Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
Simone Dinnerstein — An American Mosaic (Supertrain Records)
"It's a funny year, I was just talking about it with my son actually. For myself, I feel like a very strange combination of having been completely inactive and didn't achieve all the things I wanted to achieve," pianist Simone Dinnerstein remembers, "and on the other hand, having produced two albums, which is like way more than I would ever do in a normal year."
Several months ago, Dinnerstein recorded A Character of Quiet from her home, on her own piano. Her second and newest recording in less than a year is, An American Mosaic. The seed for this new release started with a phone call from American composer Richard Danielpour.
"He wanted to thank me for my Bach recordings, which he had been listening to and had really been helping him get through the the difficult lockdown in L.A.
"It felt like a tie that we had with each other that I didn't know we had. Then he went on to tell me that he was thinking about writing a major piano work, which would be commemorating all of the different people in our society who had been affected by the pandemic. He wondered whether I would be open to him writing this piece for me."
Tell me more about these three Bach transcriptions and why it's important that they're on this recording?
"This whole project was massively facilitated by the Oregon Bach Festival. The idea was a virtual premiere of this piece in December. Since Bach is what connected Richard with me and it's the Oregon Bach Festival, I thought it would be really interesting if Richard transcribed some Bach pieces for me."
What did you discover about Richard Danielpour as a composer that helped you interpret this piece?
"I think that the main thing that I felt about his writing is that there's a tremendous sense of narrative in his work. There's a sense of text, even though there is no text, and you need to be able to convey that. Through the use of rubato, through timing, through how you articulate and how resonant something is are ways to do that."
Can you give me an example of where we hear some of those things textless moments?
"For instance, there's a movement called 'Rabbis and Ministers.' You can tell when it's the rabbi and when it's the minister that's going back and forth. When it's the rabbi or the cantor, the way that it's written down, it sound like somebody is singing a prayer."
How does the track 'Doctors and Interns' create a special moment for you and those experiencing the pandemic head on?
"The music has a lot of care in it, it feels like it's personal. Not everybody associates that with doctors. I think that this period that we just went through made us appreciate doctors in a different way and perhaps made doctors feel differently about their profession.
"The middle movement, 'An Elegy for Our Time,' is the heart of the piece. That's an American song to me, a song that we would sound like a folk song that everybody would know.
"It's also an elegy for this year. There's something about the quiet that we've had that has been beautiful. When I hear the music, it's also an elegy for that."
To hear the rest of my conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.