New Releases: Simone Dinnerstein, Avi Avital, Paris Opéra

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FREE Download: Simone Dinnerstein plays Bach’s Two-Part Invention No. 8 in F major, BWV 779

This week's featured albums span a wide range, from Simone Dinnerstein's latest traversal of Bach's keyboard works to Avi Avital's chameleon-like mandolin to a set of excerpts from Paris Opéra's 2013 Ring Cycle.

Simone Dinnerstein: Bach Inventions & Sinfonias
Sony Classical
Available at

Almost anyone who ever took piano lessons has played at least a couple of Bach's Inventions. Bach composed these short works – 15 Two-Part Inventions and 15 Sinfonias, or Three-Part Inventions, – as study pieces for his children, and they have been used by budding performers ever since. Occasionally, a professional will come along and show us how they’re played too, as Simone Dinnerstein does here. Dinnerstein has long proven to be a highly individualistic Bach interpreter and in these performances she plays with a certain rhapsodic looseness that takes the form back to its improvisatory roots. In concerts, this Brooklyn-based pianist has been pairing these works, intriguingly with those by modern composers like Nico Muhly and George Crumb. Hopefully, there’s more of that to come.



Between Worlds
Avi Avital, mandolin
Deutsche Grammophon
Available at

"Between Worlds" is a perfect title for Avi Avital's second album, a collection that bridges the mandolin’s classical and folk identities. This zesty collection focuses on new arrangements of folk-inspired classical compositions, including works by Bartok, Piazzolla, Falla and Monti, among others. Avital talked about tapping into his instrument's folk identity when he appeared recently at WQXR for a Cafe Concert. “Wherever I went in the world people associated it with different kinds of folk music – not only with bluegrass that we know here from the States,” he said. But he came to realize that the instrument has close ancestors in such plucked string instruments as the Russian balalaika, the Greek Buzuki and the Chinese pipa. Avital's album not only draws on those traditions, but does so with some rich arrangements featuring accordion, clarinet, guitar and double bass, plus the Potsdam Chamber Academy ensemble.


Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen - Symphonic Excerpts
Orchestre de L'Opera National de Paris
Philippe Jordan, conductor
Nina Stemme
Opera de Paris label
Available at

Last year, the Paris Opéra was one of many international houses to mark the Wagner bicentenary with a staging of the complete Ring Cycle (though this one was the first complete Paris cycle since 1957). It brought together some serious vocal talent but not to be overlooked was the depth and beauty of the resident orchestra's playing under the conductor Philippe Jordan. This collection of excerpts from last year's Ring is rounded off with Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene, sung by one of today’s leading Wagnerian dramatic sopranos, Nina Stemme.

Free Download:

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