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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 28, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 04
Pianist Dinnerstein offers comfortable and expressive music
Arts & Entertainment
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Pianist Dinnerstein offers comfortable and expressive music

by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein
January 12
Meany Hall


Moving from the previous pianist in the President's Piano Series, Lara Downes, to the current Simone Dinnerstein was a big leap from merely pretty notes to real music making. Everything under Ms. Dinnerstein's fingers became songful and expressive. (A visual note: Her press photos must be rather old, for her appearance now is of a woman somewhat more mature and almost matronly.)

She began with Schumann's 'Fantasiestücke, Op. 12.' No barnstorming here, nor was there any lack of technical facility when called for. While my guest for the evening found the Schumann the highlight of the program, I found it competent but not memorable. It lacked a sense of adventure and discovery that I have heard from other proponents.

Ms. Dinnerstein has made Bach her specialty and can be heard playing and discussing Bach on the web at http://www.npr.org/2011/01/09/132624232/first-listen-simone-dinnerstein-bach-a-strange-beauty. One can listen to a complete album of Bach and read an article on the artist by NPR friend Ashalen Sims. Bach's 'English Suite No. 3' completed the first half of the program. While not as exciting as Glenn Gould, her playing here leaned in his direction in its clarity and light-footed grace. The woman clearly knows what she's doing!

I'll restrain my comments of the three Bach transcriptions that followed intermission, for I really don't like transcriptions, with rare exception. I love hearing these three Chorale Preludes in their original form (from the 'Orgelbüchlein' and the 'Cantata No. 147') and miss the original sounds too much to appreciate these tunes here. They were 'Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ,' 'Nun freut euch, lieben Christen,' and 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring,' transcribed respectively by Busoni, Wilhelm Kempff, and Myra Hess. I failed to see anything special in these versions or in Ms. Dinnerstein's playing of them to justify their place on the program.

On the other hand, Franz Schubert's 'Four Impromptus, D899, Op.90' are welcome on the program of any pianist who can make them sing as well as Ms. Dinnerstein. Again, her playing leaned more toward clarity than warmth. Indeed, I found them enjoyable but a little antiseptic. I wanted more sense of a parlor intimacy, after some cognac or sherry. But hers was certainly a valid and effective take on these sublimely gorgeous works.

Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu.

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