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Bach’s music shines at Strathmore, with help from pianist Simone Dinnerstein

By Joan Reinthaler,

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein brought her signature interpretation of the Bach “Goldberg Variations” to Strathmore on Sunday under the auspices of the Washington Performing Arts Society. It was her self-financed recording of the variations that shot her to top-of-the-charts fame in 2007 and, although she has since branched out in many directions, it was Dinnerstein-on-Goldberg that packed Sunday’s house.

But the appeal of Dinnerstein’s very personal and deeply thought out take on Bach is mostly a testimony to the universality of Bach himself. Dinnerstein may have brought her penchant for tonal colors, influenced by the romantics, and for touch, influenced by both Debussy and the Russians, but it was Bach’s magic that spoke so eloquently, just through a different lens.

Dinnerstein’s presence is part of what makes her performance an occasion. She seems serene and absorbed but not intense. She is supremely in control. She times the movement from one variation to the next exquisitely, sometimes letting the last note of one variation flow without a break into the next, suspending time itself as she pauses or even sips some water. And the audience never moved because the music never seemed to stop. Most of all, for a reading that was intensely premeditated, it was the music, not the premeditation, that showed through.

Reinthaler is a freelance writer.

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