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Strange Beauty

Simone Dinnerstein , Bach Johann Sebastian Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Strange Beauty + Something almost being said: Music of Bach and Schubert + Goldberg Vars
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By John Kwok TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Hearing Simone Dinnerstein playing Bach is an experience that's almost quite unlike any other I have heard, either live, or in recent recordings. While many have tended to emphasize the more formal, more analytical, aspects of Bach's scores, here Dinnerstein succeeds most admirably in exploring Bach's expressive side, or rather, to quote the album title, "Bach: A Strange Beauty", which she does in compelling performances ranging from transcriptions of organ chorales (e. g. Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ BWV 639, arr. Busoni, the album's opening track) to solo keyboard works (e. g. English Suite in G Minor BWV 808), and finally, with the two keyboard concerti (Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F Minor BWV 808; Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D Minor BWV 1052) played with ample expressiveness from her and the period instrument practice-informed Kammerorchester Staatskapelle Berlin. The most cantabile Bach scores are those of the organ chorale transcriptions, especially the BWV 639.

If there is one unifying theme to Dinnerstein's expressive playing, it is the consistent joie de vivre one feels for each of the Bach pieces, emphasizing the strong emotional as well as analytical aspects of Bach's scores. Those who greatly enjoyed her critically and commercially acclaimed "Goldberg Variations" recording will find much to admire here from a fine young pianist who is the daughter and niece of two of our finest American painters (She does devote ample time in discussing her personal artistic connections to her father's work in the extensive liner notes, as well as explaining why she isn't interested in adhering to a period performance practice style.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bach- A Strange Beauty Nov. 1 2011
By EHS
Format:Audio CD
This is an excellent CD full of beautiful relaxing music. I am not a music critic, but I found it to be very well done and enjoyed Bach very much.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  30 reviews
49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Emotionally Riveting, Most Expressive Bach Courtesy of Simone Dinnerstein Jan. 22 2011
By John Kwok - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Hearing Simone Dinnerstein playing Bach is an experience that's almost quite unlike any other I have heard, either live, or in recent recordings. While many have tended to emphasize the more formal, more analytical, aspects of Bach's scores, here Dinnerstein succeeds most admirably in exploring Bach's expressive side, or rather, to quote the album title, "Bach: A Strange Beauty", which she does in compelling performances ranging from transcriptions of organ chorales (e. g. Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ BWV 639, arr. Busoni, the album's opening track) to solo keyboard works (e. g. English Suite in G Minor BWV 808), and finally, with the two keyboard concerti (Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F Minor BWV 808; Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D Minor BWV 1052) played with ample expressiveness from her and the period instrument practice-informed Kammerorchester Staatskapelle Berlin. The most cantabile Bach scores are those of the organ chorale transcriptions, especially the BWV 639.

If there is one unifying theme to Dinnerstein's expressive playing, it is the consistent joie de vivre one feels for each of the Bach pieces, emphasizing the strong emotional as well as analytical aspects of Bach's scores. Those who greatly enjoyed her critically and commercially acclaimed "Goldberg Variations" recording will find much to admire here from a fine young pianist who is the daughter and niece of two of our finest American painters (She does devote ample time in discussing her personal artistic connections to her father's work in the extensive liner notes, as well as explaining why she isn't interested in adhering to a period performance practice style. On a personal note, I am well aware that her uncle is a great painter in his own right, having been fortunate to attend high school with one of her uncle's children, and through that relative, becoming familiar with some of his father's work.). But even if you haven't heard Dinnerstein's Bach before, then this great recording should convince you that she is among our most exciting, and most compelling, interpreters of Bach. This is definitely a most auspicious debut from Simone Dinnerstein on her new label Sony, and one that promises substantially more compelling performances from one of our most unique, most distinctive, classical pianists.
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Waiting For! Jan. 18 2011
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Simone Dinnerstein's newest recording has been circulating among the cognoscenti for a while now and finally it has been released. It is a complete pleasure. Aptly titled BACH: A STRANGE BEAUTY, the Cd includes Keyboard Concerti Nos. 1 BWV 1052 and No. 5 BWV 1056 which she performs with the Kammerorchester Staatskapelle Berlin, the English Suite No 3 BWV 808, and three choral transcriptions for keyboard alone. Not to be outdone with the display of technical facility she offered in her Goldberg Variations recording, here Dinnerstein is drawn more to the elegant and gently Bach. Her touch is rich and full as is well suited to these works. There are high points, such as the Largo movement from the Concerto No. 5 - as richly romantic as Bach can be played (!), and the choral transcriptions are refreshingly elegant. The entire recoding is very well produced and there is not a disappointing aspect of this project by an artist who commands our respect. Highly recommended! Grady Harp, January 11
24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bach, and no nonsense - except perhaps for the title of the CD Jan. 29 2011
By Steen Mencke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
A big fan of the art of Simone Dinnerstein I have been waiting impatiently for a new issue to follow her superlative Berlin recital. Yet, "Oh, oh" - I thought when I saw the front cover: "A Strange Beauty - written in, what appears to be, chocolate; not an auspicious way to describe works by Bach, the Einstein of classical music. Somebody has been got at by the marketing mafia - "Simone Dinnerstein plays Bach" is no longer good enough, curiosity must now be lured by an ambiguous, quasi-nonsensical heading. Sic transit gloria mundi!" So it was with a mixture of anticipation and dread that I put this disc in my player and pushed the button.

Fortunately my fear was thoroughly put to shame. Luckily Simone is still Simone - and Bach is still Bach, and the peculiar title of the album probably(?) allures to the fact that the mixture of works on this disc is a bit of a "mêlée étrange": two keyboard concertos with an interposed English suite, all devided by piano transcriptions of two organ chorals and a cantata part. Truly a menu of contrasts; one could imagine that heartburn was soon to follow, and I am still not sure it is a juxtaposition I would recommend, if my advice was sought. Still, it is certainly novel - if not exactly true to form.

Moving on to what a review should be all about - the performance and the artistic impression - Simone Dinnerstein's Bach once again proves a treat for sore ears. The opening number "Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" is a dark and ominous piece that unavoidably leaves one poised for serious business, and the three main courses - each in its own way - follow the example. In the concertos there is always an atmosphere of lightheartedness, but at regular intervals Dinnerstein seems to almost pause and say: "Is this really supposed to funny?" Personally, I think the answer is: probably not overly much - and what I hear I certainly like! For Mercurial lightness of touch Dinnerstein will never be a new Perahia (but then again, why should she; we already got one of those), and she lends the concertos - and the suite (in G minor - also not the brightest key on the instrument) as well - a gravitas that is most wellcome. The slightly sinister Sarabande becomes a meditation on loss (my personal reading, of course), and even the presto finish of "Nun freut euch ihr lieben Christen" is closer in atmosphere to breathless panic at closing time than fleetfooted merriment. The solemn "Jesu, bleibet meine Freude" - always a benediction, and since Lipatti also a valediction - becomes a deeply moving exeunt, played with a transfigured clarity I thought went out of style and died decades ago. Expect a two hanky experience.

All in all - Dinnerstein is back with a vengeance. Buy this album and hear Bach as I doubt Bach ever did - but may well (would, I'm sure) have tipped his hat to.

One final caveat: the recorded sound is a tad fuzzy and murderously heavy on the bass. If you do not possess stereo equipment with regulation for treble and bass - the forecast for the day is fog and thunder. SONY - please, read this and weep!
23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Heavy Handed & Rhythmically Peculiar March 17 2011
By Thomas H. Moody - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
For many Bach purists its a complete travesty to hear his works performed on the piano. (The transcription of the Chorales need to be considered on their own merit as they were intentionally written for the piano.) But, there are those (this reviewer being one)who prefer hearing Bach on the piano because when articulated and voiced well, in combination with a "light as a feather," yet solid technique, they can expose the brilliant complexities within Bach's keyboard works. Sadly, Dinnerstein's performances are not light, they're very heavy - almost being one big giant thud! It feels as if this kind of heavy handed interpretation was the goal from the very beginning. If so, then the final product meets the expectations of the performer. Unfortunately, pushing Bach into the category of Romanticism is really not how most people want to hear their Bach keyboard works and most of the intricacies of the music are smothered. While things here seem articulated fairly well, the tempos tend to vary within movements and one has trouble trying to catch the rhythm and ride along with it. As a reviewer has already mentioned, the recording is very bass heavy, which does it no favors. It also sounds like it was recorded in a cavern and that is also a strike against it. The bottom line is, is that there are far, far better performances of these works found with Perahia, Schiff, Tipo, or Hewitt.

On the other hand, the Chorale transcriptions are meant to be approached differently in that they are products of the Liszt school of transcriptions. They never were pure keyboard pieces and can hold up to a heavier hand if that's the path chosen by the performer. However, even within the transcriptions we find a wide and varied take. Dame Myra Hess's couple of Bach transcription are as light and transparent as Bach's own writing, while the big big transcriptions of Busoni can hold up under a thunder of sound and pedal.

Simone Dinnerstein and her brand of Bach playing seem to have caught on with an audience who probably doesn't generally venture far into the field of classical music. If her "outreach" serves to make even a few of those listeners chose to dig deeper into the realm of classical music, then her performances serve a good purpose, and for that, no one can be ungrateful!

So, if you like this recording, do yourself a favor and check out the Bach recordings of Schiff, Tipo or Perahia!
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bach a little too romantic Feb. 21 2012
By Howard B. Haimes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Bach: A Strange Beauty [+digital booklet] - What an unusual title... To many Bach is certainly a musical master at composition, style, counterpoint and complex polphony. I was somwehat disappointed in this CD which takes Bach to a more plain vanilla, romantic style that seems to dismiss the artistry of Bach. Better to enjoy her Berlin Concert (live) The Berlin Concert or her new CDSomething almost being said: Music of Bach and Schubert [+digital booklet] to hear a more classical interpretation of Bach. While Bach is open to interpretation, ornamentation and improvisation, it should not be subordinated into music of the masses. This CD just goes too far in dumbing down some of the world's greatest music. Bach is not a Strange Beauty - it is the essessence of superb musicianship from one of the greatest of all composers.
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