Q&A with pianist Simone Dinnerstein

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein performs this week at the University of Washington.

Zach Carstensen: Bach figures prominently into your repertoire. You recorded the Goldberg Variations with Telarc and have a new recording of Bach keyboard concertos coming out on Sony. Why do you find yourself drawn to Bach?

Simone Dinnerstein: Bach has been my favorite composer since I was a teenager. For me, his music is the perfect synthesis of the cerebral and the spiritual.

ZC: How does your playing of pieces like the Goldberg Variations change from performance to performance?

SD: Over the years, my interpretation has grown freer. I take more time both within the Variations and between the Variations.

ZC: Is there a right way to play Bach?

SD: Definitely not! I think that is the beautiful thing about music – there are no absolutes.

ZC: Even though Bach’s music is a significant part of your repertoire, you’ve also played Webern, Copland and for your upcoming recital in Seattle you are playing Schubert and Schumann in addition to Bach. Do you every worry about being cast narrowly as just a Bach specialist?

SD: Not really, you’re right that I play music by a wide variety of composers. But if I was going to be associated with one composer – I don’t think Bach is a bad choice!

ZC: Your dad is a visual artist. I am wondering if your playing and how you approach music has a visual component? Are there images particular pieces conjure for you? Do you hope the audience “sees” something too?

SD: When I was growing up, my dad (the painter Simon Dinnerstein) used to talk to me a lot about line in drawing, and sometimes when he would listen to me play he would say, “I don’t hear the line.” It made me think about phrasing in a particular way. I often think about light and dark, and texture in my playing. I don’t think of particular images, but I think of techniques used by artists.

ZC: Are there any pianists active today that you admire?

SD: Yes, of course. Some of today’s pianists that I admire include Awadagin Pratt, Natasha Paremski, Orion Weiss, and Gloria Cheng.

Simone Dinnerstein performs as part of the University of Washington’s Presidents’ Piano Series January 12, 2011 at 8 PM.

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