Simone Dinnerstein's Radical, Ruminative Bach

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Few pianists elicit such strong responses from our listeners as Simone Dinnerstein. When we featured her entrancing Bach CD from last year, "A Strange Beauty," opinions were divided into two camps: those who savored the stately, ruminative beauty in her Chorale Preludes and keyboard concertos and those who thought Bach was smothered by what they saw as Dinnerstein's plushy, overly Romantic embrace.

The Brooklyn-based pianist's latest Sony release, "Something Almost Being Said," should continue to draw strong opinions. As with her last album, it gets its title from a poem -- Englishman Philip Larkin’s 1967 poem "The Trees." Bach once again is the centerpiece, with renditions of the First and Second Partitas framing the collection. In between are Schubert's Four Impromptus, Op. 90, works that share with Bach a certain preoccupation with long, lyrical melodies.

Above all, this is highly personalized Bach playing. The slow Sarabande and Sinfonia in the Partita No. 2 in C minor have a searching quality, with each chromatic inflection lingered on for maximum effect. But even the fast movements, such as the Capriccio in No. 2 or the Gigue in No. 1 are slower and more introspective than many are used to hearing. The Schubert Impromptus sound as if they are cut from the same cloth, lovingly played, and full of fluidity and emotion.

If Dinnerstein's pronounced rubato or deliberate tempo choices may raise some eyebrows, consider that she has always been a performer who puts a personal stamp on her interpretations, going back to her 2007 breakthrough album of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Perhaps it's no surprise that Dinnerstein's current activities show her branching out in new directions: She has been touring with an arrangement of a song by pop singer Leonard Cohen, and this summer she will record an album with the country-rock singer-songwriter Tift Merritt. The two performed in The Greene Space at WQXR and WNYC; Watch the video here.

Something Almost Said
Simone Dinnerstein, piano
Sony Classical
Available at Arkivmusic.com