CD Review: Bach and Schubert sing in pianist Simone Dinnerstein’s Something Being Said

Something Almost Being Said (Sony Classical)

I have to confess I was seduced by New Yorker Simone Dinnerstein from the first time I heard her recording of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations nearly five years ago. It hasn’t been unconditional love since, but a respect and appreciation for a musician who can bend everything she touches to suit her will.

Her latest disc, Something Being Said, is an all-solo affair that presents an compelling pairing of the first two of Bach’s six Partitas for keyboard with Franz Schubert’s four Op. 90 Impromptus. (The title of the album comes from the opening of “The Trees,” a poem by Philip Larkin: “The trees are coming into leaf/ Like something almost being said.”)

Dinnerstein’s interpretations make me think about the inner and outer aspects of a piece of music. Although we’re not likely to be conscious of this as listeners, both need to be balanced in order for a piece to come to life properly.

Anyone alive today grew up listening to the keyboard music of J.S. Bach interpreted in a clear, methodical way that emphasizes  counterpoint, which is all about harmonies and clusters of notes speaking to each other inside the music. Most modern pianists add a motoric drive to give the music an external force.

This also holds true for Schubert’s Impromptus, which are traditionally given strong, virtuosic interpretations.

Dinnerstein, on the other hand, tosses out a focus on motion in favour of making the music sing.

Glenn Gould’s bones must have been rattling in his grave as Dinnerstein recorded her sleek, elegant, almost misty renditions of the Partitas. Just as seductive are the silken, reflective Impromptus.

These interpretations won’t please people looking for piano with punch, but Dinnerstein’s limpid playing deserves a listen.

I find myself asking, over and over, why we need another recording of this or that work from the classical canon. Interpretations like Dinnerstein’s provide a clear answer.

Here is the “music video” that Sony issued with the album:

John Terauds


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