Simone Dinnerstein presented Bach's Goldberg Variations in an understated performance at the Newman Center in Denver tonight. With no fanfare or extended dialog with the audience, Ms. Dinnerstein came out on stage and held the audience enwrapt for nearly an hour and a half, working her way meticulously through the 32 variations originally published in 1741. Her grace and fluidity throughout the program were ever present, but it was her mastery of shifts in style and interpretation that really held the audience captive.
The opening "Aria" is a slow pensive piece requiring a deep understanding of the nuances in the music, the long melodic lines only making sense if they are played with sense of the whole and not just note to note. Ms Dinnerstein provided the most delicate shades from one note to the next to perfectly capture the lines in all their beauty. Much later in the program, the dark anguish of "Variation 21, Canon at the Seventh," had the same luxuriance as to the opening "Aria." Throughout the hall the audience was emotionally locked with the performance, agonizing with Ms. Dinnerstein as the depth of the emotional despair unfolded.
But Bach in not just slow and pensive. His florid finger work is some of the most demanding of any ever written. Throughout the program we were treated to Ms Dinnerstein's skill in this regard as well. "Variation 5" is not only blisteringly fast, but requires the hands to occasionally cross over. "Variation 14" is more intense with "Variation 17" a step up from there with "Variation 26" perhaps showing Bach (and Ms Dinnerstein) is completely insane! Ms Dinnerstein didn't miss a note, a bit or even seem to break a sweat. At the end of "Variation 26" the audience gave a noticeable gasp and nearly applauded in awe of the performance.
This concert was to live performance what her 2007 album Goldberg Variations is to recorded media. The CD is an amazing feat on its own, but to watch Ms Dinnerstein duplicate the flawless performance live is breath-taking. She has recently released The Berlin Concert featuring Bach's French Suite No. 5, Lasser's Twelve Variations on a Chorale by J.S. Bach and Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 32. I can only hope she brings that performance to Denver sometime soon.