Tuesday, August 26, 2008


A surprising and contrasting pair of works which spoke to each other across the centuries at the hands of a spontaneous performer. George Crumb’s music is grounded in tradition, or rather traditions, as he happily riffed on themes of Thelonius Monk and Claude Debussy in nine kaleidoscopic sound experiences. This work exploits the piano from the inside out: strumming strings, percussive tappings and hands full of notes in spacey disconnection. An adventure in 20th century modernity.And the venerable Goldberg Variations, 30 contrasting and seemingly disconnected pieces with changeable moods and exacting lines. And always that theme to hold the thing together.

Starting the program with Crumb was quite a nonconformist gesture – and one that paid out in directing the ear to fascinating parallels.

From the first attack on the piano at the opening of the Crumb it was obvious that we were in for a bumpy ride. Crumb is a composer who is not afraid to be delicate and almost dainty while also bringing in the heavy artillery of noise and decibels. With Crumb, though, it’s usually the peaceful voice that wins in the end.

And so it was with the Bach of the Goldberg Variations. The barefoot pianist had the message down. Her achingly slow performance of the aria at the beginning and end of the piece almost stretched to infinity, but she had control of the moment and it sang like so many other moments in a stimulating recital..

Purists could fault the highly pianistic and arbitrary treatment of Bach,’s score but his music translates so well and Dinnerstein has such an instinctive understanding of the inner life of the music, that all is forgiven. How gratifying to hear an artist with convictions and not just technique.

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