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Beethoven's Piano

Simone Dinnerstein

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein makes her BPO debut

This weekend’s pair of BPO concerts on Friday morning at 10:30am and Saturday at 8pm will feature the return to the podium of music director JoAnn Falletta, following last weekend’s highly successful appearance of star violinist Anne Akiko Meyers under the finely-tuned baton of Mexican guest conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto, who very ably allowed the orchestra to display the full extent of its ensemble virtuosity, never a given with a guest conductor. The concerts will also mark the BPO debut of the pianist Simone Dinnerstein, who has managed to develop, seemingly out of the blue, one of the highest profile careers of any American pianist in the last half dozen years in a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.2.

Dinnerstein followed an unconventional path to the national limelight, paying to produce her first, individual recital CD, an idiosyncratic interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations in 2005, subsequently picked up and issued in 2007 by the Telarc label. When Oprah Winfrey rather unexpectedly gave the CD her imprimatur, it quickly became a bestseller, making the best recordings of the year list of the New York Times, the LA Times, and the New Yorker.

As well as Georges Enesco’s ever-popular Rumanian Rhapsody No.1, the program also includes a pair of early works by Béla Bartók: Two Portraits, Op. 5, a work performed last by the orchestra over 40 years ago, and the BPO premier of Kossuth, a work inspired by the hero of the failed 1848 Hungarian Revolution.

The Friends of Vienna celebrate Schumann

The Friends of Vienna series concert this Sunday at 3:30pm in the Unity Church at 1243 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, will feature a welcome return to the series of New York Philharmonic staff pianist and UB assistant professor of piano Eric Huebner, along with his colleague Jean Kopperud, professor of clarinet at UB and Chicago Symphony violist Virginia Barron, both of whom will be making their series debut. Their program of chamber music for clarinet, viola and piano by Mozart, Robert Schumann, and Max Bruch has deep roots in the mainstream classical tradition, but also offers what might well be the area premier of a work inspired by Schumann from the pen of the often laconic, late-20th-century-and-beyond Hungarian composer, György Kurtág.

Mozart is generally acknowledged as the first composer who wrote music for the combination of clarinet, viola, and piano, and his Kegelstatt Trio in E-flat will open Sunday afternoon’s program. Composed when the composer was only 17, Kegelstatt refers to a place where skittles are being played, a bowling alley. While Mozart did write his preceding 12 duos for basset horn (K. 487) while playing skittles, as he noted on that work’s manuscript, there is no evidence that he also composed this popular trio in the same environment. Nevertheless, the delightfully irresistible Kegelstatt Trio has won a fond place in the hearts of classical music lovers worldwide.

Robert Schumann, one of the truly original composers in the classical music pantheon, was the next composer of note to write for this particular instrumental combination. He composed his Märchenerzählungen, “Fairy Tales” (Op. 132) in 1853 during a lucid period in his descent into madness. The generally lighthearted work is shadowed by a disturbing agitation that perhaps points towards his suicide attempt in the following year.

Fast forward to 1990 and to György Kurtág’s Homage à R. Schumann, which reflects Schumann’s propensity for loosely organized collections of fantasy pieces, both in the headings and music for most of its six movements. “Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler’s Curious Pirouettes,” the title of the first movement, alludes to the namesake of Schumann’s Kreisleriana, E. T. A. Hoffmann’s fictitious character, and the second’s “Eusebius: the Delimited Circle…” refers to the introverted alter ego of Schumann’s own writings, and is a short canon based on a song from Kurtág’s Kafka-Fragmente (“the delimited circle is pure”). It leads directly into the third movement, “…and again Florestan’s lips tremble in anguish…,” summoning Eusebius’ extroverted partner with music that takes trembling to the point of violent spasms. The moody music of the fourth movement serves as a prelude to the fifth movement, the swiftly fluttering “In the Night.” The final movement is longer than the other five combined and it introduces Master Raro, Schumann’s balanced foil to Eusebius and Florestan, the two characters he developed to reflect the conflicting sides of his own personality. Its processional music builds to a climax, before fading into oblivion, with the piano tolling its opening intervals and the clarinetist ending it all with a soft, heavy beat.

Selections from the often overlooked Eight pieces for clarinet, viola, and piano (Op. 83), a late work (1910) by the German Romantic composer Max Bruch, complete the program.

Tickets: $10; $5 students. Information:

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