Something Almost Being Said: M Import
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Simone Dinnerstein's 2012 album, Something Almost Being Said: Music of Bach and Schubert, combines J.S. Bach s Partitas Nos. 1 and 2, with Schubert's Four Impromptus, Op. 90, and was produced by Grammy Award winning producer, Adam Abeshouse. Dinnerstein says of her new album, "Bach and Schubert, to my ears, 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." Inspired by lines from Philip Larkin s poem, The Trees, Simone Dinnerstein brings her own unique voice to Bach s first two Partitas and Schubert's Four Impromptus revealing the inherent vocal qualities in these instrumental works.
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Dinnerstein has many times demonstrated affinity for Bach, whose keyboard Partitas occupy territory similar to the piano sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven. Comprised of a sequence of French dances, Bach's set (there are six of them that demonstrate varying degrees of emotional and intellectual qualities) are almost never played today in Baroque style. Players like Dinnerstein, who use modern pianos with large sustaining characteristics, ornament freely and use rubato to extreme as she has done in the lovely Sarabande of the Partita No. 1. Dinnerstein is marginally less personal and more mainstream in Franz Schubert's earlier set of impromptus; witness her shimmering brilliance of Schubert's fourth impromptu from the D. 899 set that sounds like many other pianists that have recorded this or both sets of Schubert's Impromptus.
While I was taken by her personalized style in her debut album, I am less enthused and convinced about her way in the two mighty Bach partitas included here. The Partita 2, in particular, is open to many forms of interpretation -- from Argerich's fire to Perahia's intellectualized legato to Gould's staccato and Tureck's humanity, the latter being my favorite of those I know. In a very crowded field, it's difficult to place Dinnerstein other than to say she seems more focused on deliberation for emotional reasons rather than to elucidate lines of counterpoint and more foucsed on the parts than the whole.
It is similar in the Partita 1 where, after her dance-like rhythm in the Corrente, she reverts to her slower, more personalized manner that seems to eschew any partiuclar school of playing. I'm pleased she takes repeats differently each time but, again, see her work in this music as more parts than a whole. Compare her Partita 1 to Maria João Pires or Dubravka Tomsic, just to name two practitioners, to get an idea of the way Dinnerstein plays with the puzzle parts without putting it together to see the big picture. The other women play the music more aggressively, as well, and both put the score together, in my mind, better than Simone. I think Dinnerstein is better in the Schubert miniatures even though, like a lot of pianists that concentrate more on expression than technique, she doesn't exploit the possibility of contrast in these beauties.
Overall, Dinnerstein does not sway me, in part because I prefer pianism with greater technique than she exhibits. With that caveat, I'd say anyone looking for a new recording of either the Bach Partitas or the Schubert Impromptus will probably be more satisfied with current favorites than this one unless you seek a dreamy, sometimes hypnotic performance that de-emphasizes Bach's duelling hands counterpoint. This recording's great values are its low price, general availability, and contents that match Bach's Baroque genius to Schubert's early stream of Romantic consciousness. For fans of Simone Dinnerstein, I think this is a marvelous concert that may sway more classical music newcomers to examine it more fully.
My reservations are partly just a matter of personal taste. Dinnerstein adopts quite a Romantic approach to Bach with some free use of rubato and the odd grand gesture which I'm not that keen on in Bach. However, she doesn't overdo it and there is nothing "wrong" or "incorrect" about this style, and you may well enjoy it very much if your taste doesn't coincide with mine. Her approach suits the Schubert Impromptus well and the sound and tone of her playing in all of these beautiful pieces is a delight.
Overall, though, I found just a little something missing here. The artwork features several photos of Simone Dinnerstein gazing soulfully into the distance and perhaps that is what I am hearing: a beautiful sound from a pianist who is looking inward slightly too much and not engaging quite enough with the music itself. Whatever the reason, to me the Partitas don't quite dance in that delightful variety of ways that Angela Hewitt brings to them, and the Impromptus don't have quite the magical depth and inner light which Maria Joao Pires or Mitsuko Uchida find there.
I don't want to sound too critical because this is an enjoyable disc of lovely music, well played by a very talented pianist. It won't replace my other much-loved performances of these works but I am sure it will give a lot of people a lot of pleasure.