Simone Dinnerstein Performs Bach, Crumb, Muhly and Beethoven at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall

Washington, D.C., January 4, 2014 (Washington Bangla Radio): Now recording exclusively for Sony Classics, pianist Simone Dinnerstein makes her Kennedy Center Concert Hall debut with an afternoon recital on February 9. The concert includes Eine Kleine Mitternacht Musik by George Crumb; a nine-movement suite for amplified piano based on Thelonius Monk’s 1940s jazz standard “Around Midnight,” as well as You Can’t Get There From Here by New York-based composer Nico Muhly. The program also features works by Bach and Beethoven.  The concert includes Eine Kleine Mitternacht Musik by George Crumb; a nine-movement suite for amplified piano based on Thelonius Monk’s 1940s jazz standard “Around Midnight,” as well as You Can’t Get There From Here by New York-based composer Nico Muhly. The program also features works by Bach and Beethoven.  “Crumb and Muhly, both evocative and original composers, are also virtuoso pianists, says WPAS President Jenny Bilfield, “and I love that this program focuses the lens on the tandem talents of composer/pianists spanning several centuries."

George Crumb's ''Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusick'' was one of 20 compositions commissioned by Italian pianist Emanuele Arciuli to be based on Thelonius Monk’s “Round Midnight.” Crumb’s nine-movement suite for amplified piano examines that music’s themes  through many prisms,  prompting the pianist to play inside the instrument, strum, pluck and drum on the strings, painting vivid pictures within which fragments of the Monk theme make periodic appearances.

Born in Vermont in 1981 and raised in Rhode Island, Nico Muhly has composed a wide scope of work for ensembles, soloists and organizations, including the score for Best Picture nominee The Reader (2008), for which actress Kate Winslet was awarded an Oscar. Muhly studied under Christopher Rouse and John Corigliano at Juilliard. “You Can’t Get There from Here” was commissioned by the Terezin Music Foundation, which was named after a World War II concentration camp that was known for its astonishingly rich cultural life. The foundation is dedicated to preserving the music of the composers who were prisoners there. Muhly’s work, which he says “is designed to be a navigation challenge for Simone Dinnerstein, who, aside from her technical prowess, has an emotional and interpretive virtuosity I was very interested in exploring.”

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The piece is a highly sectionalized “memory piece,” featuring fanstasies on snippets of a tune. and includes both minimalist, spare, rhythmic sections and others that ”look back to very early counterpoint,” says Dinnerstein, adding that the piece, “combines [Muhly’s] enthusiasm for minimalism with his love for 16th Century English Virginal music, two styles that are separated by centuries and dramatically different musical contexts. To my ears, one thing they share despite this distance is a certain rapt purity, a kind of ordered musical cleanliness. And there’s an intellectual and sensual excitement to hearing music that tries to reconcile two approaches that could so easily pull apart from each other.”

Said the Washington Post of Dinnerstein’s WPAS recital last January, “Dinnerstein, a deeply musical player, can mesmerize audiences. Her interpretations come from intrinsic communion with the composer, without any pianistic showmanship. At her best, she marries pristine textual reading with a glimpse of the hereafter, and she can make you catch your breath at the beauty of this or that phrase.” Now a well-established performer, Simone Dinnerstein has come a long way from her early performances in nursing homes and prisons. Her first, self-financed–and much praised–recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations reached No. 1 on the Billboard classical charts the first week after its release and was named to many ‘Best of 2007’ lists, including those of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker and iTunes. Subsequent recordings, The Berlin Concert (Telarc), Bach: A Strange Beauty (Sony), and Something Almost Being Said (Sony) – have also topped the classical charts, with Bach: A Strange Beauty making the Billboard Top 200 (a compilation of the entire music industry's sales of albums in all genres).

Dinnerstein is interested in exploring ways to subtly change the traditional concert experience, and has created a new program with thereminist Pamelia Kurstin and actor Alvin Epstein that combines classical music and avant-garde cabaret, and weaves together poetry, music, improvisation, and narration. The program debuted at New York’s popular West Village club, Le Poisson Rouge, in November 2012. Committed to bringing music by living composers to today’s audiences, Dinnerstein frequently performs pieces written for her by Philip Lasser and Daniel Felsenfeld. In spring 2013, Simone Dinnerstein and singer-songwriter Tift Merritt released an album together on Sony called Night, a unique collaboration uniting classical, folk, and rock worlds, exploring common terrain and uncovering new musical landscapes. Night features original songs written for the duo by Brad Mehldau and Patty Griffin, as well as classical selections and Merritt’s own work.

Dinnerstein is a graduate of the Juilliard School, where she was a student of Peter Serkin. Among her many scholarships and awards at Juilliard were the William Petschek Piano Scholarship, the Vladimir Horowitz Scholarship and the Chopin Award. She was a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center for two summers. She also studied with Solomon Mikowsky at the Manhattan School of Music and in London with Maria Curcio, the distinguished pupil of Artur Schnabel.

Simone Dinnerstein lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and son, where she founded P.S. 321 Neighborhood Concerts, an evening concert series at the Brooklyn public elementary school where her husband teaches fifth grade. Dinnerstein’s father is the artist Simon Dinnerstein.