Recording: Steps: Piano Music of Claude Debussy and Jorge Martín
Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, August 15, 2004 (****)

“marvelous interpretive insights”

Jeux is Debussy’s late, towering statement of anticliché. Even today, there’s little in the repertoire that resembles these 20 minutes. More harmonically complex than most of his other output, and containing larger stretches of music without obvious melody, Jeux is one of those pieces you can listen to over and over and find something previously obscured.

Its structure is less obscured in this, Debussy’s own piano version, than in the more popular orchestral version. What we lose in color and pure sonic magnificence from the orchestra we gain in clarity from the piano: The chord progressions are startling, its close chromatic melodies alluring. It has a feeling of solitude in places that the orchestral version doesn’t find.

A story? It’s up to you. Premiered in 1913 and danced by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Jeux, Debussy wrote, had something to do with a tennis court, a lost ball, a chance meeting between two girls and a young man. The music suggests something considerably less innocent- sounding – a kind of nocturnal menace, perhaps. New Yorker Golan brings assured technique and some marvelous interpretive insights to the difficult reduction for piano.

Golan also includes first recordings of two works by Jorge Martín. Wand’ring Steps and Slow is full of exotic, chantlike figures that are as lovely and soulful as Khachaturian. Piano Fantasy on Sredni Vashtar is, predictably, less contemplative, given its subject matter: a story, by Saki, about a boy who keeps a pet ferret that ends up killing the boy’s guardian. It’s wonderfully epic music, dancing on the edge of dissonance in alternating playful and sardonic moods. It cries out for orchestration.

by Peter Dobrin, © 2004 Philadelphia Inquirer

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