Simone Dinnerstein joined the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia on 7th November for an afternoon of concerti that highlighted the benefits of pairing world-class soloists with intimate ensembles. The Brooklyn-based pianist puts an individual stamp on whatever she plays, and this outing was no different. Dinnerstein has established herself as a Bach specialist since the release of her highly successful Goldberg Variations album in 2007, and here, she brought an unapologetically modern style to the Keyboard Concerto no. 7 in G minor, BWV1058. Her tempos were fast, her chords loud and assertive, and she didn’t shy away from the pedal. If you expect lachrymosity from this work’s ponderous Andante, you would be disappointed, but I valued how Dinnerstein made this outlying movement of a piece with the more lighthearted music that surrounds it. Conductor Dirk Brossé matched his partner with a rich, largely unblended sound from the string orchestra.

Simone Dinnerstein
© Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Philip Glass wrote his Piano Concerto no. 3 for Dinnerstein, and she’s played it more than 40 times around the world. It bears all the familiar traits of this composer’s output and his preference for joining a minimalist sensibility to Neo-romantic forms. A classic sense of struggle between soloist and orchestra in Movement I gradually melts into a chromatic harmony, with the piano joining the strings as if with one voice by Movement III. This concluding movement is dedicated to Arvo Pärt, and you can certainly hear his lush but spare influence in the recurring arpeggios. This being Glass, however, there comes a point when you’ve heard the same phrase repeated for the fiftieth time, with no variation, and are ready to move on to a new idea.

The concert opened with Strum, a brief and beguiling work by American composer Jessie Montgomery that combines folksy pizzicatos with a jazz shimmer. Montgomery conceived this piece as a string quintet, and the current version still draws on singular voices within the orchestral fabric – a resonant viola to open the piece, a mournful cello to ground it. Brossé showed off not just the finely calibrated but this ensemble’s sovereign approach to contemporary music. The performance ended on a sweet note, with Brossé highlighting the achievements of principal bass Miles B Davis, who retires after 45 years with these concerts.