Pianist Simone Dinnerstein Takes On New Artistic Challenges With Three Upcoming Projects

On September 17, she releases the first single from her forthcoming album, Undersong, a compelling program of music by Couperin, Schumann, Glass, and Satie.

By: Sep. 01, 2021
Pianist Simone Dinnerstein Takes On New Artistic Challenges With Three Upcoming Projects

This fall, pianist Simone Dinnerstein takes on new artistic challenges in three projects, expanding her role from performer to director in her first production, The Eye Is the First Circle, developed in residence at PEAK Performances at Montclair State University, and premiered at MSU's Alexander Kasser Theater, October 14-17, 2021.

On September 15, 16, and 17, 2021 presented by Death of Classical's The Angel's Share series, Dinnerstein gives an immersive performance of Richard Danielpour's An American Mosaic in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, leading audiences along a route scattered with several pianos that she will play. In addition, Dinnerstein's recorded performance of the piece will stream on October 12, presented by Miller Theatre on the Live from Columbia series.

On September 17, she releases the first single from her forthcoming album, Undersong, a compelling program of music by Couperin, Schumann, Glass, and Satie that she is touring throughout the 21-22 season. Dinnerstein also performs Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 7 in G minor and Philip Glass's Piano Concerto No. 3, a work written for her, with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia at the Kimmel Cultural Campus on November 7 and 8, 2021. This summer, she gave her first in-person performances since the start of the pandemic at the re-opening of the Bard Music Festival and at the Venice Biennale in Italy.

With The Eye Is the First Circle (Montclair State University, October 14-17), Simone Dinnerstein ventures into bold interdisciplinary artistic territory in collaboration with projection designer Laurie Olinder and lighting designer Davison Scandrett. Conceived and directed by Dinnerstein, this dynamic production deconstructs and collages elements from two iconic works of art - her father Simon Dinnerstein's Fulbright Triptych and Charles Ives's Piano Sonata No. 2 (Concord). The Fulbright Triptych places a family portrait (including an infant Simone) within the tradition of Medieval altar paintings, against a wall teeming with art historical references, and the Concord Sonata expresses the imaginative and natural world of the Transcendentalists through an ecstatic and fractured musical lens. Olinder pulls visuals including animated elements of the painting and real-time video to all points of the stage, and Scandrett's lighting gives them breathtaking theatricality. Dinnerstein's searching performance sits within this disorientingly immersive visual space. The piece asks: How do our origin stories mold us? How can a sense of self come from the musical and visual fragments we remember from childhood? The Eye Is the First Circle shows us what it is to draw a new circle around the one we stand in, at the edge of what we can see.

Dinnerstein says of the production, "The Eye Is the First Circle is a very personal piece that, at its core, explores how my family's world shaped my relationship to art. I devised it using my father Simon Dinnerstein's Fulbright Triptych and Charles Ives's Concord Sonata. My intellectual, emotional and artistic response to each work, and to the connections I saw between them, is what formed the larger circle I drew. I envisioned The Eye Is the First Circle as a single artwork with many kinds of expression. While creating this production, I discovered that I had an aptitude for visual composition and for directing. It was as if I discovered a sixth sense that I had never used before, and I felt the joy of generating an artistic experience that expanded beyond music, the area where I am most used to expressing myself."

Presented by Death of Classical's The Angel's Share series at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn (September 15-17, 2021), Simone Dinnerstein will give a one-of-a-kind performance in which she guides audiences across the Cemetery, pausing periodically to perform on several Yamaha pianos that will be scattered throughout the route. The experience mirrors the long walks in Green-Wood that served as a refuge for her during the pandemic. Dinnerstein will perform An American Mosaic, written for her by Grammy-winning composer Richard Danielpour, which she recorded and released last year on Supertrain Records. Each movement of the work commemorates a different segment of the American population that has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including first responders, parents, caretakers, and those who have lost their lives to the virus. Inspired and comforted by Dinnerstein's Bach recordings throughout the pandemic, Danielpour also composed three Bach transcriptions to accompany An American Mosaic, which she will also perform.

Undersong is the third album in a trilogy of recordings that Dinnerstein has made, with her longtime producer Adam Abeshouse, in her home in Brooklyn during the pandemic. The first was A Character of Quiet (Orange Mountain Music), featuring the music of Philip Glass and Schubert, which reached the number one spot on the Billboard Classical Chart, and was described by NPR as, "music that speaks to a sense of the world slowing down," and by The New Yorker as, "a reminder that quiet can contain multitudes." The second was her recording of Danielpour's An American Mosaic (Supertrain Records), which surpassed two million streams on Apple Music. This final installment in the trilogy, Undersong, will be released in January 2022 on Orange Mountain Music, with the first single, Couperin's Les Barricades Mystérieuses, coming out on September 17, 2021 and available to pre-order now. The album also includes Schumann's Arabesque in C Major, Op. 18 and Kreisleriana, Op. 16, Glass's Mad Rush, Satie's Gnossienne No. 3, and Couperin's Tic-Toc-Choc.

Of the program and title, Dinnerstein says, "Undersong takes its title from the archaic term for the chorus in a song, and refers to the underlying meaning of these pieces, which each obsessively explore a world of their own making through the use of repetition and refrain. The past year-and-a-half has been a time of reflection and reconsidering for many of us, and this music speaks to the process of revisiting and searching for the meaning beneath the notes, of the undersong."

Dinnerstein will perform Undersong at New Marlborough Meeting House in New Marlborough, MA on August 28; at the Festival Piano Aux Jacobins in Toulouse, France on September 8; at Rockport Chamber Music Festival in Rockport, MA on September 19; at Williams Center for the Arts in Easton, PA on October 22; and at Baylor University in Waco, TX on October 26, 2021.

About Simone Dinnerstein: Pianist Simone Dinnerstein has a distinctive musical voice. She first came to wider public attention in 2007 through her recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations, reflecting an aesthetic that was both deeply rooted in the score and profoundly idiosyncratic. She is, wrote the New York Times, "a unique voice in the forest of Bach interpretation."

Since that recording, she has had a busy performing career. She has played with orchestras ranging from the New York Philharmonic and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra to the London Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale Rai. She has performed in venues from Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center to the Berlin Philharmonie, the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Seoul Arts Center and the Sydney Opera House. She has made ten albums, all of which topped the Billboard classical charts, with repertoire ranging from Beethoven to Ravel.

In recent years, Simone has created projects that express her broad musical interests. Following her recording Mozart in Havana, she brought the Havana Lyceum Orchestra from Cuba to the United States for the very first time, raising the funding, booking the concerts, and organizing their housing and transport. Together, Simone and the orchestra played eleven concerts from Miami to Boston. Philip Glass composed his Piano Concerto No. 3 for Simone, co-commissioned by twelve American and Canadian orchestras. She collaborated with choreographer Pam Tanowitz to create New Work for Goldberg Variations, which was met with widespread critical acclaim. Working with Renée Fleming and the Emerson String Quartet she premiered André Previn and Tom Stoppard's Penelope at the Tanglewood, Ravinia and Aspen music festivals. Most recently she has created her own string ensemble, Baroklyn, which she directs from the keyboard. The performance she led of them playing Bach's cantata Ich Habe Genug in March 2020 was the last concert she gave before New York City shut down.

Simone is committed to giving concerts in non-traditional venues and to audiences who don't often hear classical music. For the last three decades she has played concerts throughout the United States for the Piatigorsky Foundation, an organization dedicated to the widespread dissemination of classical music. It was for the Piatigorsky Foundation that she gave the first piano recital in the Louisiana state prison system at the Avoyelles Correctional Center. She has also performed at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in a concert organized by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Simone founded Neighborhood Classics in 2009, a concert series open to the public and hosted by New York City public schools to raise funds for their music education programs. She also created a program called Bachpacking during which she takes a digital keyboard to elementary school classrooms, helping young children get close to the music she loves. She is a committed supporter and proud alumna of Philadelphia's Astral Artists, which supports young performers.

Simone counts herself fortunate to have studied with three unique artists: Solomon Mikowsky, Maria Curcio and Peter Serkin, very different musicians who shared the belief that playing the piano is a means to something greater. The Washington Post comments that "ultimately, it is Dinnerstein's unreserved identification with every note she plays that makes her performance so spellbinding." In a world where music is everywhere, she hopes that it can still be transformative.

Simone Dinnerstein lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, son and dog, less than a mile from the hospital in which she was born.

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