Simone Dinnerstein’s Sound for Adult Piano Lessons

A Review of Something Almost Being Said

If listening to Martha Argerich offers unparalleled instruction in tempo rubato, Simone Dinnerstein provides, like quite no other pianist, a pristine sound. For April, I feature Dinnerstein’s 2012 album, Something Almost Being Said: Music of Bach and Schubert, as my Selection of the Month. This stirring collection of two Bach Partitas and the Schubert Impromptus opens up, for beginners of adult piano lessons and accomplished amateurs alike, the possibility of an impossibly beautiful sound, shimmering and yet velvety.

In 2007, Dinnerstein stunned the classical piano music world with a release of the Goldberg Variations that many believe surpasses that of Glenn Gould. Her second album, Bach: A Strange Beauty, featured two of Bach’s keyboard concertos and the English Suite No. 3. She named her most recent release after a line from a poem, “The Trees,” by Phillip Larkin.

In “The Trees,” Larkin waxes, “The trees are coming into leaf, like something almost being said. . . Last year is dead, they seem to say, Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.” For Dinnerstein, the vocal qualities of Bach’s Partitas and Schubert’s Impromptus are like “wordless voices” that “might at any moment burst suddenly into speech.” In other words, like something almost being said.

The first time I listened to Dinnerstein’s rendition of Schubert’s Impromptu No. 3, the G-flat major piece, I sat with a rapt attention. While the melody sang out with a gentle reverence and wistful hesitations, I felt my body grow lighter. I marveled at the subtle presence of the inner voice. The determined forte sections were pure courage, while underneath the inner voice rumbled.

I have personal experience with the Third Impromptu: I began the music several years ago, but my lack of technique prevented me from finishing the music. I progressed so slowly in grasping the rapid arpeggios that constitute the inner voice that eventually my study of the music collapsed in on itself, an implacable black hole. “We’ll try again soon,” my piano teacher promised me. Dinnerstein’s rendition gave me hope that soon I would be able to complete this music.

The other three Impromptus on Dinnerstein’s album likewise enchanted me. In the A-flat Major, the scales sprinkled down the keyboard, while in the Schubert’s Impromptu No. 2 in E-flat Major, notes scurried around the piano with breathless anticipation until they yielded to determined chords.

Of the two Partitas, I’m partial to the Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, which concludes the album, perhaps because I performed that work’s Gigue at my first piano recital, when I was in seventh grade. With the Bach Partitas, Dinnerstein takes only discreet liberties with the tempo, and her use of rubato seems largely in service to the tones of her music. Taken together, in fact, the six movements to the Partita No. 1 constitute a tonal poem.

In the opening Praeludium, Dinnerstein sets the stage with delicate dewdrops of tones, interspersed with deft turns and trills, while her playful loops in the Allemande came out as creamy, like frosting being slathered on a cake. In the Corrente, notes tripped over and hurried past one another with wonderful clarity. At the very end came the Gigue, its tone pairs so rich they positively glimmered.

As a student of the piano, I’m grateful for all of these things almost being said.

Here is the official music video of Simone Dinnerstein‘s Something Almost Being Said: Music of Bach and Schubert.

Copyright © 2018 Nancy M. Williams. All Rights Reserved.

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