Notes and Editorial Reviews
BACH: A STRANGE BEAUTY
Simone Dinnerstein (pn); Berlin Staatskapelle CO
SONY 88697727282 (65:32)
Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ,
Keyboard Concerto No. 5,
Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gmein,
English Suite No. 3,
Keyboard Concerto No. 1,
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,
Since her debut recording of the
released in 2007, which by now many know she funded herself, before it was picked up and released by Telarc, New York pianist Simone Dinnerstein has virtually toured the world. In 2008 and 2009 respectively, she released two additional recordings: a concert in Berlin, featuring music of Bach, Lasser, and Beethoven; and the complete works for piano and cello by Beethoven with cellist Zuill Bailey. For her first release on Sony, she has decided to return to the works of Bach, though this time in various guises: transcriptions, concerti, and solo works.
Her recital begins with a Busoni transcription. She wastes no time in setting the mood, and does well in making the piano sound similar to an organ. Her ability to shape the melody, almost singing out on the instrument, gives the piece a special sheen. Dinnerstein is also not afraid to use the pedal to her advantage here and elsewhere in similar spots, though her pedaling at times can be a bit heavy; just witness the glow that she creates in Kempff’s transcription. She is fleet-fingered, making the scales just whiz by, but tends to like a hazy sound throughout. When confronting Bach’s original works, she lightens the sound and texture a bit, to great advantage; one can easily hear the intricate counterpoint in the prelude to the English Suite. She manages to infuse the music with a good sense of drive, at times taking a bit of a breather at cadences to allow us to catch up and enjoy the ride. Her slower movements never have the kind of overt sentimentality that occasionally crept into her
recording, and the sarabande to the G-Minor suite is played with severity and delicacy at the same time. My favorite movement (or movement set) in the suite would certainly be the gavottes. Dinnerstein attacks the dissonances, creating a biting sound in their repeated hearings. The second gavotte’s wonderfully paced and relaxed movement breaks the tension, before the initial dance’s reentry. The concertos, other than a few oddities (the sloppy opening by the pianist to the D-Minor concerto, for example), are played with grace and aplomb. One can sense a bit of period-instrument awareness by the players, yet there are tinges of a romantic soul in certain details of dynamics and phrasing. The finale to the F-Minor concerto is played sprightly, at breakneck speed, which works particularly well after the beautifully molded long Baroque line of the Adagio and the heavy severity of the opening movement. The players of the Berlin ensemble make wonderful partners, as they read and then match the breath and pacing of the soloist.
All in all, a real treat, one that has been thoughtfully programmed and thoughtfully performed. As Dinnerstein tends to prefer a more romantic approach toward Bach, one should be ready for that aspect upon listening. But if one listens with open ears, one will be greatly rewarded. The sound of the recording is clear and vibrant, with almost no reverberation. The sound is perfectly suited to home listening, never too dry. Hats off to the performers and the production team on a successful release.
FANFARE: Scott Noriega
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