There must be more encouraging ways to make a Los Angeles debut than in a small hall on Labor Day weekend. Pianist Donna Stoering's program Friday evening at Steinway Hall was large and varied, but that could not be said of her audience.
The 31-year old pianist is attempting to reestablish a concert career after leaving the stage to start a family. Stoering's program certainly made a fairly comprehensive resume of her technical ability and stylistic range, but interpretively, her heart seemed to belong to Chopin.
The second half consisted of the Nocturnes in B-flat minor and D-flat, seven Waltzes, and the "Fantasie Impromtu." Here Stoering seemed to be playing for herself. There was some evidence toward the end that she might be tiring, but otherwise her fingers found all the notes with expressive fluency.
In contrast, there was a stiff, deliberate feeling to much of Stoering's playing on the busy first half, as though she were performing for a hostile jury. Significantly, the music emotionally or technically most akin to Chopin's sparked her most persuasive efforts.