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CD Feature/ Simone Dinnerstein: "J.S. Bach - Goldberg Variations"

img  Tobias

Maybe for the Goldberg Variations to sound fresh again after innumerable recordings and endless debates, they need to be played by someone like Simone Dinnerstein. Dinnerstein was born in New York and the photography to this release features pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge as well as of her against an urban backdrop of huge stone archs and metal railings. In the promotional video accompanying the CD publication, she even talks freely about her love for the Beatles and Bob Dylan. There’s no denying it: Everything about this release smells of the 21st century. Simone may classify her rendition as a journey to a different time and place and stress how she has always loved Early Music and Rennaissance pieces - but all of the contemporary exterior influences will naturally make themselves heard in one way or the other.

And yet, these “Goldberg Variations” are far from being eccentric or experimental. Dinnerstein has listened to Uri Caine’s reworking and the Jazz adaptation of the Jacques Loussier Trio, one can expect her to be familiar with even more daring and daunting versions of the work and the extremes to which it can be taken. But from listening to her own interpretation, it seems as though she feels the piece is radical enough in its pure state. Consequently, she is not looking for complex and constructed conceptual tension archs, but for clarity. As she points out herself: “Each variation explores a distinctive mood, a particular sound world, and a unique shade of character and emotion.” The underlying theoretical basis of using the opening aria as the source of musical material plays less importance here than sculpting each single track into a self-sustained entity and developping its singular characteristics. In the first half of the Goldberg, this means giving back a touch of innocence to the variations, especially in the slower movements, which are both lucid and starry-eyed but also in the faster sections, which press ahead with unfettered enthusiasm. Dinnerstein’s tone is shimmering, crystaline and prominent, her melodic lines are precise, but never analytical: She enjoys the virtuoso aspect of the presto pieces and will always prefer stunning her audience if this means blurring the edges somewhat. In the second half, the overall mood is more reflective, as if the work itself were falling into a pensive slumber. The final cycle, however, picks up the pace again and forges forward with regained strength. The closing Aria, then, is neither a mere repetition of its predecessor, no transcendental resolution nor simple return to the physical world. Rather, it presents itself as a clarified view of the same object – the score may effectively look the same, but it is obvious, that what lies between has left a mark. In this climax, the unified nature of the album becomes apparent. Dinnerstein’s Goldberg is a mosaic, a collection of many pearls, which shine on their own, but all add up to a glistening panopticum.

There may well be a possibility for Dinnerstein to extend the effect of her approach even further. In her live performances, she has been known to include the originally envisaged repetitions of the variations, stretching the music to over one and a half hours – something impossible within the limited means of a CD, but an idea which could be realised for everyone with a high bandwidth internet connection and an iPod..As it is, what makes the music sound fresh again is the will to take it as it is without considering the 21st century influences as distractions. Simone Dinnerstein is right:The strict organisation and strucuture of the “Goldberg Variations” are no constraints – nor is listening to Dylan and the Beatles.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Simone Dinnerstein
Homepage: Telarc Records

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