Notes and Editorial Reviews
Partitas: No. 1 in B?,
No. 2 in c,
op. 90 (D 899)
Simone Dinnerstein (pn)
SONY 798943 (75:47)
Simone Dinnerstein has been linked to the works of J. S. Bach ever since the triumphant success of her recording of the
almost five years ago. She has recorded one each of the English (No. 3) and French suites (No. 5, live in Berlin), along with two piano concertos (Nos. 1 and 5) and a handful of transcriptions. By intelligently programming certain works she has highlighted certain compositions, shedding new light on old warhorses. Even now as she approaches the Partitas, there is once again a theme to her program; and like her last album,
, the current one is inspired by the written word—here Philip Larkin’s poem
. In Dinnerstein’s own words, the music of both “Bach and Schubert … share a distinctive quality. Their nonvocal music has a powerful narrative, a vocal element. The effect is that of wordless voices singing textless melodies. Bach and Schubert’s melodic lines are so fluent, so expressive, and so minutely inflected that they sound as though they might at any moment burst suddenly into speech. They sound like something almost being said.” This is an interesting proposition, considering especially that the Bach she decides to pit against the Schubert is dance-inspired music. The way that Dinnerstein comes to this music does make one believe that there is some validity to her ideas, though. Were I reviewing the album without any sort of suggestion of programming, I might have found that there was (and still to my ears there is a bit of) a static sound quality. The question is, however, does the artist want there to be? Does she want Schubert and Bach to share more than just a vocal inspiration, but a sonic similarity as well?
The program opens with one of Bach’s most impassioned works, and a favorite of many pianists, the C-Minor Partita. Dinnerstein beautifully shapes the various sections of the opening Sinfonia; her legato is silken, each individual note bouncy and rounded when more articulated. There is, however, a lack of momentum—the opening is a bit flat in its impact. The following Allemande flows well and is nicely voiced, though for my tastes it is a bit too slow; it makes way, however, for the drive of the following Courante. The Rondeau is my personal favorite—it is light, airy, and fluid. Dinnerstein uses a plethora of articulations to maintain interest throughout. The final Capriccio is taken at a very fast pace. Perhaps Dinnerstein was saving the impact of the composition until the last moment?
The Schubert follows. Here the pianist’s natural temperament pays the biggest dividends—she is a romantic at heart, and her vocal-inspired accounts work particularly well here. Though she sometimes sounds a bit too fussy in her way with the music, her attention to detail—in articulation, phrasing, color, and timbre—brings a vibrancy to the music. Though the C-Minor Impromptu, in particular, suffers most from certain mannerisms, the following Schubert works all benefit from her simple way with them—she lets them be what they are rather than forcing her own ideas upon them. At her best she makes these works sing; by naturally breathing with the music she infuses them with a true sense of “something almost being said.”
The following B?-Partita is interpreted in a more introspective manner—the piece sounds reawakened and fresh. The relaxed tempo of the Allemande, the graceful manner with the Minuets, and the glowing sheen of the Gigue are all particularly entrancing. Her playing here is utterly captivating at its best.
Dinnerstein once again shows that she is a thoughtful and technically accomplished artist. In this recorded age it is especially wonderful to hear an intelligently programmed recital. Though the repertoire is all standard fare, the way it is put together and the conception behind it brings new life to this music. If one is looking for great performances of just the Bach works stick with Gould, Tureck, Schiff, or Sheppard. For the Schubert, I prefer Edwin Fischer. Schnabel is a bit more straightforward, and for modern sound Perahia works nicely. In the end though, if you want to hear these two composers a bit differently—and what avid listener doesn’t?—one can’t go wrong with this very fine recording.
FANFARE: Scott Noriega
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