Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Revelatory Philip Glass and Schubert From the Irrepressible Simone Dinnerstein

After the lockdown devastated the performing arts in general, Simone Dinnerstein was one of the few who seemed to have been particularly energized in the time since Cuomo’s fascist takeover of this state. Maybe it helps that she’s a pianist, accustomed to playing solo. Undeterred, she keeps putting out good albums. One particularly noteworthy release is A Character of Quiet – Schubert and Glass, streaming at Spotify.

It’s actually not nearly as quiet as the title implies. Dinnerstein opens the record with Philip Glass’ Etude No. 16, No. 6, a disarmingly catchy but characteristically brooding piece built around close-harmonied chords with a rather odd, possibly intentional resemblance to a familiar indie rock guitar progression. Dinnerstein offers smart contrast between slightly muted lefthand and an emphatic right, following a long rainbow arc to its reward.

Etude No. 6 is cruelly difficult, its stabbing righthand alternating with the moody, similarly staccato chords in the left. It’s a good study in how to play Glass in general, and Dinnerstein’s even-handed attack is breathtaking when you consider the challenges she has to meet. Her background playing idiosyncratic (many would say hubristic) Bach repertoire on the piano strongly informs her alternatingly floating and crushing technique.

The final Glass etude is No. 2, played with a wary hesitancy yet attuned to the piece’s inner hypnotic quality. Dinnerstein closes with a revelatory, Rosetta Stone take of Schubert’s symphonic-length Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, D. 960. Shifting between baroque reserve and a strikingly articulated, puckish staccato in the first movement, she finds cynical humor and unexpected flickers of pathos where others just barrel through. This is serious musical sleuthing.

She builds a deep-sky panorama and then approaches the burgeoning anthem in the second movement with considerable restraint. The way she laughs through her fingers in the scherzo of a waltz afterward is just plain common sense, she seems to be telling us. A persistent tension slowly becomes a balance between reserve and jubilation in the concluding movement as she brings the piece full circle.

June 15, 2021 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Magical, Mystical, Profoundly Relevant New Hildegard Recording By Seraphic Fire

Seraphic Fire‘s new recording of Hildegard von Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum – streaming at Spotify– couldn’t have come out at a more appropriate time. It’s a parable of good versus evil. The Virtues and the Devil battle over a soul; eventually the Virtues win. At the most pivotal moment in world history, as the voices of reason struggle against a genocidal, needle-wielding cabal of tech oligarchs, this celestial, otherworldly, stark music offers considerable solace and inspiration.

The central riff in the introit is an aptly solemn, desolate, seven-note phrase in the blues scale. It occurs here and there in British folk music and has been appropriated by the occasional classical composer in the centuries since. The rich natural reverb in the space where this was recorded enhances the feeling of isolation – something the world has suffered in unprecedented proportions since March 16 of last year.

The choir take their time with the prologue, the syncopation livening its hypnotic melody. As Anima, the embattled soul, Luthien Brackett sings with understated drama and optimism. Clara Osowski portrays Humility, Queen of the Virtues with a calm tenacity. James K. Bass plays the role of the Devil, the lone male character in the narrative. Hildegard refuses to give him a melody, so all he can do is bluster and bellow: feminism, 12th century style.

The men and women of the choir sing the rest of the roles, conducted with masterful attention to detail by Patrick Dupre Quigley. After the devil makes his entrance, we get a tantalizing bit of close harmony from the women. Long, understatedly imploring solos interchange with a sneering, diabolical presence.

A whispery, sepulchral drone lingers beneath the women’s voices as the soul returns. The final two passages, where the devil gets tied up and then sent back to hell, are tidy and bright: if only salvation was this easy!

June 15, 2021 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment