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Bach: A Strange Beauty

4.2 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Audio CD, January 18, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

Simone Dinnerstein's first recording for Sony Classical, BACH: A STRANGE BEAUTY, has the critically-acclaimed pianist returning to Bach,this time combining three transcriptions of his Chorale Preludes, with one of his English Suites and two of his Keyboard Concerti, again revealing her intense and expressive playing style, as well as her individual approach to Bach's music.
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Digital Booklet: Bach: A Strange Beauty
Digital Booklet: Bach: A Strange Beauty
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Product Details

  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (January 18, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony Classical
  • Run Time: 61 minutes
  • ASIN: B004DURSDK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,266 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

By John Kwok HALL OF FAME on January 22, 2011
Format: Audio CD
Hearing Simone Dinnerstein playing Bach is an experience that's almost quite unlike any other I have heard, either live, or in recent recordings. While many have tended to emphasize the more formal, more analytical, aspects of Bach's scores, here Dinnerstein succeeds most admirably in exploring Bach's expressive side, or rather, to quote the album title, "Bach: A Strange Beauty", which she does in compelling performances ranging from transcriptions of organ chorales (e. g. Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ BWV 639, arr. Busoni, the album's opening track) to solo keyboard works (e. g. English Suite in G Minor BWV 808), and finally, with the two keyboard concerti (Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F Minor BWV 808; Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D Minor BWV 1052) played with ample expressiveness from her and the period instrument practice-informed Kammerorchester Staatskapelle Berlin. The most cantabile Bach scores are those of the organ chorale transcriptions, especially the BWV 639.

If there is one unifying theme to Dinnerstein's expressive playing, it is the consistent joie de vivre one feels for each of the Bach pieces, emphasizing the strong emotional as well as analytical aspects of Bach's scores. Those who greatly enjoyed her critically and commercially acclaimed "Goldberg Variations" recording will find much to admire here from a fine young pianist who is the daughter and niece of two of our finest American painters (She does devote ample time in discussing her personal artistic connections to her father's work in the extensive liner notes, as well as explaining why she isn't interested in adhering to a period performance practice style.
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Format: Audio CD
Simone Dinnerstein's newest recording has been circulating among the cognoscenti for a while now and finally it has been released. It is a complete pleasure. Aptly titled BACH: A STRANGE BEAUTY, the Cd includes Keyboard Concerti Nos. 1 BWV 1052 and No. 5 BWV 1056 which she performs with the Kammerorchester Staatskapelle Berlin, the English Suite No 3 BWV 808, and three choral transcriptions for keyboard alone. Not to be outdone with the display of technical facility she offered in her Goldberg Variations recording, here Dinnerstein is drawn more to the elegant and gently Bach. Her touch is rich and full as is well suited to these works. There are high points, such as the Largo movement from the Concerto No. 5 - as richly romantic as Bach can be played (!), and the choral transcriptions are refreshingly elegant. The entire recoding is very well produced and there is not a disappointing aspect of this project by an artist who commands our respect. Highly recommended! Grady Harp, January 11
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Format: Audio CD
For many Bach purists its a complete travesty to hear his works performed on the piano. (The transcription of the Chorales need to be considered on their own merit as they were intentionally written for the piano.) But, there are those (this reviewer being one)who prefer hearing Bach on the piano because when articulated and voiced well, in combination with a "light as a feather," yet solid technique, they can expose the brilliant complexities within Bach's keyboard works. Sadly, Dinnerstein's performances are not light, they're very heavy - almost being one big giant thud! It feels as if this kind of heavy handed interpretation was the goal from the very beginning. If so, then the final product meets the expectations of the performer. Unfortunately, pushing Bach into the category of Romanticism is really not how most people want to hear their Bach keyboard works and most of the intricacies of the music are smothered. While things here seem articulated fairly well, the tempos tend to vary within movements and one has trouble trying to catch the rhythm and ride along with it. As a reviewer has already mentioned, the recording is very bass heavy, which does it no favors. It also sounds like it was recorded in a cavern and that is also a strike against it. The bottom line is, is that there are far, far better performances of these works found with Perahia, Schiff, Tipo, or Hewitt.

On the other hand, the Chorale transcriptions are meant to be approached differently in that they are products of the Liszt school of transcriptions. They never were pure keyboard pieces and can hold up to a heavier hand if that's the path chosen by the performer. However, even within the transcriptions we find a wide and varied take.
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Format: Audio CD
A big fan of the art of Simone Dinnerstein I have been waiting impatiently for a new issue to follow her superlative Berlin recital. Yet, "Oh, oh" - I thought when I saw the front cover: "A Strange Beauty - written in, what appears to be, chocolate; not an auspicious way to describe works by Bach, the Einstein of classical music. Somebody has been got at by the marketing mafia - "Simone Dinnerstein plays Bach" is no longer good enough, curiosity must now be lured by an ambiguous, quasi-nonsensical heading. Sic transit gloria mundi!" So it was with a mixture of anticipation and dread that I put this disc in my player and pushed the button.

Fortunately my fear was thoroughly put to shame. Luckily Simone is still Simone - and Bach is still Bach, and the peculiar title of the album probably(?) allures to the fact that the mixture of works on this disc is a bit of a "mêlée étrange": two keyboard concertos with an interposed English suite, all devided by piano transcriptions of two organ chorals and a cantata part. Truly a menu of contrasts; one could imagine that heartburn was soon to follow, and I am still not sure it is a juxtaposition I would recommend, if my advice was sought. Still, it is certainly novel - if not exactly true to form.

Moving on to what a review should be all about - the performance and the artistic impression - Simone Dinnerstein's Bach once again proves a treat for sore ears. The opening number "Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" is a dark and ominous piece that unavoidably leaves one poised for serious business, and the three main courses - each in its own way - follow the example.
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