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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Fantasie in C, Op. 17 [34:30]
Carl Philip Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Fantasie in F sharp minor [14:45]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Fantasy in C, “Wanderer” D760 [23:15]
Danae Dörken (piano)
rec. 13-15 January 2014, Immanuelskirche, Wuppertal, Germany

Danae Dörken chooses an ambitious programme of fantasies by Schubert, Schumann and C.P.E. Bach. Born in 1991, Dörken has a tendency to linger and rhapsodize. She has more character, and a stronger artistic profile, than most pianists her age, who just focus on playing the notes quickly. Dörken’s talents are deeper but she is still learning what to do with them.

As an example, take the Schubert “Wanderer” fantasy. Dörken takes two minutes more (at age 22) than Arthur Rubinstein did (at age 78). That’s not a fair comparison: recordings have generally been getting slower over time. She’s only a bit more expansive than Herbert Schuch was last year. Her opening chords are big and legato, and in the first minute she tapers the music down to a smaller, more intimate scale ... expect pauses. The slow second movement is sensitive and beautifully done; the fugal finale makes up for any lack of firepower you’ll notice in the preceding pages.

Schumann’s Fantasie is also broad, with a first movement that takes long deep breaths. There’s a habit of inserting pauses at major transitions. However, Dörken’s first movement also shows a huge, vibrant imagination, as she uses lots of rubato, creates sweeping dynamic changes and fishes for contrast. Every minute finds popular ideas rethought. If you know Pollini’s quick, driven account, imagine the exact opposite and you’ll know what I mean.

I wish she had done something similar in the finale. It, too, starts off at a slow basic tempo, and indeed is frequently mesmerizing (12:20 in length), but at the two big climaxes she seems to be holding back.

I have the greatest reservations about the C.P.E. Bach fantasy. This is partly the composer’s fault: a year before his death, he wrote this fantasy as part of a series of improvisations, setting only a few down for posterity. The booklet calls the work “anarchic”, which is very true. It starts off with a beautiful lament in F-sharp minor, gorgeously played by Dörken. Then, at 2:40, a long pause leads into a sudden quick cascade of notes and from there on the piece dissolves into barely-connected passages of different ideas. Bach should have published this as a set of miniatures. As a set of miniatures it works quite well.

The recorded sound is extremely good, even without trying the SACD layer. Danae Dörken promises to grow into a considerable talent; her artistry and interpretive sense are ahead of nearly everyone her age. In the years to come, she will, I hope, mature, learn more and start to rival pianists of ages past. Until then, this is not a great recital, but a suggestion of great things to come.

Brian Reinhart