The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music interview: Pianist Simone Dinnerstein talks to The Ear — Part 2 of 2

November 28, 2009
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By Jacob Stockinger

American pianist Simone Dinnerstein will make her Madison debut at the Wisconsin Union Theater on Friday, Dec. 4, at 8 p.m.

Her solo recital program includes Bach’s French Suite, No. 5, Anton Webern’s Variations for Piano, Philip Lasser’s “Twelve Variations on a Bach Chorale,” Aaron Copland’s Piano Variations and Franz Schubert’s first set of Four Impromptus, Op. 90 or D. 899.

Tickets are $18, $25 and $30 with $12 for young people 6-18; and $10 for UW students. Call 608 262-2201 or visit

Here is the second part of the e-mail interview she gave to The Well-Tempered Ear:

Could you comment on your Madison program of Schubert’s Four Impromptus, the Bach French Suite No. 5, Philip Lasser’s variations on Bach, Webern’s Variations and Copland’s Piano Variations? Is there a link or a point of view that unifies it?

I think of this program as being about small forms, which together create a larger form.  All of the pieces in the program do that.  I like the echoes between the works too – the connections between Bach and Lasser, for example, and the starkness that begins both the Copland and the Schubert.

How many concerts per year are you performing these days? Where have recent tours taken you? Will you be doing more concerto and chamber music performances?

I’ve been fairly busy recently, and I’m actually in the extraordinary position of having to refuse work I’m offered. I’ve recently played debut performances with the New York Philharmonic and with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which was a lot of fun, and I gave my debut in Vienna’s Konzerthaus. This season I’m also playing with the Minnesota, Atlanta and Frankfurt Radio Orchestras, among others.

Chamber music is more challenging. I’ve played a lot of chamber music in my life, but for now my time is really limited. I’m hoping I can add it back in over the next few years.

What are the biggest challenges facing classical music today at a time of economic hardship and declining ticket sales?

I think one of the biggest problems for classical music is that its presentation seems to be stuck in the 19th century. There’s so much emphasis on tradition and a certain type of formality that I think it scares a lot of people off. The emphasis should be on the power of the music itself and in finding a way to make its presentation accessible to a wider range of people.

Are there older, famous pianists you particularly admire and listen to?

There are many and, unfortunately, most of them are no longer with us.  I’m a huge fan of Glenn Gould, Artur Schnabel and Alfred Cortot. Among the living pianists I admire are Daniel Barenboim and the great jazz pianist Hank Jones.

Among others who come to mind right now, Myra Hess stands out. She was a pianist of great integrity, and combined great thoughtfulness and spontaneity. Her sound world was just magical.

You just released the Beethoven cello sonatas after two solo CDs. What will be your next solo piano CD and when will it appear? Other concerto or chamber music CDs?

I can’t talk about my next project right now, but I’m very excited about it!

Editor’s Note: Here are some other video sites and interviews to visit if you want to know more about Simone Dinnerstein:

About Simone’s CD, “The Berlin Concert”:
Simone Dinnerstein talks about her Goldberg Variations CD:
Michael Lawrence’s Bach Documentary segment:


Morning Edition:
PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Art Beat blog:
Studio 360:
The Howard Stern Show News, with Robin Quivers:

Posted in Classical music

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