If there is a single piece of music that unifies adult piano students of all ages and across all geographies, it must be the Bach Prelude in C Major, the score technically approachable, yet the harmonies like voices of seraphim. Recently the concert pianist Simone Dinnerstein plucked out of obscurity a lesser-known cousin, but one with strong family resemblances to the Bach Prelude in C Major: the B Minor Prelude. She plays the B Minor on her 2013 album, Night, a melding of folk and classical, an album she says is about freedom. She treated GRAND PIANO PASSION™ to a private rendition of the music in her home studio, in this exclusive video.
The history of the B Minor Prelude began when Bach presented to his son Wilhelm on the boy’s ninth birthday the Klavierbüchlein, the now famous practice book which contained the Two-Part Inventions, and, among other pieces, a Prelude in E Minor. Later, Bach reworked the E Minor and included it in The Well-Tempered Clavier Book One as the 10th prelude.
Two hundred years later, the Russian concert pianist and composer Alexander Siloti (I love that he was a cousin of Rachmaninoff) transcribed the E Minor Prelude to a piece in B minor. He moved the broken chords to the treble, and glossed the piece, at least in this student’s humble opinion, with a Romantic feel.
The Bach Prelude in C Major from The Well-Tempered Clavier Book One may be more famous than the B Minor, yet musically, the two cousins have a similar musical structure, their broken chords moving the music forward with elegant steps, inner voices of half notes holding the melodic line. Both preludes are relatively easy to learn, especially compared to Bach’s far more complex fugues with their three-, four-, or even five-part voices in The Well-Tempered Clavier. Depending on your proclivities, both can be played with the pedal to create an ethereal effect, as Simone Dinnerstein so convincingly demonstrates with the B Minor Prelude.
Despite their similarities in structure, the two pieces create different moods. The Bach Prelude in C Major has a quiet bouyancy, building towards moments of small, fiery beauties, while the B Minor Prelude’s mood is threaded with bits of unhappiness. In her interview with GRAND PIANO PASSION™, which will premiere tomorrow, on 11/12/13, Simone Dinnerstein says that for her the music is full of resignation, “deeply felt in a painful way.”
The Bach Prelude in B Minor offers the adult piano student an addition to the repertoire more unusual than the Bach Prelude in C Major. Yet even for those not prepared to study the B Minor Prelude, Simone Dinnerstein offers a jewel of a performance here. I will not forget her delicate pianissimo that day in her studio.