Stories » Simone Dinnerstein's artful variation on the Goldberg's / The Boston Musical Intelligencer

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Simone Dinnerstein's artful variation on the Goldberg's / The Boston Musical Intelligencer

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There was a palpable buzz in the air at. A large crowd jockeyed for seating in the pews, as A Far Cry's arrangement of J.S. Bach's Aria with Diverse Variations, BWV 988, better known as the Goldberg Variations, was about to begin. Guest pianist Simone Dinnerstein had ignited her solo career by studying Bach's greatest keyboard composition during her pregnancy and financing her own recording of it in 2007. And together, they treated us to an artful variation on the Variations, at many points casting new light on an old favorite.

The group filed onto the stage, Dinnerstein at the center, with her back to the audience, sitting at a gleaming black Steinway grand with its lid off. For the arrangement, the group took advantage of Bach's strictly constructed, fearful symmetries. The aria and each of the 30 variations have an A section which is eight to sixteen measures long and gets repeated, then a B response which is of the same length, and also repeated. In this arrangement, credited to Criers Sarah Darling and Alex Fortas in collaboration with Dinnerstein, you'll often have a segment where Dinnerstein plays largely alone, then the same segment is repeated with elaboration, doubling, or enriching of the texture with various members of the string orchestra. The B segment might be a mirror image with orchestration, then solo piano in the repeat, or the same structure as in the A section of pianist then orchestra. Whatever the disposition, you were constantly reminded of the variation's core identity as a keyboard work, even as the strings swept it in other directions.

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