Sunday, February 15, 2009

Simone Dinnerstein, Piano Recital

Simone Dinnerstein burst on the piano recital world with a much discussed and hyped recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations. A second recording featured many of the works heard in her Friends Of Chamber Music recital last night at the Folly Theatre. Continuing her concentration on Bach, she performed the French Suite # 5, a new (2001) work by Philip Lasser "12 Variations on a Chorale by J.S. Bach 'Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott'" plus 4 Schubert Impromptus (op 90)to begin the evening. The concert concluded with Beethoven's valedictory sonata # 32, op. 111.

The 4 Schubert Impromptus were arguably the most successful performances of the evening. On a grand scale, making the title "impromptu" almost laughable, these masterpieces benefited from Dinnerstein's formidable technique. She was able to convey the power and almost symphonic heft of these works. Her fluid tempi and free rubato worked well in these pinnacles of Romantic piano music.

Yet the same fluidity and romantic bent worked less well in the Bach. Although I prefer Bach on the piano, she disregarded the elegant, almost scientific elements in the Bach for a more Mendelssohnian sound. However using a piano does not mean it has to sound like Chopin or even Beethoven. The overall performance was a bit on the slow side,the brisk dance movements could not make up for the overall static slow movements.

The Lasser piece, although from 2001 could best be described as Bach meets Rachmaninoff via NPR's "Hearts of Space" space/new age music program. Interesting, but not truly memorable.

The evening's closer Beethoven's incredible Sonata #32, op 111 is of course his last, looking away from Haydn and on towards Chopin, Schubert and beyond. Dinnerstein dug in to the dissonance and power of the opening Maestoso. The long, sublime Arietta, a set of variations, held together nicely. Dinnerstein really relished the famous "boogie woogie variation" frankly making it a bit too jarring and jazzy, but most assuredly pointing out that Beethoven was taking piano music into a new world. Dinnerstein's flowing, well judged tempi and the aforementioned fluidity highlighted the contrasts between the two movements and brought the sonata and concert to a satisfying close.

Dinnerstein barely moves while at the piano, her hands staying somewhat close to the keyboard. A very quiet, almost aloof artist (at least in this performance) she is in stark contrast and somewhat refreshing in this age of histrionic piano playing.

Seeming to hang her career on Bach, Dinnerstein is much more effective and exciting in the early romantic works. I would love to hear more Schubert from her... and less of the overly romantic Bach.

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