"The trees are coming into leaf/Like something almost being said." Taking a cue from these lines of Philip Larkin, pianist Simone Dinnerstein casts her album of the music of J.S. Bach and Franz Schubert in poetic terms. Her understanding of the composers is summed up in her own words: "The music of Bach and Schubert share a distinctive quality, as if wordless voices were singing textless melodies." Of course, Bach and Schubert were masters of setting texts to profoundly expressive music, so it is fruitful to look for the lyrical impulse in their keyboard works and appropriate to find songful interpretations. Yet Dinnerstein doesn't merely serve up rhapsodic renditions or treat the music as some kind of tuneful vehicle for idiosyncratic or personal reveries. Her playing is quite in character for both composers, and her treatment of the material is far from self-indulgent. Indeed, counterpoint and harmony are carefully balanced against the upper lines, and Dinnerstein is completely in control of the inner parts in Bach's partitas and the rhythmic subtleties of Schubert impromptus. Dinnerstein's playing is well-rounded and skillful, and the care she lavishes on the smallest details of execution may well remind listeners of Glenn Gould (without his attendant eccentricities) or Angela Hewitt.
2010's mammoth, highly collectible and very limited, 19-disc Sandy Denny box set was truly a thing to behold, presenting the entirety of her career from studio to stage to front porch. It was a completist's dream, but it came with an exceptionally high price tag, which makes the appearance of 2011's Notes and the Words: A Collection of Demos and Rarities a real gift for fans, especially those who already own the complete studio recordings, whether solo or with Fotheringay, Strawbs, or Fairport Convention. The handsome, limited-edition four-disc box skims the cream from the top of the myriad rarities, BBC sessions, demos, and outtakes that made the previous collection so remarkable (an intimate bedroom recording of Jackson C. Frank's "Blues Run the Game"; an early demo of Like an Old Fashioned Waltz's "Carnival" with previously unheard melodies and lyrics; a blistering alternate studio take of a Dave Swarbrick-less "Sailor's Life," and alternate versions of Fairport classics like "Matty Groves," "Come All Ye," and "Fotheringay"), resulting in a wonderful window into one of English folk music's most magnificent voices.