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CD Feature/ Simone Dinnerstein: "The Berlin Concert"

img  Tobias
Huge concert halls can be awe-inspiring and frightening places. Lately, Simone Dinnerstein has seen a lot of them. It is by no means a coincidence that her second album, released almost exactly a year after her take on the “Goldberg Variations” started its glorious tour of triumph, should have been recorded live and on the road: Dividing her time between Europe and the USA and travelling from one city to the next on a daily basis, her tender and meditative touch has been put to a gladiator-test out there in the cruel cultural arenas of the world.

For Dinnerstein, of course, things have been anything but atrocious. She has taken her time for the follow-up to that famed solo debut, selected live opportunities carefully, stayed true to her heart in choosing repertoire and never let go of her characteristic tone. Clear and cool, romantic and feminine, silent and yet insistent, it still occupies a place outside of time which is completely its own and awards Dinnerstein the unique position of being completely unmistakable in the crowded segment of classical Pianists.

“The Berlin Concert”, too, is a distinct and personal effort. Bach is key to its understanding: Everything flows from his almighty fluidum here, every note is infused with his beatific breath. Dinnerstein’s field of vision is, of course, focussed by her unwavering love for the composer and an inner connection which makes this bond across centuries seem alive and kicking. She hears his counterpoint technique welling up from Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor” and feels instinctively drawn to Philip Lasser’s “Twelve Variations on a Chorale by J.S. Bach”. Showing how much these artists were influenced by Bach and revealing how much she herself was inspired by his music – it’s really the same thing here.

Already the opening Bach original, the “French Suite No. 5 in G-major” is performed with crystaline concentration and undeniable passion. Dinnerstein slows down the slow passages until they all but seem to stand still and in the faster-paced movements (such as the barely one-minute long “Bouree” or the even shorter and playful “Gavotte”), she always prefers elegance and balance above breakneck virtuosity. Even though only a fraction of the “Goldberg”’s length, she awards a sense of travelling to the suite, bringing it to a regal finale in the spiralling loops of the closing “Gigue”.

Her interpretation of Lasser is thoroughly contemporary in its juxtaposition of different styles and techniques. The variations feed from stark contrasts, often connected merely by emotional factors. Here, Dinnerstein stresses the powerful passages, her thounderous cadences and nervous keyboard beams chasing through foggy back-alleys, dodging stray cats and burning garbage cans. The Beethoven Sonata, meanwhile, turns into a testing ground for her versatility and volubility as an artist. Carving the opening sequence into granite, then treating the ensuing romantic “Maestoso” with joyous zest, she finds infinite pleasure in returning to the main motive over and over again.

The epic eighteen minutes of the “Arietta” open with Dinnerstein in a sensual mood, letting the chords glide by with majestic regularity. She allows Jazz influences to pierce the fabric of the turbulent middle section, before dreamily delaying her departure and only gradually fading out into oblivion towards the end. The influence of Bach is not even that apparent in every second of this work, but when she returns for an encore of the 13th Goldberg Variation, everything suddenly seems to make sense and the circle closes in an air of exciting harmony.

Until you get there, the music sometimes dims down to a hush. You can almost see people bending over the ballustrades to catch every silent stroke of sound radiating from the stage, folding their ears forward in their cupped hands to avoid missing a single note. It is a picture of unusual and unexpected intimacy, but there is hardly a more elating experience than to be transfixed by nothing but 88 black and white keys. The hugest concert halls can turn into such tiny spaces in the hands of a Pianist like Simone Dinnerstein.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Simone Dinnerstein
Homepage: Telarc Recordings

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