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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791):
Fantasia in C minor, K.396 (1781/2) [8.04]
Fantasia in D minor, K.397 (1781/2) [6.12]
Fantasia in C minor, K.475 (1785) [13.36]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828):

Fantasia in C minor, D.993 (1813) [7.26]
"Wanderer" Fantasy in C major, D.760 (1822) [22.08]
Daniel Blanch (piano)
Recorded at the Fundación Juan March, Madrid, June 2004. DDD.

The fistful of fantasies presented here contains one work of major importance, Schubert's Wanderer. The rest, although of moderate interest individually, must be taken as mere chippings from the composers' workbenches.

Daniel Blanch is a young pianist with a sound technique that suits these works well. The piano is recorded perhaps a little distantly, giving the sound a touch of frailty, and for the most part this is not too displeasing or distracting. But those that prefer or are used to a fuller Steinway sound might find it a little under-powered.

Where the minor works are concerned Blanch copes not badly at all. He brings a crispness to Mozart that is pleasing enough. With the Mozart fantasias it is immediately apparent though that K.475 is the most developed of the given trio, and here Blanch brings out elements of melancholy, tenderness and tragedy that are to be found within its pages. Schubert’s C minor fantasia (D.993) uses material from Mozart’s K.475 as the basis of homage from the 14 year old composer. Blanch’s interpretation draws out the Mozartian source without undue attention to create a contrast of sufficient interest.

However, I suspect that the majority of your interest, like mine, would be centred on Blanch’s reading of Schubert's Wanderer. It's a work in which Blanch is not short of rivals - and I compared his reading to Maurizio Pollini’s classic recording. Like throwing Daniel to a mighty lion you might be thinking, and indeed this had occurred to me.

The encounter shows decisively in Pollini’s favour overall; no surprises there then – his is after all a reading I would place amongst the most persuasive ever recorded. There are a number of points that I identified as contributing to this: Pollini’s instrument has greater presence and cohesion and the sound aids his already superior playing skills. Blanch’s passagework appears somewhat under-projected and although he brings pace to the work he does not drive it from inside in the same sense that Pollini does. Blanch’s shading is not as daringly played nor does he make as much logical sense of the contrasts as Pollini. Perhaps too late in the day for comparison, I turned to Sviatoslav Richter’s recording – another lion roaring in Schubert’s service – and it too proved dominant over Blanch’s reading.

Overall I would say – by other standards – Blanch’s is an averagely decent performance. Perhaps in the concert hall, with the impetus of an audience and the adrenalin flow of the moment behind him the playing would grip more than it does here. But for anyone wanting a recording of the Wanderer Fantasy great experiences are to be found elsewhere and Blanch’s valiant efforts are no challenge to them.

Evan Dickerson



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