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East and West - Dörken

East and West - Dörken

Ars Produktion  ARS 38 286

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


Kalomiris: 5 Preludes
Bartók: 6 Romanian Folk Dances
Chopin: Polonaise, Op.26 No. 1
Schubert: 12 Ländler
Greig: Wedding Day at Troldhaugen
Poulenc: 8 Nocturnes
Falla: Danse rituelle de feu

Danae Dörkin (piano)

 

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - July 13, 2019

The start of this recital is so passionately compelling that for a moment I thought that I’d put a disc of Martha Argerich in my player, only to discover that it was indeed the new ARS Produktion release of Danae Dörken playing the first of five preludes of Manolis Kalomiris: “Molto agitato ed appassionato”. Listening on I wondered if my ‘mistake’ was all that big. Both have an emotion rich background, giving their interpretations that extra zest; Argerich from Argentina, Dörken from Greece, a whole generation apart, but both having that rare pianistic feeling enabling them to adjust to different styles, and last but not least that phenomenal technique. But there the comparison ends. Dörken’s personality and independent temperament steers clear of becoming pushy and idiosyncratic, which, I fear, some idols have, maybe unwillingly, grown into, whilst her poetical sentiments are more than often of an exquisite, romantic nature.

Although Kalomiris is not a composer that rings global bells, we may assume that he is well known in his home country where he is seen as the “effective leader of the modern Greek National School of Music”. Be that as it may, his compositional output is modest and recordings are few. But there is a recording of his ‘complete’ piano music on the ‘Grand Piano’ label (1917: Manolis Kalomiris: Complete Works for Solo Piano, Olivier Chauzu), covering, amongst others, the five Preludes and the Nocturne. Good though Chauzu plays, Dörken clearly has the edge: Her 5 Preludes sparkle with drive and emotional sensitivity, demonstrating a true understanding of the composer’s folkloristic inspiration. According to her personal message preceding the liner notes, this folkloristic notion is her motto for binding the various parts of the recital together; a combination of East and West melodies “firmly anchored in the souls of the people of each country”.

The liner notes give, understandably, much attention to the Greek composer Kalomiris, but comments on Chopin’s Polonaise Op. 26 No. 1 are remarkably put up front. If Dörken considers this to be a centre piece of her programme, I couldn’t agree more. For several reasons: It is the single longest work on disc; it is indeed firmly anchored in Polish folklore, but, more importantly than anything else, it gets here an interpretation that can, in comparison with many Chopin specialists, including the 1965 Warsaw Chopin Competition winner, Martha Argerich, proudly stand-up to whatever competition there is. With her candid, nonconformist character, she delivers it with a fascinating personal touch, masterly combining power and - symbolic for the Polish soul - a large dose of passionate ‘melancholia’.

I liked very much her views on Bartok’s six Romanian Folk Dances. These are based on folk tunes from the Transylvanian part of Romania. Many of them have a clear Hungarian slant, more than 25% of its population being from Hungarian descent. Dörken sets them in a lively and witty framework.

Schubert’s twelve Ländler - South German folk dance melodies - may seem simple tunes; in the hands of Dörken they get extra weight, as does the following Norwegian Wedding Day March, turned it into a high voltage affair, which may not have been Grieg’s intention, but it does give marriage the passionate under current it deserves, especially in a Nordic country, where emotion always seem to be kept strictly private.

The eight Nocturnes from Francis Poulenc, written on several occasions and dealing with diverse subjects, are far removed from ‘drowsy evening chants’. They are jewels of invention, keeping, in fact, the listener wide awake. They are full of contrasts, generating an appreciative showcase of Dörken’s outstanding pianistic versatility. And the final piece, De Falla’s ‘Dance rituelle du feu’’ - Ritual Fire Dance - , plays right into the supple hands of Danae.

Looking at the recital in its totality made me wonder if we are not dealing with four, instead of only two European quarters of the compass. North and South seem equally well represented. Apart from this minor critical remark, I could not find anything else to complain about.

With the assistance of the ARS Produktion recording team, this latest Danae Dörken release is an ‘all 5 stars’ performance, which I’ve given with pleasure and genuine admiration.

Post Scriptum: Should you ever have a chance to hear any or all of these pieces live, don’t miss out on it. This is a truly great pianist and … Danae is an intriguingly personnality as she plays.

Blangy-le-Château,
Normandy, France

Copyright © 2019 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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Comments (22)
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Comment by hiredfox - July 15, 2019 (1 of 22)

It seems to me that you are the only person still willing to submit reviews of new SACD releases for which I thank you personally very sincerely.

A very large proportion of "new" releases these days are de-facto re-masters of the old analogue catalogue so one can understand the reluctance of reviewers to become embroiled in matters relating only to the technical merit of such recordings but it is a sad fact that this site is becoming of scant usefulness to serious collectors of classical music without reviews and the discussions that arise from them.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - July 16, 2019 (2 of 22)

Thanks John, my pleasure

Comment by SteelyTom - July 16, 2019 (3 of 22)

We should feel happy (or maybe relieved) that an exceptional artist of this caliber wants her work recorded in the very best sound quality.

Comment by Bruce Zeisel - July 16, 2019 (4 of 22)

I was fortunate to hear Dörken live last summer at the Gstaad festival in Switzerland. Her playing, her artistry was breath-taking. I have never heard anything like it. Oh, and just one week later, I heard some VERY big names at the Verbier festival. Those performances were not nearly in the same league.

Comment by Gilbert Burnett - July 17, 2019 (5 of 22)

I would like to add my thanks to John's for the review. In my humble opinion the decision to only allow reviews from a small handful of people was a grave mistake and has led to the extreme turgidity of this site which sometimes feels like it going to expire at any moment. Far better to allow reviews from all purchasers - 'Amazon style' and let others sort the wheat from the chaff which follows. We can always go to 'comments' to express contrary opinions.

Comment by hiredfox - July 17, 2019 (6 of 22)

Hear! Hear! to that Gilbert.

Comment by Tony Reif - July 17, 2019 (7 of 22)

i agree we need more reviewers, but it's not easy when no one's getting paid and, it seems, most labels are not providing review copies (or even the equivalent high-res downloads). Under the circumstances I think the reviewers we have are doing a darn good job. And there's nothing preventing the rest of us from posting reviews in the comments section. It's a 2-tier system but so what? As a commenter there's no presumption of extensive, specialized knowledge or quasi-professional competence. Everyone's free to say as much or as little as they want about the music. For me, apart from new music, the main thing I want to know from a comment is how it sounds, in enough detail that I'll have way to evaluate the comment. And as I've said before, it would be helpful if there were somewhere here that reviewers and members could list their systems, as well as providing an email contact if they want to.

Comment by Wolfspaw - July 17, 2019 (8 of 22)

Amazon US lists this for sale in August so there are still at least a few weeks to go.

ARS Production has been a gem of a label imho. Typically great sound and while they do record some of the war-horses, they have lots of other pieces. It's also great to see new releases in multi-channel sound.

I have her Schubert/Schumann disc and it's wonderful Schumann: Fantasy / Schubert: Wanderer Fantasy - Dörken

Comment by Bruce Zeisel - July 18, 2019 (9 of 22)

Some listings in HRAudio have a "Related" link which may show other recordings by the same artist. I would really like to see that for Danae Dörken. There are at least 3 other ARS Production discs available.

Her live concert in the Gstaad Festival last year was the most wonderfully impressive piano playing I ever heard. People need to become aware of this artist!

Comment by Steven Harrison - July 19, 2019 (10 of 22)

In regards to comments above about reviewers, comment section and reader participation.................I think it unfortunate that reader participation beyond just reading has been made so hard now. It would be rather helpful to have a page listing disc comments similar to a page list listing forum threads. The current system is rather user unfriendly unless one comments a lot and can go to comments from the Recent Comments menu list, which only goes to discs one has commented on. It is really hard to find a disc that someone has commented on from those brief listings on the right hand side of the home page.
As is, I just find it to be dumb luck that I find anything someone has commented on, and then that might be three months after the comment was made.
Just my thoughts........

Oh, and of course thanks to Adrian for the reviews of so many ARS recordings. I have quite a few ARS discs and like them all. I would have never gotten Danae Dorken's Mendelssohn/Mozart recording without Adrian's review. And I look forward to getting this new one.

Comment by hiredfox - July 20, 2019 (11 of 22)

The site owner historically has had no interest in developing the site for the benefit of its users, evidenced now by the erasure of all comments in one's "own" domain of the website except the most recent.

Recalling the hiatus over the shut-down of the SA-CD.net site attitudes have not changed one iota and we are left with a site that serves mainly as an advertising vehicle for recording companies and an owner content to receive whatever royalties arise from the direct links to sites offering disc for sale.

Bearing in mind that I for one have bought well over 1000 discs through this site at a cost of probably £15/20,000 users deserve better. Just make sure that you download your libraries and work indexes regularly before they too disappear as well.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - July 22, 2019 (12 of 22)

My dear John, I wonder if you would be so kind as to remove your comment, if still possible, as it has no bearing on Danae Dörken, whose latest release I’m sure you wouldn’t want to spoil. Comments appear for a short while in the ‘recent comments’ bin, but remain in the data base forever. Thanks.

Comment by Mark Werlin - July 22, 2019 (13 of 22)

hiredfox: Site members' comments on this domain are accessible.

A Google search for a member's site name returns a list of that person's comments. This search lists your comments:

hiredfox site:https://www.hraudio.net/

Adding the label, conductor, soloist or composition (enclosed in quotation marks) produces more specific search results.

hiredfox "Ars Produktion" site:https://www.hraudio.net/

We can search for our own or any other member's site comments. If a member uses his full name, or a site name consisting of two or more words, enclose it in quotation marks.

Comment by breydon_music - July 27, 2019 (14 of 22)

I have held off adding to this correspondence, but so many points I would want to comment on have been raised.

First of all, I too owe a debt to Adrian as his reviews led to my "discovery" of the Ars Produktion label. I now have quite a few, mainly bought when on offer as it makes my pension stretch a little further. Not only is the recording quality, particularly of piano, stunning, but I have so enjoyed Ars' penchant for mixed recitals as opposed to complete this or that. I have not yet come across one that hasn't made a satisfying concert in its own right.

That said, I would hope that John's very courteously expressed and very accurate comments are not removed. I have re-read them a few times and I see nothing there to Ms Dorken's detriment, but a lot of accurate observations. The obvious irony to me is that, had the forum not been obliterated, John could have written there. However, now the only place to write anything is under the heading of a particular disc. Why it was ever thought that a community who buy and enjoy hi-res music would never wish to discuss any aspect of that pastime beyond the contents of the discs themselves is quite beyond me.

With regard to the absence of reviews, I find it sad that not only were "reviews" limited to the knowledgeable and appointed few (I take my hat off to them all and do not for a moment intend this as a criticism of their work which I value and act upon) but that all the old non-reviewer's "reviews" and "comments" were left to die on the old site. On a personal level, I only contributed 2 or 3 reviews on discs where I felt I has something useful to say. In all cases, I put in a good deal of work to them. They have now been jettisoned, and I have since by and large refrained from "commenting", since I do not see the point of adding mere comments, and neither do I feel inclined to spend some time and thought on something which will be regarded as a mere "comment".

On a more objective level, many others posted "reviews" which lie abandoned, and these include a number which led me to discover new music or performances which I now value. An example - I have just gone back into the old site to ensure I accredit it accurately - was Manuel Gottlieb's review of the re-issue of Cluytens Ravel series by EMI Japan. I had never heard these recordings before, bought them on the basis of Manuel's review, agree with all he said, and regard them as treasures in my collection. Sadly, no-one coming fresh to the HR Audio site will ever see his review.

Just two more positive points to add. I too love Dorken and very much look forward to this new recital. And how nice to have a hi-res "Wedding Day at Troldhaugen"; a forgotten piece nowadays but my late father would have loved it, as do I. And finally, I have so enjoyed this thread, easily the most dynamic on this site in months, and reminiscent of the old "Forum". We lost a lot when it went, not least Bissie, who bought an invaluable musical and business insight with him.

Enough said.

Comment by hiredfox - July 27, 2019 (15 of 22)

Distractions apart please be assured Adrian that my copy of this disc should be threading its way somewhat laboriously through the labyrinthine Amazon global delivery network, thanks to your warm recommendation.

I attest to the very high SQ of Ars Production SA-CD also. The DSD logo on every cover suggests that their discs are recorded in DSD although we have no independent verification of that. They certainly sound like it on the SA10.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - July 28, 2019 (16 of 22)

Hi all,
I’m sure Danae Dörken will be pleased to read that you like her playing as much as I did. However, in the light of remarks about not being able to post ‘reviews’, may I suggest that there is another possibility to show approval (or not) by ticking the ‘recommend’ link on top. This one has only one so far (mine).

Comment by breydon_music - July 28, 2019 (17 of 22)

Point well taken - this release is not yet available in the U K; however I will do that for her others without delay as they are all very fine. My particular discovery was her Janacek recital; a composer who I have not always found it wasy to get on with, but this recital was sheer delight from beginning to end!

Comment by Bruce Zeisel - August 3, 2019 (18 of 22)

My previous comment of July 18th:

"Her live concert in the Gstaad Festival last year was the most wonderfully impressive piano playing I ever heard."

was badly understated. But everyone says "awesome" these days and the word has really lost some of its meaning. OK at the end of the recital as I was sitting there with my mouth just hanging open a little and I really didn't know what to say. I still don't: "Unbelievable" comes to mind. "Oh wow" may be what I actually uttered. Astonishing fits. What a phenomenon she is! Poetry you never heard before, and left hand power! No banging here - just unimaginable power. I think she has to be heard live to realize what I am talking about. My audio system which is very very good simply is not up to the task.

Comment by Bruce Zeisel - September 13, 2019 (19 of 22)

I listened to this new disc again last night. It is really wonderful. She is a stupendous artist.
But I reiterate that, exceptionally, she really is an artist who can not be fully appreciated by listening to a recording.
I was remembering last night as I finished hearing the disc; the whispered words that came to my mouth at the end of the 2018 Gstaad recital were simply an awestruck "My God!" followed by an appreciative "Wow!"

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - September 17, 2019 (20 of 22)

Hi Bruce,
Like you I listened last night to a recording of Danae, this time to Schumann: Fantasy / Schubert: Wanderer Fantasy - Dörken. An impressive account in any conceivable way.

The first time I came across this pianist was when reviewing Mozart / Mendelssohn: Piano Concertos - Dörken / Vogt and you can imagine that it’s not always easy for a reviewer to do a ‘first’. One has to trust his own ears based on experience, as it should be. But it would seem common knowledge that famous (or should I say: best promoted) artists stand a larger chance to be reviewed positively or more positively than those of lesser renown (to put it mildly).

I won’t hide the fact that I’m both pleased and encouraged that I’m not the only one raving about Mrs. Dörken. In fact, I for one believe she has that difficult to define “it”. Many can play all the notes in the required order, with proper speed and accentuation as indicated in the score, and many do have the necessary technical means and virtuosity to bring it off correctly, but only few have “it", the element that keeps one spellbound from beginning to end, and even beyond. Dane Dörken indeed has it.

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