Classical CD Reviews

J.S. BACH: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 – Simone Dinnerstein, piano – Telarc

Within a very leisurely aesthetic, Dinnerstein projects a lovely tone and a gracious sensibility

Published on August 25, 2007

J.S. BACH: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 – Simone Dinnerstein, piano – Telarc
BACH: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 – Simone Dinnerstein, piano – Telarc CD-80692  78:18 ****:

Simone Dinnerstein is a pupil of Peter Serkin and M. Curcio, and has received a notable series of favorable reviews for her musicianship, including glowing praise from Harris Goldsmith for her realization of these very Goldberg Variations. Ms. Dinnerstein recorded the set 11-13 March 2005 at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York. She plays a restored 1903 Hamburg Steinway rather brilliantly inscribed for Telarc by engineer Adam Abehouse.

At nearly 80 minutes’ playing time, Dinnerstein’s Goldberg Variations are among the slowest I have auditioned. Within this leisurely aesthetic, Dinnerstein projects a lovely tone and a gracious sensibility for Bach’s architecture and harmonic intricacies. The entire aura of the realization is upbeat and optimistic. Nice shaping of phrases, as in the canon at the third. A pair of light hands in the Fughetta at Variation 10. The faster variations like Variation 14 enjoy a strong pulse, lucid stretti, and clean articulation. The Variation 7 gavotte tempo says pages about the galant style, and Dinnerstein makes it sound like a piece by Lully. Variation 8 bustles with sprightly energy. Nice balance in Variation 12, the canon at the fourth, in which the hands move in contrary motion. The crux variation, the dark and chromatic 15 at the fifth, communicates polyphonic density and spiritual mystery.  No. 16 initiates yet another cycle, a sort of dotted overture acting as a prelude to an extended dance suite. Variations 24 and Variation 25 might be gloomy chorale-preludes heard inside a labyrinth.  Variation 26 reminds me of Handel’s Chaconne in G Minor, immediately followed by the harmonically audacious canon at the ninth degree, Variation 27.  A music-box sonority for Variation 28. Bubbling figures take us from Variation 28 to the Quodlibet, where the timeless converges with the timely, since one of the songs, “Turnips and onions have undone me,” invokes scatology or proctology. When the Aria returns, pristine, we seem to behold the Mona Lisa’s smile, the enigma of Mankind and perhaps its saving grace.

– Gary Lemco

 




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