"Miss Grunstein is a versatile, expressive pianist who combines a penetrating musical intelligence with the technical proficiency to realize her ideas. Bach's C minor Partita, BWV 826, was admirable; the opening Sinfonia tempestuous, the more intimate Courante and Sarabande imbued with a luminous calm. 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..."
-- Tim Page, The New York Times
"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. In fact, she echoed one reviewer's reference to her "lovely liquid tones, each note like a tiny pearl, released gradually." This Australian native with degrees from Juilliard and the City University of New York, who is now Professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, is an artist worth hearing."
-- Harris Goldsmith, American Record Guide
"Sarah Grunstein... played Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain, a beautifully impressionistic work. In fact, she produces the most lovely liquid tones from the piano; each note is like a tiny pearl, released gradually from beneath her talented hands. In this marvellous work she gave an impression of heat, dust, and at times a profound silence."
-- Stuart Thomas, Melbourne Report
"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... Her eloquence, the crispness of each note, her total command of the range of tempos demanded by the Variations made music as holy as music gets. I was transported beyond my hard seat into a realm of dream. As the hold Glenn Gould maintained over this music has thankfully worn away over the past decade, a plethora of fine musicians has come to the fore; Grunstein is the shining light."
...On this night Bach breathed through Grunstein's hands with music of the spheres - the stars may have sung response as she pushed Bach's dynamic range to the limit without violating the composer's intent... As the last note drifted into silence, Grunstein's hands hovered over the keys, the audience had stopped breathing, and would still be holding its collective breath if she had yet to drop her hands to her lap signaling the completion. The trance broken, the audience rose en masse to its feet with shouts and applause."
-- Eve Rifkah, The Classical Voice of New England
"There are times when she seems to go into a poetic trance... In a large group of Chopin pieces, three Nocturnes fared beautifully and the Berceuse had a limpid clarity and an absence of pressure which led to pure charm. Debussy's Estampes were played with great sensitivity and a fine evocation of atmosphere."
-- Fred Blanks, Sydney Morning Herald
"What made Sarah Grunstein's presentation of Bach's Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 on Friday in Williams Hall of the New England Conservatory so compelling, was that it was given by a pianist who is not only (very) fluent on her chosen instrument, but also conversant with (and sympathetic to) the instruments of Bach's own time and their particular syntax...
Grunstein rendered Bach's own vernacular effectively in terms of what the modern piano has to offer, by way of a secure knowledge of (and appreciation for) what only the harpsichord can do. As a harpsichordist... I was struck by the sheer dynamic flexibility and generosity of the piano. I also marveled at just how effectively it can sustain lines-for a very long time, if need be. With all these resources under her control, what occurred to me about Grunstein's playing specifically was the care and detail with which she had worked out all of Bach's contrapuntal intricacies; in the canons (every third variation) the mirroring of the imitating voices was crystal clear, even where Bach turns the "answer" upside down, thereby disguising it. The sheer expressivity of the minor key variations (nos. 15, 21 & 25) was almost overwhelming. The performance of variation 25, the third and last in G minor, and "the supreme pearl of this necklace-the black pearl," according to Landowska, added to the clear understanding of the various Baroque dance and other instrumental genres from which these variations spring.
Finally, as a harpsichordist who is spoiled by playing instruments with two keyboards, I was especially impressed by, not just the dexterity required (and exhibited) in physically negotiating the two-manual variations, but especially by the almost uncanny delineation of each line with its own distinct "color." If true dynamics are an "illusion" on the harpsichord, created by tricks of rhythm and timing, then it can be equally well claimed that true color differentiation (as between two contrasting 8-foot registers on a two-manual harpsichord-one "fluty" the other nasal) is a test of the pianist's art of dissembling. I was able to follow all the contrapuntal lines with perfect clarity (without a score). Many pianists restrict themselves to two basic articulations when playing Bach: undifferentiated legato (usually in slow movements) and a relentless staccato (often in fast passages where, ironically, each separation introduces an accent and slows things down). It was good to hear Grunstein adding 16' octaves in the penultimate variation; the effect was somewhere between a pedal harpsichord and the organ (many of which in Bach's time had a 32' pedal stop to add a gravitas, so the odd 16' octave would hardly have disturbed him).
Grunstein displayed a full and comprehensive range of articulation, dynamics and touch and created the illusion of several distinct colors occurring simultaneously-quite a collective feat, and one that reflects not only her first-hand knowledge of what a good harpsichord can do, but also a thorough practical acquaintance with the piano in all its stages of development from the 18th century through to the Steinway Model D on which she played..."
-- Peter Watchorn, The Boston Musical Intelligencer
-- Full review
"Her performance was remarkable in a number of ways... demonstrating complete mastery of the pieces. She kept the audience not only enraptured, but attentive to her wishes, curbing with her body language its impulse to applaud too quickly and too frequently and thus destroy the sonic spell, another skill all too rarely well-practiced."
Grunstein made the instrument sing this music and render it in a way that revealed features and nuances not always noticed, especially in the Carnaval, to whose diverse cast of colorful characters she had introduced us... Her superb pianism and the special sound of the instrument, both melodious and powerful with a warmth that modern pianos do not have, combined to create an experience that will not soon be forgotten, but that was all too soon over.
The listeners were equally thrilled, and Grunstein consented to play an encore for them: the Aria from J.S. Bach's "Goldberg" Variations... She made the Pleyel seem right for its beauty, too. Remarkable!"
-- Marvin J. Ward, Classical Voice of New England
-- Full review
"On Wednesday 1 August at 6.30 pm in the Recital Hall West, a select audience... was transported from the Recital Hall to an imaginary Poland of the 19th Century. The vehicle was the music of Chopin and the navigator the beautiful Sarah Grunstein. In honour of her Polish heritage, she presented a sensitively graduated program, ranging from the elegant Prelude in F Sharp Major Op 28 No 13 to the virtuosic Ballade No 1 in G Minor Op 23."
The program was divided into three sections, comprising the Prelude [Op. 28, no. 12] and Ballade No 4 in F Minor Op. 53, the central section consisting of four Mazurkas Op. 33 and the final section the Nocturne in C Minor Op. 48 No. 1, Berceuse in D Flat Op. 57 and the Ballade No. 1 in G Minor Op. 23... "The demonstration of Ms Grunstein's technique was formidable. Every piece chosen was delivered with commanding sonority and style. The tranquil and dreamy Prelude, the restrained drama of the Ballade No 4, the charm of the characteristic Mazurkas, the sobriety of the Nocturne and the delicate and shimmering touch in the Berceuse, culminating in the virtuosic and wonderfully poetic Ballade in G Minor, all made us aware of the depth and musical intelligence of this international artist... And how proud we are of her."
-- Tess Farraher, The Score
"Grunstein's Grand Recital at Holy Cross. Worcester, MA, 28 March 2008... Grunstein is completely in command of her repertoire and her keyboard; she is able to make the sounds of final notes resonate and endure for amazing lengths of time. She is also in control of her audience in a way that all too few artists are, and which many would do well to emulate. She gathers her listeners up and takes them along, enraptured, on the musical journey as she wends her way through the compositions. Sometimes she leaves us as emotionally drained as she must herself be. She is also able, through her arm positions and body language, to prevent the audience from prematurely erupting in applause, and to prolong thereby the magic of the musical world into which she has taken us. Yet none of this is just for show; there's no flashy display whatsoever, just pure musicianship and musicality. A rare talent, this."
-- Marvin J. Ward, Classical Voice of New England, March 2008
Full review click here
"It is not often I could say that I have experienced something really profound after attending a concert. Observing the audience as they were leaving the Auditorium Lattuada after Sarah's concert I realize that this was not only something felt by me but by the majority of those who were in attendance. The Bach Partita was sheer joy to listen to: executed on the piano with the interpretation and articulation of a harpsichordist - florid ornamentation, intelligent interplay of the improvisatory, dance and imitative styles. As to the Brahms, Chopin and Schumann every detail had been attended to - musically, technically, intellectually, spiritually and emotionally."
-- Cherie Broome, International Academy of Music, Milan
"The most compelling pianists ask the listener to rethink oft-performed works from the standard keyboard repertoire. Australian Sarah Grunstein, who established her credentials in New York as a Bach interpreter in the 1980s with performances of both books of the Well-Tempered Clavier, did just that on February 9th in another all-Bach recital, the first of three concerts she will give this winter at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall."
In technically-assured readings of the first, second, and fourth Partitas on Wednesday night, Grunstein argued persuasively for a common, but not commonly-held, point of view: here, these suites were to be heard as chiastic sound structures climaxing in the middle with that most lascivious of Baroque dances, the Sarabande. In each work, restrained renditions of the Allemande and the somewhat more active Courante (or the even slightly faster Corrente in the first Partita) gave way to an almost unbearably cathartic Sarabande in which Grunstein's sound, intimate earlier for the most part, became noticeably more penetrating, her ornamentation more complex. The ebbing of that intensity in the succeeding dances made it clear that, for this pianist, the Sarabande marked the emotional center of these towering keyboard works. In her hands, even the grand curtain raisers that begin each suite (the Praeludium in the first, the Sinfonia in the second, and the Ouverture in the fourth) came off as merely stage setters for the arch-like, emotional drama to be played out in the succeeding core movements... Hopefully, she will record these works."
-- John Davis, Music Forum
"A woman with a penchant for hard work and tremendous musical talent... The Schumann Fantasie produced some of Ms. Grunstein's best playing. Splendid in tone and execution... Ms. Grunstein's musicality is strong, sensitive and imaginative. By any performance standards, this was a solid night's playing. She has a magnificent singing tone and a graceful but vibrant power extracted effortlessly in a variety of sounds from the keyboard."
-- Courier Mail
"Certainly pianist, Sarah Grunstein, is a remarkable recitalist. Her first appearance... bespoke the formality of a strictly traditional concert style.
It is a style originating with Liszt in the 19th century. Totally unambiguous, it states that the recitalist is here to do serious business, to present music, not necessarily to entertain, which is the listener's prerogative to decide. She provided her audience with a satisfying diversity of aesthetic experience and examples of the pianist's mastery of music from two different historical eras... It was her worldwide experience and her formation at Juilliard that was before us at Deakin University. She, the Yamaha piano and the Studio Theater's acoustics were on very good terms on Thursday, resulting in an amazing authenticity of clavichord sound for the Bach."
-- Geelong Advertiser
"Grunstein is a pianist who is worth attention. She has a formidable technique but is prepared to do much more than flourish technique across the surface of the music. Her interpretations are clearly the product of much thought and feeling, in well-balanced proportions. Her Beethoven Sonata recital... was well worth listening to."
-- The Australian
"Sarah Grunstein... a musical poet at work."
-- Fred Blanks, Australian Jewish Times