April 27, 2011

RAN DANK plays Bach, Scriabin, Prokofiev, Boulez

It was a thrill for me to hear this live recording of Boulez's Notations performed by an excellent pianist for whom this music belongs as much to the standard repertoire as Prokofiev's Visions Fugitives or Ravel's Valses Nobles et sentimentales.  In fact, when followed by the far more angular and aggressive wartime Prokofiev, Boulez's miniatures begin to glow with fin de siècle lyrical warmth.  Scriabin's 9th sonata may be more analytical than vertiginous in Dank's hands, but I found it an attractive alternative to more flamboyant performances of Sofronitzky and Horowitz.  As for Dan's Bach - the B-minor Partita BWV 831 - it is as glowing and golden-toned as his later performance of the 4th partita BWV 828 from the 2009 Van Cliburn Competition. 
As with so many talented young pianists who were fed 20th century music with their milk, Dank seems bored to tears with the mind-numbingly overplayed 19th century Romantic music (his Chopin Polonaise Op.26 was played as if he had swallowed a bottle of Xanax shortly before that performance).  If he is, then rightly so, I believe.  After all, the age of Boulez's Notations - relative to Dank's year of birth - is almost the same as the age of the Liszt Sonata in B minor relative to the year in which Horowitz was born!  So why the fuck should our young pianists feel excited about performing music old enough to have been recorded by just about every "keyboard giant" from several previous generations?   I doubt that Horowitz would have played much Liszt, Schumann and Chopin if he had to compete with recordings of their music by every major pianist of the preceding century, beginning with the composers themselves.


sasha said...

Right on Boom! Totally agree..The problem, as I see it, is that so much great 18th/19th century repertoire has been stripped of its original radical intentions and become the soundtrack to either Classic FM or some other pulp outlet (if it aint the anthem to some new product)..I kinda got intimidated by Boulez sonata no.2 a few years ago and never sought out any of his other piano music..I'll give this a listen..Many thanks.

David said...

WOW!!!! That Boulez is something isn't it?!?! I have to admit the 2nd piece made me laugh out loud, it was so wild - perhaps M. Boulez wouldn't have appreciated my reaction... But the whole set is full of (dare I say it?) charm, not something I associate with Boulez very much. Thanks for this.

(Oh, the Prokofiev is an eye-opener too. Great playing, but a real sens eof shape & purpose to the music too; I loved the Scriabin on that other post as well.)