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.