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Dip Your Ears, No. 108 (Dinnerstein & Bach Again)

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J.S.Bach, "A Strange Beauty",

With her move from the Telarc recording label to Sony Classics, the ascent of Simone Dinnerstein continues – all on the back of Johann Sebastian Bach. Her self-recorded Goldberg Variations (review on WETA / ionarts - "Bach with a hint of Zamfir and Zinfandel") lifted her from complete obscurity and playing in retirement communities to semi-stardom and a fully booked concert calendar. Her debut album for Sony—“Bach: A Strange Beauty”—will propel her further, yet.

This time it’s a mix of Bach transcriptions (by Ferruccio Busoni, Wilhelm Kempff, and Dame Myra Hess), two concertos (BWV 1052 and 1056), and an echt-Bach work for keyboard, the Third English Suite (BWV 808), chosen because Mme. Dinnerstein sees in it “effectively a concerto for one instrument.”

The two concertos might be the least interesting bits on the new release. They are aggressive and fast and buoyant and fun, but slightly marred by their bass-heaviness, opaque acoustics, and pop-loudness sound. The pleasantly-indulgent English Suite is centre stage, but not propulsive enough to be considered the highlight. The three jewels, the pieces that make this release a really charming winner, are the transcriptions (two chorales and the evergreen “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”). Simone Dinnerstein’s liberal approach to Bach—in the past more on the cloying than the liberating side—really plays out its full strengths here. In a way her Bach, and more naturally still her Bach-Busoni, are what I meant to address in the first part of “Free Bach from the HIPsters”. A romantic-musical disregard for the kind of straitjacket-historicism that Alan Rusbridger (The Guardian), in the liner-note interview, aptly refers to as “fetishizing the authentic”. This disregard always carries a risk of being incredibly annoying, rather than invigorating... but that's a fate (narrowly) avoided here.

Since Simone Dinnerstein’s style and approach to Bach in particularly (and music in general) don’t seem to change, the question is: does the music she chose here suit this particular style? The answer—for me at least—is unequivocally: Yes.

The liner notes are much more sober and readable than the fluff of the past; though the booklet is also co-opted to showcase and promote the art of her father, Simon Dinnerstein.

Further reviews of Simone Dinnerstein’s recordings can be read here: “Lasser’s Licks” and “CD Pick of the Week & Recent Releases