Simone Dinnerstein graced the stage Sunday, January 25th to perform a program presented through new perspectives. Personal interpretations somewhat on par with Glen Gould and a preservation of integrity in every piece whilst reshaping musical rhetoric created an artfully hallmark sound. The program worked backwards chronologically, offering to start in a place of turmoil and end in a place of peace. "I hope it works" were the last words from Dinnerstein’s brief introduction before she took her seat at the piano.
First on the bill were three variations for piano by Webern. Described in the introduction as being romantic for 12 tone pieces, I didn’t hear the same sentiment the artist felt. One needs to accrue a specific understanding to endure such mathematical and theory based compositions and I found it to be on odd opener. Nonetheless, musicianship was well asserted from the start and focus instantly fell in to place. The final augmented chord disintegrated into silence and was the first evidence of a well-harnessed technique.
Schumann’s Kreisleriana (Op. 16) followed, each of the eight movements characterized by sudden changes reflecting the many personalities the composer embodies. Schumann’s active thought patterns require a high demand on the listener but Dinnerstein’s introspective vision of the piece was something to get lost in. The opening brought a warm comfort after the 12 tone heard in the Webern with familiar minor harmonies enveloping like an old blanket. Dinnerstein’s musicality reveals a quality of gentleness that emits femininity, unable to hide. An unashamed amount of pedal produced the perfect amount of overtones to give the piece that warm, effeminate voice. Snapping rhythms were subdued by a refined restraint that I admired more and more as each note flew by in a velvety texture. Possessing the ability to realize the whole gamut of tone and sonority of the piano, Dinnerstein is quite capable of sweeping the distance of the softest pianissimo to the firmest fortissimo in one breath. Executed under such dynamic control, the rubato at the end of most sections was sentimental rather than excessive.
Schubert’s first set of Impromptus (Op.90) yielded new and unconventional interpretations opposing the standard paradigm. At first the diversion from familiarity made me nervous, only before being whisked away into a fury of new possibilities. The opening to the popular E flat Impromptu revealed a touch that could turn melodic lines into satin ribbons and clearly defined shapes. Low bass notes possessed a haunting clarity and produced a cavernous effect that combated the flatness that can often be produced in the lower registers of the keyboard. Where most interpretations take no time to execute Schubert’s apparent sound and power, Dinnerstein boldly took the risk of holding back for an intensity built on anticipation, the bravura needed for such works replaced by a confident reserve.
Entering Bach’s 5th French Suite in G Major after the Schubert, I did not receive the clear distinction of moving from romantic to baroque that one often hears but the stray from strict stylistic idioms was decidedly more inviting. Not violating the parameters of baroque sensibility while retaining a bit of romantic ideal, this was Bach in an unusual and non-archaic way. With an attention to the placement of every note reminiscent of Lipatti, the balance of sound was breathtaking and every voicing clearly realized to create the myriad of harmony that Bach portrays. Dinnerstein never lost sight of contour as the music traveled through time and space, leaving the entrance of each new voice to never obscuring the previous. A delicious way to end the program, I understood the reasoning for reworking the program backwards chronologically and yes, it did work, in a most intimate and memorable way.