Sarah Grunstein Sydney Opera House Recitals

Rebecca Varidel
22nd Sep 2022

Internationally acclaimed Australian pianist, Sarah Grunstein, returns to the Sydney Opera House by popular demand, to perform two concerts in 2022. While Grunstein is distinguished for her interpretation of Bach’s works, described as “tempestuous” and “imbued with a luminous calm", the praise she has received is not limited to her performances of this composer.

The first Sydney Opera House concert will be a programme of three works inspired by the composer’s idea of fantasy: Beethoven’s Sonata in D minor Op. 31, no. 2 Tempest, Beethoven’s Sonata in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, no. 2 Moonlight, and Schumann’s Fantasie in C major, Op. 17.

“It is Beethoven’s innovative use of the piano and the sustaining pedal, and his inventiveness with form, that suggest the poetry and pliability of Romanticism, yet also hark back to the influence of the 18th century. Each work is highly structured, yet also highly improvisatory, each in a vastly different way. I am fascinated by the elements of the improvisatory in these three contrasting works” Grunstein remarks.

Of Grunstein’s Beethoven performance The New York Times wrote: “Beethoven's Sonata in D was delivered with a directness that only heightened the tragedy that propels the central Largo; the surrounding three movements danced with appropriate grace..."

The second concert will feature Grunstein playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which is perhaps one of the most challenging works in the keyboard literature. Her recent performance of the Goldberg Variations has led to her being acclaimed as the "shining light" among the Bach pianists of this generation.

Sarah Grunstein has achieved renown as an impassioned performer of Bach. From her early studies with Australian pedagogue Nancy Salas, she learned about 18th-century styles, character, dance, emotion, and improvisatory performance. This was at a time when most people were still performing Bach in a very “rigid” way. She remarks, “People ask me how I do what I do. I’ve studied and played a lot of Bach, and have read much about 18th and 19th century style – not just musical style, but compositional style, improvisation, improvisatory performance (slightly different from improvisation), and the language of various arts genres including dance, visual arts, and literature. Even though I am playing music that was composed for the harpsichord, I treat the piano as a piano and let my ‘pianist-voice’ speak. And keeping in my mind and heart Bach’s compositional language and what I believe his creative intent was, I go to town with it.”

Many will remember Sarah Grunstein as the pianist who, as a young teenager, performed the soundtrack for Bruce Beresford’s early Australian film, “The Getting of Wisdom.” Sarah Grunstein soon after moved to New York, graduating from The Juilliard School (where she was later appointed as a Teaching Fellow), and earned her doctorate at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her career has included concerts at London’s Southbank Centre, New York’s Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Italy, Austria, Hungary, the U.K., New Zealand, and her homeland.

"In a city rich in pianists par excellence, Sarah Grunstein is la crème de la crème.

Grunstein's masterful rendition of the Goldberg Variations held her audience in a sparkling web of enchantment” - Eve Rifkah, The Classical Voice of New England.

"At Sarah Grunstein's Bach concerts at Carnegie Hall (Weill Recital Hall) in February, the opening notes of the Prelude from the Partita in B-flat evoked memories of Dame Myra Hess and Englishman Harold Samuel, i.e., she cared deeply about the music, knew stylistically what to do with it, and (best of all) produced a demure, pearly, singing tone … This Australian native … is an artist worth hearing." – Harris Goldsmith, American Record Guide

Described by The New York Times for her “penetrating musical intelligence” these two concerts will be a rare chance to hear one of Australia’s finest international pianists.