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Pianist Dinnerstein committed to Bach music


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In 2007, Simone Dinnerstein's recording of the "Goldberg Variations" made Best Of lists for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker.

The response may have been less surprising had Ms. Dinnerstein been an established pianist, but this was a debut album. In 2005, she had raised funds herself to record her novel interpretation of the piece, and the CD was released two years later on Telarc.

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein

Presented by: The Steinway Society of Western Pennsylvania.

Where: Kresge Hall, Carnegie Mellon University College of Fine Arts, Oakland.

When: 3 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $15 at the door; information at www.sswpa.org.

Glenn Gould could attest to the idea that Bach's challenging "Goldberg Variations" can launch a career. Ms. Dinnerstein's self-funded album was the stuff of legend, although that approach has largely become the rule.

"The idea of raising money to make your own recording is something that has developed a lot since I did it back in 2005," Ms. Dinnerstein said. "Now, Kickstarter and programs like that have become very much accepted and kind of a model."

While the recording landscape has radically changed, Ms. Dinnerstein's commitment to Bach hasn't wavered. Her most recent album, released in January, tackles Bach's Inventions and Sinfonias. That CD inspires a recital Sunday presented by The Steinway Society of Western Pennsylvania.

The concert opens with Nico Muhly's "You Can't Get There From Here," which is based on the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, a collection of early English keyboard music.

"This is a piece that he wrote for me. We are both very interested in early English music, before Bach," she said.

She'll follow with Bach's Two-Part Inventions and Schumann's "Kinderszenen" before concluding with Beethoven's Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111, the composer's last piano sonata.

"There are many parts where he is clearly playing tribute to Bach," she said, noting the work's highly contrapuntal character.

The pianist's own Bach tribute extends beyond music. In a new venture called Bachpacking, Ms. Dinnerstein performs music by Bach and discusses the composer at public school classrooms where music education is under-funded. She even brings a Yamaha digital keyboard into schools that lack pianos. The program speaks to the same do-it-yourself attitude that led her to fund her own recording in the first place.

"I think that we're certainly not living in the 19th-century anymore, where there's this kind of separation between the Romantic performer and everyone else," she said.


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