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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
78 of 92 people found the following review helpful: 4.0 out of 5 stars Loving and inspired by turn, August 29, 2007 This review is from: Bach: Goldberg Variations (Audio CD) Simone Dinnerstein, a Julliard graduate that studied with Peter Serkin, has been hailed widely for outstanding techinque, warmth and fluidity in her playing. She was subject of a Harris Goldsmith feature in American Record Guide and has been compared to a young Argerich. She plays widely around New York and elsewhere on the East Coast and scheduled her London debut this year.
Her Goldberg variations are beautifully done and exceptionally thoughtful, there is no question about that. She plays with authority and technique second to none. Eschewing the staccato affect of Glenn Gould, her style is far more akin to Murray Perhaih and others that seek more transluscent legato.
This is not to say she cannot pound the keyboard or turn a phrase with the best of them -- listen to Variation 16 for that. Compared to the last recording of the Goldbergs I heard, by Perhaia, hers is warmer, more humane and perhaps less driven. But she is not afraid to change course in mid-stream -- listen to her abrupt tempo change in Variation 19 and the hop to return to rapidity in Variation 20.
Certainly this is outstanding pianism captured in an elegant sound field and presented for the listener is a 5 X 5 X 5 setting that is up to current DDD standards. I'd like to hear more of the train of thought or stream of consciousness cerebral approach I've heard in Bach from Richter and Elena Kuschnerova but I wouldn't suggest this is a bad performance lacking those qualities. For me, it's not the pinnacle; still, it's a beautifully retouched scan of Bach's masterpiece delivered on a 1903 instrument that sounds like it was made yesterday.Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you?
117 of 142 people found the following review helpful: 3.0 out of 5 stars Not the Best Place to Start, but It's Better than Nowhere, October 22, 2007 This review is from: Bach: Goldberg Variations (Audio CD) Given the publicity surrounding this disc's performer, Oprah's recommendation of it, and its subsequent, unsurprising debut at the top of Billboard's classical chart, a review of "just the music" here seems doomed amidst the deluge of journalistic praise. Nevertheless, if someone wants to buy this disc because pundits say it's great, why not, so long as those buyers are also aware that--despite what the pundits say--this is by no means the definitive or the only recording of the Variations to have. In fact, one should get as many as possible, on piano and harpsichord preferably; however, there are three main reasons why this is not the disc to start one's experience of the Goldberg Variations with.
My preference in a review is to emphasize the positives of a recording. For this one, first, the piano generally has a nice sound, and is pleasantly recorded at least most of the time; second, this recording works well as background music. Listened to too closely, or listened to for the arc of the music from its opening aria back to the aria again, then the music continuously breaks down in various ways. This is because, whatever claims may be made for Dinnerstein's technique, it seems either ill-suited to this music, strives too often to be too "delicate" in a work that has many more moods than merely delicate, or because of lapses in technique or judgment or both. It may also be this blanket "delicateness" that results in the frequently excessively slow tempos; all the more so, when Dinnerstein plays nearly every repeat with little to no variation.
With the opening aria, at 5'39 seconds, it is probably not the slowest ever, but nevertheless manages to come off with such a plodding lack of energy that it easily seems twice as long. The contrast that Variation 1 provides for the Aria is world-famous, and an unfortunately welcome relief after the aria in the present case; nevertheless, in Variation 2 and Variation 3 the tempo is so unremitting that they actually seem to run together. The same happens again from Variation 6 to 7. Though comparisons with other recordings are usually facile, nevertheless, switching to one of Nikolaeva's renditions of the Aria and first two variations immediately discloses how thick-fingered Dinnerstein's delivery is.
Is this simply an over-refined persnicketiness on the part of someone too accustomed to his favorite version of the Goldberg Variations? No, since people of all levels of musical sensibility can hear and feel the energy of a committed reading of these pieces, especially when one listens closely. Compare, for instance, how the notes in the left hand right at the very beginning of the opening Aria are nicely "drawn out" compared to being "pushed out" throughout Variation 2 and 3, and even more so in Variation 19. Such playing sometimes works (Variation 13), but much more often makes for a dragging, even muddy quality of the playing that is hard to miss.
In a variation where this works, such as Variation 13, there is indeed a delicacy, though even here the tempo is so belabored that delicacy starts to morph into dullness. And in fact, this over-application of delicacy may be the thing that makes it "safe" for an Oprah recommendation, while also completely missing the very varied number of moods in these pieces that are anything but delicate. Overall, there is a very narrow emotional range of playing here; as if there are only two states, "delicate" and "everything else".
With Variation 20, the disc finally seems to pop out of the largely unvarying musical attitude it has exhibited, if only because the variation in question particularly demands total change of mood. In the opening 15 seconds, there's a degree of the expected snappiness (notwithstanding one suspiciously sour, if not missed, note), but when the rushing triplets arrive, the various runs seem to run together (pun not intended) the first time through, and even more messily in the second half (despite some nice dynamics). It really sounds as if Dinnerstein's fingers are becoming fatigued by the final go round. One does not need to be a musicologist to hear this. The usual returns again with Variation 21, providing another drawn out reading that moves around like something that stops moving when you look at it. Equally so, Variation 22 starts off delicately and singingly enough, but morphs into something strident by the end.
Aspirations to delicacy or not, in Variation 23, the various 32nd note runs that are supposed to sparkle and punctuate either the right hand or the left (depending on which half of the piece is being performed) turn into oatmeal; particularly grotesque is the passage from both 58" to 1'16", and again at 1'27" with the repeat. With Variation 25, the flatness of delicacy has returned full-force. In Variation 26, the opening seems to hit what 23 missed, although the ornament that caps the long ascending rise the first time around (at 25 seconds) is so awkward that it might prompt an involuntary laugh, while the muddiness of the playing before the second repeat (and during the second repeat for that matter) is hard to take.
Again, this is not simply the griping of someone being overly fussy about the music. These are errors untutored ears can hear. Variation 27, for instance, is virtually unrecognizable in its woodenness (Feltsman and especially Canino stray in this direction as well) and length. 15 seconds into the piece, Dinnerstein seems to become lost in the contrapuntal motion, only then to reprise matters with more splotches of accompaniment. Variation 28, at least, keeps the trills fluttering, even when the chords in the left hand nearly march through with galoshes on. Variation 29, however, seems to become completely lost in itself; by this time, the recording quality also seems to have dropped off. I cannot think of a time when the impression created in me of a performance could be described as "incoherent," but it truly seems to be the case here.
Ultimately, whether one deems this disc too erratic or merely idiosyncratic, it still has a place in the catalog of recorded Variations. All the same, this should be the pinnacle neither for connoisseurs nor the unfamiliar alike. However, if this recording succeeds in sparking a listener's curiosity to hear the many other, far more insightful readings of these singularly amazing little masterpieces, then so much the better.
It is worth mentioning that one reviewer, John P. Boyce, writes that Bach himself would prefer this reading to all others. John P. Boyce (at the time of this review) has written only two reviews for Amazon, both of which are absolutely glowing 5-star reviews. (His second is for David L. Post's first novel.) Given that John P. Boyce may be the same person who commissioned David L. Post's "Variations and Fugue on a Bach-Busoni Chorale" for performance by Simone Dinnerstein herself (see [link removed by Amazon.com], for instance), the objectivity of his reviews may warrant being questioned.
74 of 95 people found the following review helpful: 2.0 out of 5 stars Not equal to the hype, October 17, 2007 This review is from: Bach: Goldberg Variations (Audio CD) I've heard and appreciated so many performances of the Goldbergs, from Landowska to Hantai, from Gould to Tipo and Schiff. One thing in common with all the really satisfying versions I know is a sense of journey and pacing, a sense that the artist knows where they are taking us. This is often felt at the arrival of Variation 25, an important signpost on the way "home." When set up effectively, it is a profound experience, the still heart of the piece. Simone Dinnerstein, however, has by this juncture allotted so much time to underdifferentiated meandering that the "black pearl" (as Landowska called it) feels like just another in a line of slow, melancholy pavanes. One hates to add more cynicism to this world, but the pretty face on the cover, along with the "inspiring" back-story, would seem to be what places this release in Oprah's Record club. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you?
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