June 4, 2018. Here’s an unusual pairing: Piano works by Philip Glass and J.S. Bach, played by pianist Simone Dinnerstein, with performances by the Boston-based string orchestra, A Far Cry. Dinnerstein’s new release Circles is a circuit of virtuosity.
Classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein is just back from Havana, where she performed with Cuba's National Youth Orchestra. She is also working with young people back in her hometown, New York. One of her goals? To introduce students to the composer she's best known for performing — Johann Sebastian Bach. She's taking digital pianos into public schools in a program she calls "Bach-packing."
Simone Dinnerstein's latest CD Broadway-Lafayette is named after the subway stop in New York City. But, as Dinnerstein explains in her most recent visit to Crossover, there is an ulterior motive at play in the title - the relationship of America and France, dating back to the American Revolution, when the Marquis de Lafayette helped American colonists send the British back across the Atlantic licking their wounds. And there is yet another undercurrent in the theme of American and French relationships - that of the composers on the recording.
Almost any pianist, from a budding beginner to a pro like Simone Dinnerstein, will tell you that one of the basic techniques of keyboard playing is also the toughest to master: making your hands to do separate things simultaneously.
When Bach wrote his Inventions and Sinfonias BWV 772-801, he described them this way, "An Honest Guide by which lovers of the clavier, and particularly those with a desire to learn, are shown a plain way, not only (1) to learn and play neatly in two parts, but also, with further progress, (2) to play correctly and well in three obligato parts; and, at the same time, not only to obtain good musical themes, but also to develop them well; above all, however, to achieve a cantabile style of playing, and along with it, to gain a strong foretaste of composition."
Pianist Simone Dinnerstein with Jill Pasternak on Crossover, Jan. 12, 2013
The title of pianist Simone Dinnerstein's latest Sony release is Something Almost Being Said. Despite the title, taken from one of the lines in Phillip Larkin's poem, "The Trees," her performance on the CD certainly does speak, quite loudly, of her virtuosity while capturing the intimacy of the music.
The subtitle of the album is Music of Bach and Schubert - music that, Ms. Dinnerstein says is, very personal to her. In fact, as she tells Jill, in mentioning to her husband that this music "feels like it's saying something that couldn't be said in words," he responded with Larkin's poem. The opening lines of "The Trees" are:
"The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said,
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief..."
Ms. Dinnerstein's "career tree" started to take root as she studied in the pre-college program at the Manhattan School of Music with Solomon Mikowsky. She later attended The Juilliard School of Music and was a student of Peter Serkin. She also studied in London with Maria Curcio.
Her break came with the self-financed recording of J.S. Bach's "Goldberg Variations." Released by Telarc in 2007, the disc hit No. 1 on the Billboard Classical chart within one week, and outsold most rock CDs on Amazon.com. The CD appeared on a number of “Best of 2007” lists, including those of The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Time Out New York, iTunes “Editor’s Choice Best Classical,” Amazon.com Best CDs of 2007, and Barnes & Noble's Top 5 Debut CDs of 2007.
The three albums Ms. Dinnerstein has released since then: The Berlin Concert (Telarc), Bach: A Strange Beauty (Sony), and the aforementioned Something Almost Being Said (Sony), have also topped the classical charts, with Bach: A Strange Beauty making the Billboard Top 200, which compiles the entire music industry's sales of albums in all genres. Ms. Dinnerstein was the best-selling instrumentalist of 2011 on the U.S. Billboard Classical chart and was included in NPR's 2011 100 Favorite Songs from all genres.
There's something about Johann Sebastian Bach's music that nourishes musicians. Pianist Andras Schiff and cellist Yo-Yo Ma have said that they play Bach almost every day — like having breakfast, it seems essential for them.
Jim Cotter speaks with Simone Dinnerstein. The internationally acclaimed pianist performs with the Chiara Quartet on March 7th at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns previews a performance by Philadelphia Singers and the new music ensembles Relache and Orchestra 2001 featuring premieres by Philip Glass, Steven Reich, and Joseph Castado.
Susan Lewis profiles the Delaware Art Museum, which continues a tradition of telling stories through art.