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Bach: Goldberg Variations

89 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 28, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Dinnerstein's Goldberg Variations was recorded in the neoclassic auditorium of the Academy of Arts and Letters in New York in March 2005. The piano she plays, a 1903 Hamburg Steinway model D concert grand, was originally owned by the town council of Hull,

This is destined to be one of the best-remembered and significant classical releases of 2007. Simone (pronounced "See-mo-nuh") Dinnerstein has recently been attracting lots of media attention, from Oprah’s magazine to The New York Times. Within a classical-music circuit increasingly unwilling to take artistic risks, hers has been the rare success story. The 30-something pianist (a former student of Peter Serkin), backing herself, wowed critics with some notable concerts and eventually secured the support of a major label to release a self-produced recording Dinnerstein had made in March 2005. This Telarc account of the Goldberg Variations thus marks her solo debut CD (following some earlier collaborations with cellist Zuill Bailey on the Delos label). For once, the publicity is trying to keep up with the musical achievement--rather than the other way around.

Dinnerstein's seriousness of purpose is immediately obvious from her choice of the Bach masterpiece to make her mark. With the specter of Glenn Gould's own epoch-making 1955 debut playing the same work—not to mention a vast catalog of competing interpretations—Dinnerstein is nothing if not bold. But what's really extraordinary here is the liberating sense she conveys of its not having all been said before—without resorting to tiresome idiosyncrasies to stand apart from the crowd. Her remarkably deliberate way with the opening aria is unusual, to be sure. But it establishes the stakes for what will follow, where Dinnerstein's thoughtfulness and spectacular clarity seem to discover new facets at every turn. Her pianism embraces a prismatic array of touches, whether the feathery lightness of Variation 5, the burbling rhythms of Variation 14, or the tragic weight of the "black pearl" Variation 25. The cumulative effect is exhilarating, intensely moving, and an affirmation of the Goldbergs' infinite variety. --Thomas May

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Product Details

  • Composer: J.S. Bach
  • Audio CD (August 28, 2007)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Telarc
  • ASIN: B000SQJ2X2
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,633 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

196 of 235 people found the following review helpful By Snow Leopard on October 22, 2007
Format: 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 (other, more audiophilic reviewers, note actually the very unsettling recording quality of this disc--I don't get that on my comparatively cheap equipment, but it's worth noting that some people report this being a badly engineered disc). As such, 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.
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91 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Larry VanDeSande VINE VOICE on August 29, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Simone Dinnerstein, a Juilliard 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, engage staccato, 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.
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103 of 132 people found the following review helpful By Hugh de Man on October 17, 2007
Format: 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.
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52 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Geoffrey P. Smith on September 3, 2007
Format: Audio CD
This recording is bound to polarize those who enjoy the 'Goldberg Variations'...after all if every other rendition engenders spirited pro- and con-, why shouldn't the latest contender? Simone Dinnerstein plays the work on a piano, and its sounds wonderful. I don't mind the harpsichord, but I prefer the newer instrument. Secondly she plays almost all the repeats, so this is a long recording. Finally, I really enjoy her interpretation, and don't feel inclined to 'slug it out' with those for whom Glenn Gould's version(s) are the touchstone(s), 1955 and/or 1981. I love the GG recordings and a few others as well. Ms Dinnerstein's entry into the catalog is a welcome addition. I bought this after reading a review on Salon or Slate (can't remember which of the two), and the reviewer who is seldom impressed with new recordings of the 'Goldbergs' thought this one is a keeper. I agree, and recommend you give it a try.
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Bach: Goldberg Variations
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