In the seven years since her hit recording of the Bach “Goldberg Variations” attracted such excitement, pianist Simone Dinnerstein has broadened her scope, experimenting with classical, folk and rock collaborations, teaming up with a theremin, improvising to poetry and running programs in the New York public schools. That none of this seems to have diluted her passion for intense immersion in the standard piano repertoire, however, was evident from her performance of Schumann, Bach and Schubert at the Wolf Trap Barns on Friday.
The Bach was the fifth of his French Suites, a set of seven dance movements that span an enormous range of styles and activity, and Dinnerstein gave it her trademark idiosyncratic reading. The Courant flew by. In less accomplished hands it might have been a blur, but Dinnerstein doesn’t do blur. Icily clear, it seemed more abrupt than dancelike, a sort of cold-shower lead-in to the Sarabande that Dinnerstein endowed with all the French Baroque-style rhythmic mannerisms and elegant ornamentation she could muster. The concluding gigue was an exhilarating ride.
She opened with a serene reading of Schumann’s “Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood),” nostalgic, gentle and sometimes a trifle sad. Dinnerstein has a way of melding details unobtrusively into the fabric of the music: a slight pause before the recapitulation in the first of the 13 movements that suspended time, the extraordinarily poignant last note of the 12th “Child Falling Asleep” movement — each powerful in their simplicity.
The program ended with Schubert’s Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, composed just a couple of months before he died. This was Dinnerstein’s first public performance of a piece that, she told the audience, has captivated her for many years and that she finally felt ready to perform. And ready she was. Schubert revels in tone color, this piece in particular, and in Dinnerstein’s hands an astonishing richness of opulence, brilliance, muted hues and quiet clarity spoke eloquently and moved inevitably in an intense and moving performance.
Reinthaler is a freelance writer.