on 23 January 2014
Noted Brooklyn, NY native and Juilliard-trained classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein demonstrates again why she should be viewed as one of the premier contemporary interpreters of J. S. Bach in her recording of the Bach Inventions & Sinfonias BWV 772-801. Though purists may be tempted to ignore this recording, I would urge them to reconsider, not least because she emphasizes the cantabile, danceable, aspects of Bach's keyboard music through her unique, Romantic, interpretations of familiar works like Invention No. 8 in F Major, BWV 779 or Invention No. 12 in A Major, BWV 783 or Sinfonia no. 6 in E Major, BWV 792. I find much to commend in her playing, even if I tend to be more a fan of period instrument-informed performances of the kind emphasized by Andras Schiff in his critically acclaimed recording of the Goldberg Variations. (I would rank hers, Murray Perahia and Schiff's as the three best modern recordings of the Goldberg Variations, with hers especially noteworthy given the unusual circumstances that led to its recording and subsequent release.) Anyone who reads the accompanying liner notes should realize that she has thought long and hard about these pieces, noting how they formed an essential part of her musical education as a young pianist growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970s and 1980s; if for no other reason than these, her latest recording of Bach keyboard works should be due ample serious consideration by potential purchasers as well as fellow reviewers.
Simone Dinnerstein is definitely one of the foremost classical pianists of our time, having yielded a rich recorded musical legacy that includes recordings of the Beethoven cello sonatas with her Juilliard classmate and friend, cellist Zuill Bailey, as well as her celebrated Goldberg Variations album. Her extensive repertoire includes pieces composed for her by the likes of Brad Mehldau and Dan Felsenfeld for her most recent prior album, "Night", an unlikely musical collaboration with her friend, alt country singer-songwriter Tift Merritt which reminds me more of an early Elton John album than does Elton's latest, "The Diving Board", with exceptional production values and an especially coherent song cycle that includes Purcell and Schubert lieder that are far more memorable than virtually all of the Elton John/Bernie Taupin songs composed for "The Diving Board". Dinnerstein has been a passionate advocate and champion of Bach, Schubert and Beethoven as well as modern composers like Felsenfeld and Nico Muhly, winning new audiences comprised of those who were ignorant of classical music. I have no doubt that "Inventions & Sinfonias" will yield additional new fans of Dinnerstein's impassioned playing, as well as recognition by others of yet another fine set of J. S. Bach recordings.