September 17, 2014

Ran Dank III: Mozart, Debussy, Boulez


Three more live recordings by Ran Dank which document previously unavailable to me performances of this remarkable pianist at the 2007 Cleveland International Piano Competition.  (Dank was 25 at the time and was awarded 4th prize.)  With one exception his playing in these selections shows the already familiar blend of musical intelligence, impeccable technique, and a glowing golden tone.  The exception is Dank's playing of the last four notes in the 3rd bar of the Adagio from Mozart's sonata K.570 (and in the repeats of the opening theme).
     Although in the score (2006 Mozarteum Salzburg edition) these four notes are marked staccato:


some pianists (e.g., Horszowski, 1983 Aldeburgh) all but ignore these markings and do nothing to set these notes apart from the rest of the musical line.  Others (e.g., Barenboim, Arrau) play these notes as very moderately detached, which gives them just a hint of "kinkiness" but no more than that.  Still others (e.g., Uchida) play these notes just short of genuine staccato, which brings that part of the musical line close to sounding annoyingly coy.  Dank, however, plays these three notes staccatissimo (extremely detached) which makes the musical line sound simply freakish (or Gouldian, which is the same thing when it comes to Mozart sonatas).  Having listened to Dank's performance several times already (the playing in the rest of the sonata is beautifully voiced and stylishly phrased without a trace of annoying Mozartean precociousness), I am still jarred by these four notes and may never come to terms with what I hear as a very rare lapse of aesthetic judgment on Dank's part.

Having vented my isolated disappointment, I still think these recordings - which, in addition to Mozart's sonata, include Debussy's Etudes Book 1 and Boulez' Notations (the latter can be compared with Dank's 2009 performance at the Van Cliburn Competition available in the same folder) - are very much worth hearing for the beauty of Dank's musicianship and instrumental craft.