Something Almost Being Said

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Johann Sebastian Bach; Franz Schubert
ALBUM TITLE: Something Almost Being Said
WORKS: Bach: Partitas Nos 1 & 2; Schubert: Four Impromptus
PERFORMER: Simone Dinnerstein (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 88697998242


Philip Larkin – who inclined towards jazz – might have been surprised to find a line from his poem The Trees casting a verdant canopy over Simone Dinnerstein’s new album. And he might have struggled to untangle her explanation, which boils down to finding a ‘vocal’ element in the ‘non-vocal music’ of Bach and Schubert.

Unpicking the nebulous metaphysics is probably not going to detain many listeners, but the lack of liner notes – beyond a two-page biography – might leave some under-informed. Still, let the music do the talking. Even if it sends out mixed messages. The gathering note at the opening of the C minor Impromptu D899 (sharing the same key as the Bach Partita which precedes it) makes an effortless bridge into Schubert’s world, yet what follows struggles to reconcile music pulled between gravitas and release.

The G flat Impromptu fares better, its limpid ‘song without words’ sustaining Dinnerstein’s ‘thesis’, but elsewhere she can be prosaic, and the Bach yields a very mixed bag; the slower movements often indulged, extending even to a navel-gazing lyricism in the B flat Partita’s Gigue. Best are the two concluding movements of Bach’s Second Partita whose translucent sparkle gloriously incarnates the last line of Larkin’s poem: ‘Begin afresh, afresh, afresh’.


Paul Riley