I just attended a concert by Simone Dinnerstein (of recent Goldberg Variations fame) at the Philly Art Museum. I thought I'd share my impressions:
Copland - Variations
Webern - Variations
Bach - French Suite in G
Lasser - 12 Variations on a Bach Chorale
Beethoven - Sonata No. 32
The Copland was realllly good. In comparison to my reference recording by Stephen Hough (which was part of his Grammy Winning album "New York Variations"), her performance was essentially just as good. Her Fazioli piano contributed a lot to the performance being really good. The overtones from held but unstruck notes in the piece really came through clearly and strongly, and the overall sonority of the piece was very smooth and colorful, which helps in appreciating a piece that is so stark to begin with. She played with absolute conviction, which is important in presenting such a challenging work to an audience.
I can't comment on the Webern, because either I'm too musically immature to understand it, or the music is crap:P
The Bach French Suite was also very good. In this case, she has a lot to compete with, for me especially the recording of Glenn Gould (I consider his French and English Suites to be the most perfect recordings I am aware of). Here she also played with very much conviction, but I found her performance a little bipolar. In the fast movements, she played very quickly and rather accented, leaving a rather pulse-pounding, almost stressed impression, and in the slow movements, I found her playing rather boring. As in the Beethoven also, she has a tendency to lose her sense of pulse when playing slow quiet sections. However, she really excited the crowd with her blazing, huffing final movement.
I wasn't really a fan of the Lasser variations. The chorale melody he chose was very pretty, but I found his variations too variable, so to speak. On first hearing, I found not enough essence of the theme in most of the variations; thus they simply sounded like non-melodic rambling. Her playing of them was nonetheless very good (she played from the music). At the end of the performance, the composer, who was in the audience, came up and gave her a very heartfelt hug. It was quite touching:)
Finally, the Beethoven was hit and miss. Personally, I find that late Beethoven is often treated with too much reverence, resulting in boring performances that search for the innermost spirit of the great master, forgetting that he was a great virtuoso as well. In the first movement, I found her performance to be one of the best I'd ever heard. It was filled with youthful exuberance and ebullience (if such serious music can be said to express these emotions), and it was, to put it more simply, very fast and fiery. I did find that the triplet, scalar, upward moving flourish that starts one of the main themes and appears so often in this movement was usually blurred - I could hear the first note of the triplet and the melodic note the triplet leads to, but not the notes between. This was the only possibly technically deficient element of her program. The second movement, like I mentioned in reference to the Bach, was slow, meditative, pulse-less, and boring. Even when the excitement increased beginning with the trills, I still found the performance a little boring.
Stage presence and visual technique:
This was very amusing! She played with such command, but each time she completed a piece, she stood to face us, I almost laughed with the disparity. Her stage presence is very meek, with an expression that seems to say "ohhhhh...did I just play that?...well...I hope you don't disapprove...but if you do disapprove I would completely understand..." Her publicity photos show her as an incredibly beautiful young woman - they were either taken some time ago, or have been digitally altered, but that's really not important. Finally, her technique was very interesting. She sits very high at the piano, so that her forearms angle downward from the elbow to the keys. She actually has rather chubby, short, mannish hands, and a very high finger action most of the time. Nonetheless, she manages to play very quickly and precisely, and has very nice relaxed fast trills. When she's striking keys, she takes on an almost directorial quality, swaying and bobbing in the manner of a middle-aged gradeschool choir director.
She is a very good pianist. Essentially all of my criticisms are on a philosophical level. Her technique is stellar, there were no memory slips, and she plays everything with utter conviction. I'd recommend seeing her if you get the chance:)