Frank Stewart/Savannah Music Festival
Music by Bach helped launch the unusual career of Simone Dinnerstein.
J.S. Bach: English Suite No. 3 in G minor, BWV 808
Bach-Busoni: Chorale Prelude "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ"
Bach-Kempff: Chorale Prelude "Nun freut euch, lieben Christen" BWV 734
Bach-Hess: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, BWV 147
Schubert: Four Impromptus, D. 899
Pianist Simone Dinnerstein has taken a strange path to success. A few years ago, in her early 30s, she was armed with a respectable degree from The Juilliard School and little else. With no orchestras or record companies knocking at her door, she took a huge risk. Using her own money, she financed a recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations — music she fell deeply in love with while carrying her firstborn. The recording caught the ear of the Telarc label, which released the album to both popular and critical acclaim. It reached the top of the Billboard classical chart and almost overnight a new career was launched.
Now, instead of having no gigs she's inundated with offers to perform everywhere. Still, the mild-mannered pianist hasn't let the success get to her. She plays upscale music festivals and fancy concert halls, and gives free PTA concerts for public schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan. She's also appeared in prisons and nursing homes.
Dinnerstein is still hugely devoted to Bach, and continues to include his music in her concerts and on her albums. "The way I play Bach," she says, "is close to my own personality, it's more inward looking and meditative."
Just listen to how she plays Bach's third English Suite in this recital, or her deeply poetic rendition of the arrangement of the chorale prelude "Ich ruf zu dir." I heard her play nearly this same recital a few months ago here in Washington, D.C. and I couldn't agree more with Robert Battey, the Washington Post reviewer, who wrote: "Dinnerstein seems to commune equally with higher spiritual realms and deep maternal instincts. Her sound, while varied and colorful, has a trancelike quality as well. The imagination, particularly in slow music, is extraordinary — the Lisztian anguish in the Sarabande of Bach's English Suite No. 3 seemed to invoke all human experience."
So set aside an hour. Sit down, preferably at night with the lights low, and contemplate the sturdy yet sublime counterpoint of Bach and the overflowing, bittersweet melodies of Schubert, through the fingers of one talented and thoughtful pianist.