Without a doubt, hearing new musicians perform is the best part of the Seattle Chamber Music Society festival. We might be hearing them for the first time, but others, especially the musicians in the festival and Toby Saks are already familiar with their talents. Over the years, Saks has plucked players out of the musical hinterlands, at the start of their careers (Jeremy Denk and Adam Neiman are good examples), and given them a chance to network, hone their skills, and play chamber music with other supremely talented colleagues at the festival.
This year, two musicians have captured my attention. I honestly can’t remember when I was this enthralled with a performer, let alone two performers. Andrew Wan won my favor a few nights back with a gorgeous performance of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata Op. 30, No. 1. Ran Dank, a pianist who made his debut at the festival last year sparked my curiosity then with an ardent Bach performance. He returned to the festival this year and has been playing in a number of chamber pieces. He stirred my ears again the other night in Dvorak’s First Piano Trio. His playing was empathetic, not showy, and attuned to the violin and cello (at least from where I was sitting).
Earlier tonight, Wan and Dank made their debut on stage together playing Cesar Franck’s Violin Sonata for the pre-concert recital. This was a performance that had had to be heard to believed. Wan’s tone – which is light and smooth – was a good match for Franck. Phrases slide off his bow easily. Behind him, Dank pushed, prodded, and soaked up every moment of his part. Franck’s piano part gives keyboardists opportunities for bombast, Dank didn’t overdue his playing; there was no thundering but he was assertive when he needed to be.
I’ll remember this recital for a long time. This was the best recital I have heard so far this year. Interpretation, playing, acoustics, audience, and musicians synchronized in such a way that musical bliss was the only outcome possible.
Unfortunately, Wan played his last festival concert last night. Dank is sticking around and will be playing some killer pieces. Pick a concert (any concert, they’re all good) with Dank on the bill, and I am sure (I hope) you’ll agree with me.