BACH & SCHUBERT: “Something Almost Being Said” – BACH Partitas 1 & 2, SCHUBERT Impromptus Op. 90 – Simone Dinnerstein, piano – Sony Classical 88697989432, 75 mins. ****:
Dinnerstein’s 2011 debut for Sony–Bach: A Strange Beauty–reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Classical Chart, and made it into the Billboard Top 200. The playing had an inward clunky elegance which accorded with Dinnerstein’s carefully-presented, user-friendly marketing image. Her Bach on the this second concept recital is equally good (especially in the spaced-out reaches of the B-flat major Partita No. 1 which ends with a perfect, melting Gigue) and is matched by Schubert of an even higher order. The Four Impromptus‘ famous melodies and beloved coloristic effects seem to float above the strings; the sound seems to shimmers into Grammy-winning producer Adam Abeshouse’s recording microphones.
Appropriately, the center spread shows Dinnerstein in a home-like setting, robed in concert black, playing an immense concert grand while gazing adoringly at her husband and son who are reflected in a wall-length mirror. The playing is indeed like you would expect to hear in such a domestic situation: Dinnerstein translates both Bach and Schubert into very intimate terms; unlike concert performances, in which she would have to open up, she finds emotional response in the plastic quality of the phrasing, and finds warmth in the scores’ wonderful clarity so that the music teems with life. Her small-ball-playing yields big results.
The sound is quite gorgeous and handles high volumes brilliantly; recorded at the Academy of Arts and Letters in New York, it focuses particularly well when Dinnerstein is doing something pianistically interesting, like fooling around with trills.
Dinnerstein writes in the notes that “Bach and Schubert share a distinctive quality. Their non-vocal music has a powerful narrative, a vocal element. The effect is that of wordless voices singing textless melodies. Bach and Schubert’s melodic lines are so fluent, so expressive, and so minutely inflected that they sound as though they might at any moment burst suddenly into speech. They sound like something almost being said.” If you can make sense of that, you will also enjoy the poem she quotes and from which the CD takes its title, Philip Larkin’s The Trees.
Haydn Quartets, spanning two decades