Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 10

Simone Dinnerstein’s second Sony Classical release frames Schubert’s D. 899 Impromptus between Bach’s C minor and B-flat major Partitas. When Dinnerstein and Bach team up either live or on disc, strong and sometimes inspired moments alternate with playing that is either mannered or mundane. That’s precisely what happens here.

Dinnerstein takes the B-flat Partita’s Prelude for a long slow swan dive. She tapers the phrases, delays certain downbeats to convey a kind of “expressive sigh”, and indulges in predictable ritards. The pianist somewhat tempers her swooning style for the Sarabande. While Dinnerstein offers as crisp, perky, and direct a Corrente as one can get, her overly rounded Menuets and Gigue are about as vital and rhythmically incisive as a gloopy, overcooked noodle. The C minor Partita fares better on the whole, if you can ignore the languid, enervated slower movements and focus on the pianist’s small-scaled, dynamically constricted yet clear-cut way with the Rondeau and the Capriccio.

Dinnerstein’s long timing for the Schubert C minor Impromptu accounts not so much for her leisurely pace as the liberal rubatos, elongated beats, and pauses between phrases that pull the music out of shape. The tiny rhythmic distortions in the E-flat Impromptu’s minor-key middle section seem more mannered than expressive. Still, Dinnerstein sculpts the work’s outer-section triplet runs fluently and evenly, although Perahia, Lupu, and Pires do so with superior lightness and grace.

Dinnerstein’s tempo fluctuations and textural colorations increasingly weigh down the G-flat Impromptu, while each of the A-flat Impromptu’s phrases in the outer sections emerges in a highly articulated yet sectionalized manner, like separate sentences lacking a paragraph to bind them. The sonics are vivid, detailed, and full-bodied.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: SOMETHING ALMOST BEING SAID--Music of Bach & Schubert
Reference Recording: Bach: Perahia (Sony), Schubert: Lupu (Decca)

J.S. BACH - Partita No. 2 in C minor BWV 826; Partita No. 1 in B-flat major BWV 825
FRANZ SCHUBERT - Impromptus D. 899

  • Simone Dinnerstein (piano)

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