Title - Vers le Silence
Artist - Ran Dank
For those unaware, at first glance, the musical worlds of Frédéric Chopin and William Bolcom would seem strange bedfellows.
But on his solo debut recording, Israeli American pianist Ran Dank makes a convincing case for pairing the two composers.
The former, Poland’s national composer, is synonymous with pianistic panache. The latter, a leading American, possesses one of contemporary music’s most bold and inventive voices.
Juxtaposing the works of these two pianist-composers reveals their common affinity for the keyboard and ear for sound and sense of structure.
William Bolcom’s Twelve New Etudes won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Wonderfully eclectic, they move effortlessly between one musical idiom to another with endless ingenuity, exhibiting all the traits of Bolcom’s compositional craft.
Chopin equally excelled with his Etudes, but Dank turns to his plentiful Polonaises, Mazurkas and Waltzes which range in style from heroic, to dark and brooding, haunting and beautiful.
FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN (1810–1849)
1. Polonaise in C minor, Op 40 No. 2 (9:32)
WILLIAM BOLCOM (b. 1938)
2-4. Twelve New Etudes for Piano, Book I
No. 1. Fast, Furious (0:53)
No. 2. Récitatif (4:26)
No. 3. Mirrors (1:55)
5. Mazurka in C Major, Op. 68 No. 1 (1:49)
6. Mazurka in G minor, Op. 67 No. 2 (2:14)
7. Mazurka in A minor, “Emile Gaillard” (3:01)
8-10. Twelve New Etudes for Piano Book II
No. 4. Scène d’opéra (2:39)
No. 5. Butterflies, Hummingbirds (2:23)
No. 6. Nocturne (2:30)
11. Waltz in B minor, Op. 69 No. 2 (3:56)
12. Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 42 (4:00)
13-15. Twelve New Etudes for Piano, Book III
No. 7. Premonitions (3:03)
No. 8. Rag infernal (Syncopes apocalyptiques) (2:22)
No. 9. Invention (3:11)
16. Polonaise in A-flat Major, Op. 53 (7:33)
17-19. Twelve New Etudes for Piano, Book IV
No. 10. Vers le silence (7:16)
No. 11. Hi-jinks (2:07)
No. 12. Hymne à l’amour (6:20)
20. Mazurka in F minor, Op. 68 No. 4 (2:13)
Opening on Chopin: Polonaise No. 4 in C minor, Op. 40, No. 2, a magnificently milieu of a work of which Arthur Rubinstein once remarked that the Polonaise in A major is the symbol of Polish glory, whilst the Polonaise in C minor is the symbol of Polish tragedy, Dank transcends the high roads here to bring us a viral work of musical reorchestration.
Next up is Bolcom’s Twelve New Etudes for Piano, Book I that opens on the flutteringly ambient, gently frenetic key work of the oh-so aptly-named Fast, Furious before it threads nicely into the compliantly ornamented Récitatif, closing on the gentle, cat on the keys scuttling bustle of Mirrors.
Chopin’s forthright Mazurka No. 46 in C major, Op. 68 No. 1 is a flirtatious joy to behold as is the quieter stance of Mazurka in G minor, Op. 67 No. 2 and the ornately cultured Mazurka in A minor, “Emile Gaillard.”
Bolcom’s 12 New Etudes for Piano, Book II opens on the tonal preciseness of the adoring fanciful Scène d’opera, before next bringing us the delicately busy Butterflies, Hummingbirds, closing on the heartfelt, at times stilted diligence of Nocturne.
Both Chopin’s Waltz No. 10 in B minor, Op. 69 No. 2 and the following Waltz No. 5 in A flat major, Op. 42 are simply divine works from start to finish and here under Dank ebb and flow in a most provocatively seductive manner.
Bolcom’s 12 New Etudes for Piano, Book III is next up and opens with the forbidding, harder edged key work of Premonitions, before bringing us the animated, veritably exuberant Rag infernal (Syncopes apocalyptiques), the work closing on the confidently lowered appeal of
One of Chopin’s most admired compositions, the devastatingly exquisite Polonaise in A-flat Major, Op. 53 is also one of the outstanding highlights here for me, as the piece requires exceptional piano skills and great virtuosity to be interpreted at a high degree of proficiency by Dank.
Bolcom’s Twelve New Etudes for Piano, Book IV brings to a conclusion the entire work (and of which, as aforementioned, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1988) and continues the fusion of tonal and what he once called non-centered elements to bring forth a musical speech that is at once coherent and comprehensible and in constant expansion.
The last piece is Chopin’s Mazurka No. 49 in F minor, Op. 68 No. 4, which is rather fitting, given that the work overall is often regarded as Chopin’s last composition, along with the Mazurka in G minor, Op. 67, No. 2).
Ran Dank, a winner of numerous international competitions and prizes, has been significantly influenced by these two composers who have shaped his trajectory as a pianist and musician.
As a child to two parents from Poland, Chopin played a meaningful part in his upbringing, and he became mesmerized by the composer’s music at an early age.
Bolcom’s music was a much later discovery, but one that has become equally valuable and fitting, following Dank’s move to America.
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