An unusually balmy January day was the perfect setting for Simone Dinnerstein’s warm embrace of music by Robert Schumann, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Franz Schubert at her Tuesday Musical Club recital. In less than a decade, Dinnerstein has captured the imagination of classical fans worldwide with her "majestic originality of vision,” according to The Independent.
After the concert, Dinnerstein recalled first hearing Robert Schumann’s “Kinderszenen” at a young age while watching the Australian film “My Brilliant Career.”
“I didn’t really even know the title at that point,” she said. “I think that what I responded to when I first heard that piece, was this sense of longing that is in the music.”
Dinnerstein was so taken with the opening scene, “Of Foreign Lands and Peoples,” that she begged her piano teacher to let her study it, even while other instructors tut-tutted over such a young performer attempting to play the music.
“The piece is theoretically written for adults to play,” she pointed out. With a laugh, she continued, “I think that the teachers who criticized me were being extremely pedantic about the whole thing.
“It’s one of those things that is very prevalent in classical music circles, to think that you need to be of a certain age to play certain music. Late Beethoven sonatas, late Schubert sonatas, people tend to think you need to be really mature. Of course they forget about the fact that the composers themselves weren’t that old when they wrote this music!”
In contrast to the Schumann, Dinnerstein said that she deliberately waited for years to study and perform Franz Schubert’s "Sonata in B-flat major," which took up the entire second half of her program. However, it wasn’t for any thought of maturity, or lack thereof, in performance that she held off.
“I was waiting to defer the enjoyment of playing it,” Dinnerstein explained. “I just felt like it was a piece that I knew was going to be so special for me to play, because I love it so much. I wanted to look forward to it.”
Dinnerstein said learning the Schubert sonata only made it “more mysterious,” referring to the composer’s unique chord structure and voicing. Still, it was the emotion of the work that has always seemed to resonate with her the most. “There’s a quality of warm love in that piece. And that’s something that I really want to get to in it. It can seem very serious, or almost troubled, but actually, there’s a benevolence to the music, which is so unusual. It’s seen through a cloud, but … there’s a quality of forgiveness, or benevolence, or true affection.”
Dinnerstein’s concert also included a specialty of hers, music by Johann Sebastian Bach. Her interpretation really brought out the rhythmic side of the “French Suite No. 5,” and several audience members could be seen nodding their heads in time to the music.
On the horizon for Dinnerstein is a new release this month featuring George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” Maurice Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G,” and music written specifically for Dinnerstein by Philip Lasser, a concerto called “The Circle and the Child.” Dinnerstein pointed out that Lasser is half American, half French, and so his concerto fit perfectly with those of Gershwin and Ravel. Plus, she added, he loves Bach, just as she does.
Dinnerstein continues to explore rock music thanks to her 13-year-old son, who plays the electric guitar and has turned his mom on to all manner of singers and songwriters. “The way that singer-songwriters communicate a song, and the instrumentation of their band, is something I think about now when I play,” said Dinnerstein.
Lest you think she’s plugging in, her passion for classical music remains strong, and she’s eager to share it with the next generation. In New York City, where she lives, Dinnerstein organizes concerts and talks at public schools. She proudly noted that at one campus she frequents, “the whole school knows Bach!”
Hear Simone Dinnerstein’s full San Antonio recital this Saturday night at 7 p.m. on KPAC 88.3 FM and KTXI 90.1 FM. Dinnerstein’s new album, “Broadway-Lafayette,” will be released on Feb. 24, 2015.