The Lively Arts (redux)

Art and Music in Denver and Beyond


June 2019

Simone Dinnerstein

Simone Dinnerstein

Denver audiences had a treat when pianist Simone Dinnerstein performed May 18th for Friends of Chamber Music audiences after an April snowstorm cancelled her appearance. The April date was scheduled last minute to substitute for Piotr Anderszewski who had the flu.  Simone said aptly from the stage, “I’m the sub for the sub.”

The program included Couperin, Schumann, Glass and Satie.  

  • Francois Couperin : Les Barricades Mystérieuses
  • Robert Schumann: Arabesque, Op. 18
  • Philip Glass: Mad Rush
  • Francois Couperin : Tic Toc Choc
  • Erik Satie: Gnossienne No. 3
  • Robert Schumann: Kreisleriana, Op. 1

“Human nature is to go back and return to where we came from,” Simone said as she introduced the first half of her solo recital. Composers write rondos to connect ideas without halting, so Simone played the first half without interruption.  Brilliantly, she programmed Couperin’s Les Barricades Mystérieuses as the first bookend.  At once it sounded contemporary.  The repeats grew in intensity. The lyricism in Schumann’s Arabesque, Op. 18 was waltzlike until it shifted into darker territory.  Next up was Mad Rush by Philip Glass (1979), written for organ in honor of a visit by the Dalai Lama to St. John the Divine Church in New York. It was  the centerpiece of the first half. It’s mesmerizing constancy grew to a meditative state. She then brought her captive audience back to the Baroque composer Couperin, a full circle precisely programmed. The pieces linked together with a structure stronger than a key, composer or theme. Simone is an intelligent pianist and fine interpreter of Bach. When questioned she admitted to spending a great deal of time evaluating manuscripts to find connective tissue.  

In 2018 Simone toured with A Far Cry performing the Glass Concerto No. 3, “an homage to Bach and a tribute” to Simone. Additional performances of the Glass Concerto are scheduled for Ottawa and Stratford this summer.

After appearing at a 2015 Cuban piano festival organized by her former teacher, Solomon Mikowsky, Simone returned in 2017 to Havana to record Mozart in Havana with Havana’s Mozart Lyceum Orchestra at Orotorio San Felipe Neri. The church had no air conditioning so much of the recording took place after midnight. She was impressed by the musicians “despite the fact that in some cases the materials they were using were inferior. It was clear that the sound they made came from inside them, not simply from their instruments.” (Sony Records)  Adam Abeshouse who recorded Simone’s Bach album, Strange Beauty came to Havana with extra strings and recording equipment to meet challenges like stray dogs barking outside the church.  Months after the recording was finished Simone brought the entire group of musicians to the Eastern U.S. for a tour. The group, mostly students, were hosted by her neighbors in Brooklyn.

Simone Dinnerstein with the Mozart Lyceum Orchestra

Her first record with Sony, Strange Beauty, all Bach, was recorded in Berlin on a Hamburg Steinway.  She was so pleased with the sound of the instrument she shipped it to her Williamsburg apartment.  The door frame had to be removed and the piano had to be slightly dismantled. The piano will not be easily moved again. She is Artistic Director of the music series Neighborhood Classics in Brooklyn that she founded in 2009 at P.S. 321 to provide students and parents in the community access to classical music.  Concerts are open to the public and raise funds for music education in the school. On May 14th she performed the same program at P.S. 321 to celebrate 10 years of Neighborhood Classics.

A Lasting Partnership: Eanger Irving Couse and Joseph Henry Sharp

Eanger Irving Couse with models from Taos Pueblo

Writer B.K. Loren described the New Mexico sky when he wrote, “the bright blue sky and the white clouds ended abruptly, and a precise line of silver-gray intersected the blue.” In 1893, Joseph Henry Sharp  (1859 – 1953) visited Taos and took his memory of its crystalline sky to Paris to share with Ernest Blumenschein and Bert G.Phillips. The three artists joined Eanger Irving Couse, W. Herbert Benton and Oscar E. Berninghaus to form the Taos Society of Artists in 1915. Six more artists, including Victor Higgins and Walter Ufer, expanded the Society to twelve.  

Like many artists, Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936) photographed his models before picking up a paintbrush, and then he developed the film without modern equipment. Visitors to the Couse-Sharp Historic Site can view Couse’s darkroom and atelier where an expansive shingle glass window, inspired by the ateliers of Paris, allowed the Northern New Mexico light to blanket his studio. In 1888, his work was accepted into the Paris Salon. Two years later he was invited to participate in the Paris International Exposition. At the behest of Blumenschein, Couse relocated to Taos in 1906 to paint mainly portraits and landscapes of Taos. Many were reproduced in Santa Fe Railway promotions and calendars.

Shelves in Couse’s studio display his spectacular collection of Pueblo pots. One of his many nocturne paintings sits on an easel. Beside the easel is the grand oversized pot from the painting.  According to Couse’s granddaughter, Virginia Couse Leavitt, many of the objects seen in his paintings, such as a pair of handmade deer hide moccasins and an exquisitely preserved Butterfly Maiden Kachina, were acquired through a curio shop owned by Taos Society painter Bert Phillips.

Couse’s Atelier

Couse and Sharp conjoined their personal and creative lives.  The families were so close, Ginnie Couse called their neighbor ‘Uncle Henry.’ Sharp’s hearing deteriorated after a swimming accident at a young age. He moved to Cincinnati to live with his aunt and enrolled in art classes at Mcmicken University.  Later, he studied in Munich where he learned “direct painting, wet on wet.”  The Parisian Impressionists influenced his ability to contrast light and shadow. When Sharp returned from Europe he followed his interest in American Indians to Santa Fe and Taos and Crow Agency, MT to paint Native life on the reservation. Patrons supported him by buying entire collections. One patron reportedly bought 150 paintings.  After multiple visits to Taos, Sharp purchased the 1835 Luna Family Chapel adjacent to the Couse family home. When a bank failed that Sharp partly owned he installed the bank’s vault in the chapel.

Couse-Sharp Historic Site Curator and Executive Director, Davison Koenig, remarked that preservation was key, especially with the Couse house. The dining room was kept exactly as it was when the artist died in 1936. The two-and-a half-acre site listed on the National Register of Historic Places includes gardens designed by Virginia Couse and Ben Lujan, Couse’s favorite model from the Pueblo.  Virginia creeper grows and the handbuilt stone terraces still stand. Private tours of the gardens, the homes and studios of E.I. Couse and J.H. Sharp are available by appointment only. Two galleries will rotate exhibits of portraits and landscapes by Society artists and works by contemporary Native artists.

The Couse- Sharp Historic site will expand in June 2020 to include the Lunder Research Center for the Taos Society of Artists.  Contemporary artists and researchers will have access to archival materials and objects relating to the Taos Art Colony. The Lunder Foundation of Colby College donated an unprecedented $600,000. An additional $1.1 million was raised to purchase an adjacent building to be converted to a museum. A Gala and Auction on June 15th will support programming at the site.


For more information about these artists read Virginia Couse Leavitt’s 2019 book, Eanger Irving Couse: An American Artist 1836- 1936.

Couse-Sharp Historic Site

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