliana Steinbach at Église Saint-Sulpice de Faleyrens

Partita in C minor, BWV826
32 Variations in C minor, WoO80
Chôros No.5 – Alma Brasileira
Cicio brasileiro No.3 – Festa no Sertäo
Nuages gris
Années de pèlerinage: Troisième année – Les jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este
Barcarolle, Op.60
Images, Book I – Reflets dans l’eau
Suite Bergamasque – Clair de lune
Images, Book II – Poissons d’or
L’Isle joyeuse
Allegro barbaro

Juliana Steinbach (piano)

Reviewed by: Michael Johnson

Reviewed: 6 March, 2015
Venue: Église Saint-Sulpice de Faleyrens, St Émilion, France

Juliana SteinbachPhotograph: Balazs Borocs / Pilvax Studio

Brazilian-born pianist Juliana Steinbach brought her charisma and exuberance to this 12th-century church near St Émilion, performing a range of works from J. S. Bach to Béla Bartók, with a dollop of Villa-Lobos thrown in. Steinbach moved to Europe as a child and has built a solid following in France and Germany. She studied at the Juilliard School in New York with Joseph Kalichstein. She has made several recordings. It was an invigorating experience to hear this stunning young brunette attack – there is no other word – a disparate collection of pieces.

She is one of those confident players who wastes no time getting into the music, lunging at the keyboard without apparent reflection as she positions herself on the stool. She opened with Bach, moving seamlessly into the Beethoven, both performed meticulously. The stone-walls of the venue reverberated with her assaults, which at times produced an overwhelming sound. Steinbach closed the recital’s first part with two ebullient pieces by Heitor Villa-Lobos, perfect for her fiery temperament.

For part two I moved to the back row of the old church to test the acoustics. Steinbach seemed more at ease and gave the highlight of the night, a lyrical interpretation of Chopin’s dreamy Barcarolle, which requires the most melodic singing qualities. She brought out the luminosity of the piece. Debussy followed, and she then jarred us with Bartok’s aptly named Allegro barbaro. There were two encores, the ‘Gigue’ from Bach’s Partita in B flat (BWV825), and Sgambati’s transcription of ‘Dance of the Blessed Spirits’ from Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice.

This recital came two days after Steinbach had accompanied violinist Nicolas Dautricourt in a separate châteaux programme. She then hurried back to Paris where she was performing the next night. Her two events opened the new season of “Grandes Heures de Saint Émilion”, involving music, wines and canapés. The series, launched and managed by François Querre, has booked fourteen evenings of salon concerts this year featuring piano and chamber music by promising performers.

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