Thursday 7 May 2015

Simone Dinnerstein and the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra under Kristjan Järvi bring together works by Ravel, Philip Lasser and Gershwin in outstanding performances that reveal a French/American connection

Simone Dinnerstein is a graduate of The Juilliard School where she was a student of Peter Serkin. She was a winner of the Astral Artist National Auditions, and has received the National Museum of Women in the Arts Award and the Classical Recording Foundation Award. She also studied with Solomon Mikowsky at the Manhattan School of Music and in London with Maria Curcio.

Dinnerstein’s performance schedule has taken her around the world since her triumphant New York recital debut at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall in 2005 to venues including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Vienna Konzerthaus, Berlin Philharmonie, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and London's Wigmore Hall. Festival appearances have included the Lincoln Center Mostly Mozart Festival, the Aspen, Verbier, and Ravinia festivals,  the Stuttgart Bach Festival and performances with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Dresden Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Berlin, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke's, Kristjan Järvi's Absolute Ensemble, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, and the Tokyo Symphony.

Dinnerstein is committed to bringing music by living composers to today's audiences, something that she does on her latest release for Sony Classical  Entitled Broadway-Lafayette, this disc features works that celebrate the link between French and American music. Of the works on this new disc, the jazz influences of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue certainly influenced Ravel in his Piano Concerto in G Major. Philip Lasser, whose The Circle and the Child - Concerto for Piano and Orchestra is included here, is the son of a French mother and an American father and grew up in a bilingual household.

She is joined on this new disc by Kristjan Järvi and the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra

A lightly textured opening from the orchestra under Kristjan Järvi in the Allegramente of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, is full of forward impetus to which Simone Dinnerstein brings a terrific clarity, aided immensely by the very fine, detailed recording. She brings some especially fine phrasing slowly revealing Ravel’s lovely rhythmic elements with a lovely light touch. Järvi and the Leipzig orchestra provide playing that is full of character, moving forward brilliantly in passages of urgency, offset by the most distinctive languid passages. Dinnerstein brings some especially fine, magical, hushed moments with finely controlled dynamics.  

Dinnerstein opens the Adagio assai with a cool, withdrawn feel, finding many lovely moments as she carefully moves forward. There is sensitive accompaniment from Järvi when the orchestra join, bringing an air of nostalgic charm.  The music builds before falling to one of the loveliest of passages with crystalline phrasing and some very fine woodwind passages.

After a rumbustious orchestral opening to the Presto, Dinnerstein brings the most wonderful light, crisp playing through some raucous orchestral moments. Both pianist and orchestra bring a sense of fun and some absolutely terrific runs on the piano before the coda.

Early in his musical training, Philip Lasser entered Nadia Boulanger’s famed Ecole d’Arts Americaines in Fontainebleau, France, where he began to establish his connection to the French lineage. Following his studies at Harvard College, Lasser lived in Paris while working with Boulanger’s closest colleague and disciple, Narcis Bonet, and legendary pianist Gaby Casadesus.  Lasser later received his master’s degree from Columbia University, where he undertook intensive studies in counterpoint with René Leibowitz’s disciple, Jacques-Louis Monod and received his doctorate from The Juilliard School, where he studied with composer David Diamond.

His Concerto for Piano and Orchestra - The Circle and the Child was written in 2014 for Simone Dinnerstein and explores ideas of travel and discovery, of memory and return.

The Poco Allegro opens with a lovely gentle motif for piano and orchestra before the orchestra slowly develops the theme. The music soon moves ahead rhythmically with firm, broad chords from Dinnerstein  before arriving at a languid section where Dinnerstein draws much feeling from the lovely theme. There are some very fine individual woodwind moments with this movement having a very fine, continuous flow, beautifully revealed by these players. Later there is a leisurely, finely crafted passage with rippling phrases before the tempo increases with brass adding a very American sound. Expansive passages leads playfully to the coda.

The second movement, Chorale and Child has a pensive, quiet opening for orchestra before the piano tentatively enters. There are some lovely passages with a repeated rising theme from the orchestra. Dinnerstein brings all her exploratory skills to reveal every lovely detail before the music rises in drama with some fine orchestral writing and subtle dissonances. The music rises a second time before slowly moving forward to the delicate, quiet coda and leading into the final movement.

Circles has a delicate opening with some lovely piano phrases and fine accompaniment as the movement slowly develops into a flowing theme. Slowly the orchestra introduces dissonant phrases and the piano part increases in dynamics, keeping a forward flow, the two lines bringing an attractive clash. This leads to a more rhythmically impassioned section before easing back, building again with the piano part retaining an occasionally subtle dissonant stance, before quietly arriving at a halt.

This is an extremely attractive concerto that, in many ways, re-invents the traditional romantic concerto.

Järvi and his orchestra bring a nicely coloured and shaped opening orchestral passage to George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with a lovely, suitably sultry feel. Indeed, Järvi draws some wonderfully idiomatic playing from the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra throughout. When Simone Dinnerstein enters she provides a lovely flexible tempo combined with a beautifully light touch. There are some terrific piano passages as the music struts its way purposefully forward as well as some very fine characterful orchestral passages adding so much to this performance. Dinnerstein brings a sense of re-discovery to the piano part with light textured, limpid phrasing, finding many engaging moments. There are moments of terrific agility, particularly the rippling repeated phrases that appear later.

These artists manage to bring a cohesion and freshness to Gershwin’s most popular work with Dinnerstein always seeking to find something new to reveal.

This is a fine choice of repertoire to include together in outstanding performances that reveal a sense of discovery.  They receive an exceptionally detailed recording.

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