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Undersong (Simone Dinnerstein)

Simone Dinnerstein (piano) (Orange Mountain Music)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Undersong
Works by Couperin, Glass, Satie and Schumann
Simone Dinnerstein (piano)
Orange Mountain OMM0156   71:56 mins

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‘This is music to get lost in,’ writes Simone Dinnerstein of Undersong, a collection of works by Couperin, Schumann, Philip Glass and Satie. Each piece is created around a refrain – the titular ‘undersong’ – a constant, shapeshifting presence. This repetition is subtle, as in Schumann’s shimmering Arabesque, and explicit, as in Mad Rush by Glass, where the phrases loop and entwine. The programme reflects Dinnerstein’s lockdown experiences in Brooklyn, where the pianist took the same daily walk, along a familiar – yet gently changing – path in Green-Wood Cemetery.

The elasticity of time is further represented in Couperin’s joyful Tic Toc Choc, a much-transcribed piece originally composed for harpsichord and now widely adopted by pianists. Dinnerstein takes a more percussive approach than Alexandre Tharaud (Harmonia Mundi; 2007), allowing just the right amount of space between the notes. The recording is clear rather than resonant, which suits Dinnerstein’s chosen voice leading. The American pianist wasn’t the only one to turn to Couperin in recent times of need: Angela Hewitt also recorded Les Barricades Mystérieuses as part of her lockdown YouTube series. Dinnerstein’s is more expansive than Hewitt’s – the slower pace and gently blurred ornamentation give this work a modern edge.

Schumann’s 30-minute Kreisleriana, composed at the high-point of his career, recalls the fictional musician who appears in the writings of ETA Hoffmann. Dinnerstein imbues this critical piece with the necessary darkness and restraint – particularly in the slower interior movements. The final Schnell und spielend is a little ponderous.

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Claire Jackson