Snowflakes, art, and music. What better way to spend a festive holiday evening?
If you’ve listened to the classical sounds of WQXR or attended a piano recital in New York City, then you may have been lucky enough to experience the unique sound and inventive artistry of Brooklyn pianist Simone Dinnerstein.
The Park Slope native is especially fond of Johann Sebastian Bach, and seems to have a special connection — both musically and spiritually — to the 18th-century composer who inspires her.
And even though she performs worldwide, Dinnerstein is quite popular in her own neighborhood as well, and has contributed her time and talent to the community and beyond. She has been artistic director and host of her regular one-hour, family-friendly concert series called “Neighborhood Classics,” on which she occasionally performs. She founded the program in 2009 at PS 321, her 12-year-old son Adrian’s former elementary school — that she also attended. Different musicians are featured in evening recitals that raise money for the school, where her husband Jeremy Greensmith teaches fourth grade.
“On Nov. 17, I’m organizing a Violin Invasion at PS 321! Twenty violinists will spend the day at the school going into every classroom and playing for the students. And we have a concert coming up on Nov. 18 with violinist Rachel Barton Pine,” said Dinnerstein.
Next year, Dinnerstein will perform a concert that features music from her 2015 album.
The passionate pianist has a special place in her heart for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she has given recitals over the past few years, and says she’s really looking forward to being there during the holiday season on Saturday, Dec. 20. And you can bring the kids for $1!
“It’s one of my favorite places to perform. I grew up going to the Met, and it is a thrill for me to be behind-the-scenes there. Their auditorium has a very intimate and warm sound, and I will be playing an exciting and eclectic program.”
The festive holiday concert includes Poulenc’s “Suite Française,” Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque,” Crumb’s “A Little Suite for Christmas,” and Schubert’s “Sonata in B-flat major, D. 960.”
Between local concerts and performing in faraway places, Dinnerstein says she always finds time to hang out with her family, and enjoys just relaxing at home. Her son Adrian is now in eighth grade at MS 51 in Park Slope, and is a drama major there.
“This past summer he performed in Piper Theater’s production of ‘Pericles,’ ” said Dinnerstein. “He also plays electric guitar and is in a band with four of his friends called, The Animation. Right now, we’re in the midst of the very stressful process of applying to high schools. New York City has a crazy system for doing this!”
Her active family loves the great outdoors.
“We enjoy hiking and had a wonderful vacation in Maine near Acadia National Park, where we were able to hike every day. We have an Old English Sheep dog, Daisy, and she enjoys hiking, too,” said Dinnerstein, who had a busy and exciting 2013–2014 season. She kicked off this year with a new recording of “J.S. Bach: Inventions & Sinfonias,” a wonderful interpretation of a signature work.
Bach’s 18th century “hits,” the 30 short pieces that “Inventions” is made up of, were actually keyboard exercises he wrote in 1723 to teach his own students how to play the piano. They seem to possess a timeless quality and, amazingly, can still serve as a musical teaching tool for students today. Just ask Dinnerstein. She packed up her digital keyboard earlier this year and went on a two-week interactive music tour to local schools — which she dubbed “Bachpacking” — an idea she came up with to introduce those Bach tunes to young kids, eager to learn.
The New York Times raved of Dinnerstein’s latest recording of Bach’s “Inventions:” “ … in these ‘Inventions and Sinfonias,’ too often relegated to the teaching studio, it is the specific motion she gives each piece — as if every contrapuntal line had a physiognomy of its own — that makes this recording so arresting.”
In December, she will be performing for the first time at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
“It will be an exciting concert with my good friends, the Chiara Quartet. We will be premiering a quintet composed for us by the wonderful Jefferson Friedman, and the quartet will perform on Strads (Stradivarius violins) on loan from the library’s collection,” she explained.
Dinnerstein has released four solo albums: “The Berlin Concert” (Telarc); “Bach: A Strange Beauty” (Sony); “Something Almost Being Said” (Sony), and “Bach: Inventions & Sinfonias” (Sony) — which have topped the classical charts. She was the bestselling instrumentalist of 2011 on the U.S. Billboard Classical Chart and was included in NPR’s 2011 100 Favorite Songs from all genres. In 2013, Dinnerstein and singer-songwriter Tift Merritt released an album together on Sony called “Night,” uniting classical, folk, and rock worlds.
The busy mom somehow found the time to record her new Sony classical album, which will include Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G major,” Gershwin’s iconic “Rhapsody in Blue,” and a very special piece written for her by composer Philip Lasser, called “The Circle and Child: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra,” a unique work that explores ideas of travel and discovery, and of memory and return.
Simone Dinnerstein for the Holidays concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art [1000 Fifth Ave. at E. 82nd Street on the Upper East Side, (212) 535–7710, www.metmu
“Neighborhood Classics” featuring Simone Dinnerstein at PS 321 [180 Seventh Ave. between First and Second Streets in Park Slope, (718) 499–2412, www.neigh