A beautiful, warm, late-autumn Sunday afternoon in the peaceful village of Bedford, New York was disrupted by some cracklingly energetic performances of Hispanic vocal and instrumental music performed on period instruments by Ensemble Rebel and guests. The title of the program was misleading; there was nothing that referred to the political powers that shaped the cultures from which this music came. This raises the question: how should such a program be billed? As “Spanish and Latin-American Music from the Baroque Era” or “Baroque Music from Spain and the New World?” The difference has to do with the way you like to categorize such unruly experiences.
The superb pianist Simone Dinnerstein offered her highly personal view of Bach in a comprehensive manner on Saturday night at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in a program sponsored by the Berkshire Bach Society. (Full disclosure: this writer is a member of the board of the society.) Playing a modern Hamburg Steinway concert grand, Ms Dinnerstein displayed complete and consistent command over all aspects of piano performance, making liberal use of the coloristic possibilities of touch and pedals, and employing a dramatically wide dynamic range. The presentation included regular displays of keyboard virtuosity that clearly took the collective breath away from the adoring audience. The evening was an overt triumph for all concerned, and the Bach Society demonstrated Bach’s adaptability to modern instruments and contemporary musical circumstances.
For centuries, Scottish folk music has proven a powerful magnet for musicians of many nationalities and practitioners of many musical genres. Even before the generation of “Ossian” and Robert Burns made Scottish culture an emblem of national character for all of Europe, its musical uniqueness was recognized by foreigners. In the Baroque period, Scottish tunes were lovingly set as sonatas, variations, and songs by esteemed Italian composers such as Geminiani, Barsanti, Corri, and Veracini, while native trained composers like William McGibbon were seeking to imitate Italian masters such as Corelli.