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.