For his Pro Musicis-sponsored recital at UCLA on Saturday, pianist Gary Steigerwalt chose a challenging program ranging from five Preludes by Debussy to the cerebral explorations of John La Montaine's Opus 3 Sonata to the virtuosity of two excerpts from Liszt's "Annees du Pelerinage."
Despite a prodigious technique, the East Coast-based musician was only able to meet those challenges part way.
In the Debussy, for instance, Steigerwalt demonstrated a soft touch on the keys and a tasteful control of the pedals; yet he failed to explore the score's subtleties.
Most successful were three late Schubert pieces, which received warm, expansive readings. The music's straightforward lyricism seemed to suit the pianist best.
Steigerwalt possesses a sensitive touch as well as strength to burn. The latter was demonstrated in the La Montaine (with the composer present) and the Liszt pieces. Bartok's "Hungarian Peasant" improvisations, too, received a blistering reading. But once again the character of the music proved elusive.