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Critical acclaim

"In Mozarts day, virtuoso composers ruled the musical roost. Artistic creation went beyond mere composition to
encompass the public display of new works in live performances. At the Baltimore Symphony Orchestras concert
Thursday night at Strathmore, pianist Jeremy Denk evoked the spontaneity and sense of discovery of those occasions
with a scintillating account of Mozarts Piano Concerto No. 25 in C...Denk, meanwhile, reveled in disregarding purist
notions of Mozart. With impish charm, he performed this grandest of Mozart concertos with light-hearted irreverence.
Each note sounded fresh and alive, as if thought through anew, with Denk rarely missing the chance to tease out or
embellish a phrase. His riveting first-movement cadenza, full of searching harmonies and mercurial shifts in mood,
smiled affectionately back at Haydn while looking forward to the storminess of Beethoven."
The Washington Post

"It brought out the most singular qualities of Denk's music-making, the way his ceaseless invention, his constant
scrutiny of touch and tempo, creates the sense that the music's shifts are almost involuntary, a surprise to listener,
composer, and performer alike. It's an illusion; Denk (and Schumann) always have a surplus of technique waiting
around every seemingly unplanned turn. But it makes manifest the paradox that invigorates the repertoire: that notes
foreordained, familiar, fixed on the page for centuries, can still take one completely by surprise."
The Boston Globe

Pianist Jeremy Denk was the stylish soloist in the Stravinsky. You could imagine a pianist of lesser rhythmic acuity
being so preoccupied with the basics as to miss this piece's expressive possibilities. Denk missed nothing, shaping the
Bach-influenced passages and setting off Poulenc-sweet neo-classicism against more acerbic music. He was unusually
sensitive to the orchestra, playing into the sound of instruments he doubled.
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Denks performance was improvisatory, and technically he appeared to have no trouble with the rapid fistfuls of notes
Copland requires from the pianist. Despite his serious expression, Denk seemed to be having fun with the music. In the
rollicking jazz and ragtime sections he avoided the over-precise playing of the slumming classical pianist and let
himself go, giving a clanking, aggressive performance that was bursting with energy.

The rapport between pianist and conductor was evident. Denk integrated his performance to a large degree into the
orchestra, allowing the piano seemed to become less a solo instrument than a significant member of the New World
Symphonys percussion section.

Denk has a deep interest in the work of the American composer Charles Ives, and as an encore he gave a vigorous
performance of the fourth scherzo from the composers Piano Sonata No. 1.
The South Florida Classical Review
The recital concluded as Mr. Denk reappeared to accompany Mr. Bell in one of the finest performances of Franck's
Violin Sonata in A Major I've ever heard. Franck composed the Sonata for Mr. Ysaye, his fellow countryman. The
work is noteworthy for the intricate, highly chromatic conversations between both instruments, giving the pianist many
opportunities to shine - which Mr. Denk most certainly did.

The performers melded into a single unit in this near-flawless performance, marrying searing passion to a meticulous,
Baroque precision. The Franck alone was worth the price of admission, as amply demonstrated by the nearly full house.
It's hard to imagine that barely two years ago, most passers-by at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station ignored Mr. Bell's
artistry when he played there incognito in a stunt heard round the world.

The artists concluded their program with an encore, an equally sensitive rendition of the beloved Meditation from
Jules Massenet's opera Thais. Bravo.
The Washington Post

With familiar repertory, expectations need to be not only manipulated but surpassed for the performance to graduate
from the merely enjoyable to the profoundly affecting. A rendition of Bach's "Goldberg" Variations by the pianist
Jeremy Denk at Symphony Space during its annual Wall to Wall event was entrancing from the first notes of the
famous Aria, a magical experience that was one of the best solo performances this year.
The New York Times

The first time I heard pianist Jeremy Denk was last autumn on a barge moored under New York's Brooklyn Bridge,
where he delivered a transcendent performance of the music of Charles Ives.

To hear the versatile virtuoso again in Denver on Friday night was a treat, this time through the gentle intricacies of
Richard Strauss' Burleske and a tuneful Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart rondo both for piano and orchestra.

While attendance at Boettcher Concert Hall was conspicuously sparse, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and music
director Jeffrey Kahane joined Denk in a thoughtful, committed interpretation of Strauss' energetic, waltz-like work.
As always, Kahane purposefully propelled the CSO through brisk rhythms and full-voiced orchestral flourishes. But
what drove home the Burleske was Denk's insightful, fleet- fingered phrasings in harmonious alignment with timpanist
William Hill's sophisticated rendering of the work's main themes.

Not exactly a household name, Denk then easily exceeded expectations in his solid, astoundingly fluid delivery of the
Rondo in D Major. With capable support from the CSO, Denk demonstrated impressive dexterity and emotional depth
and clearly enjoyed his role as purveyor of Mozart's delightfully sunny themes, whimsical turns of phrases and
flashes of technical brilliance.
The Denver Post

Saturday's performance with pianist Jeremy Denk was even finer. As the antihero keyboard soloist, Denk's poised
luminous touch in the spare solo part was an ideal partner for the scrupulously detailed and laser-like orchestral playing
led by Tilson Thomas.
The Miami Herald

Guest pianist Jeremy Denk was the pyrogenic force in every piece he played. He commands a huge range of colors
and dynamics from the ghostly haze in the opening of the Improvisation to the heroic assertion of the
Heldenleben-like finale. He has an unerring sense of the musics dramatic structure and a great actors intuition for
timing he was the provocateur who urged his colleagues to dare all, to unleash every calorie of emotional heat.

The Boston Globe

There was a major work from the early 20th century, Bartoks Piano Concerto No. 2, with Jeremy Denk, the brilliant
soloist Hearing Mr. Denks bracing, effortlessly virtuosic and utterly joyous performance, one would never guess
how phenomenally difficult the piano part is.
The New York Times

The really thrilling performance of the afternoon was that of the Schumann Piano Concerto with Jeremy Denk as
soloist. A young artist with a string of prizes and prestigious engagements, Denk is a lot more than just an athletic
pianist. This was clear from the first bars in which Schumanns dotted chords crackled with energy. He plays not only
with a wonderful rhythmic drive, but with a wide range of dynamics, a supple way of shaping phrases, and a free but
not excessive employment of rubato.
The Boston Globe

It was his reading of Beethovens Sonata in E (Op. 109) that gave his program its center. His playing presented a
completely imagined and proportioned structure that stressed the musics lyricism and poetry. The opening had a
golden resonance. The pacing of the entire work forced attention on the music itself, culminating in the intensely lyric
variations in the last movement. The logic that propelled his playing gave his occasional understatements extraordinary
The Philadelphia Inquirer

You had to be glowing after the Mozart, Faur and Beethoven performances Tuesday. The concert was almost too
good to have hoped for has Denk, or anybody else, ever played pianissimos so intensely? Ive heard major
personalities like Joshua Bell and Jean-Yves Thibaudet blast their way through the Kreutzer and heard nothing new in
the music itself. Not so with Kim and Denk

Amid a concert that one might call, in the spirit of actor Spalding Gray, a perfect moment, you could marvel at the
$15 ticket price and grieve at the lack of recording devices on hand. But like most perfect moments, this one is most
accurately preserved in ones heart.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (review of Soovin Kim/Jeremy Denk duo recital)

the word hasnt spread around enough as yet about Jeremy Denk What he accomplished gave testimony that he
is a great pianist, no less. It was so clearly evident that here is an artist who has worked his way through the music not
only with his hands but with his mind and with his heart Here was brilliant and individualistic pianism. One rarely
hears music so indelibly performed, as it was through these two Denk-enriched afternoons.

The Bloomington Herald-Times

A major highlight of the enjoyable day came in a magical performance of the Goldberg Variations by the pianist
Jeremy Denk. We struck gold with him, said Mr. Sheffer. It was indeed a performance to treasure, riveting from the
first notes of the gorgeous Aria. Mr. Denks unmannered, profound playing, enriched by multihued dynamics and
vibrantly contrasting moods, earned him universal approval from the rapturous audience.
The New York Times

In Robert Schumann's Piano Concerto, Graf and Denk found the one aspect that loosely could nestle with the fanfares
and Antonin Dvork's Symphony No. 9, New World, which followed. The performance brimmed with optimism, one of
the doctrines of faith, as it were, of the American experience. While cast in a minor key, often associated with darker
moods, the concerto bounded with energy in the hands of Denk and Graf.

Hearing Denk was a joy. The fluidity, grace and good manners of his playing fit the concerto perfectly. His tone
gleamed with crystalline beauty. Graf and the orchestra similarly polished the interaction, playing with hushed beauty
and bustling energy as needed.
The Houston Chronicle
He performs with subtle nuances that are all too rarely heard and has a range of dynamic and technical skills that are
inspiring to witness.
The Newtown Bee

He is a fine pianist whose playing is confident and strong, with clean, powerful technique.
The Modesto Bee
Chicago Tribune March 11, 2016

Mark Elder, CSO offer rewarding Central European sojourn


What I wrote about Mark Elder in 2009 still holds true in 2016: Someone really should make the British
conductor an honorary Czech. I noted as much during the Dvorak Festival he devised and directed with the
Chicago Symphony Orchestra that year, a June festival event he led with idiomatic authority and had the
CSO playing Dvorak better than just about any orchestra this side of the Moldau.

This time around with the CSO, Elder is expanding his Central European perspective to include two works by
Dvorak's great countryman, Leos Janacek, on the subscription program he is presenting this weekend and
next week for his second and final week's residency at Symphony Center. Welcome bonuses are a bit of
Dvorak and a side trip to neighboring Hungary, in the form of a Bela Bartok concerto performed in honor of
the orchestra's 125th anniversary.

The Moravian-born Janacek was one of the true originals of 20th century music, a fact perhaps appreciated
when one experiences his operas. Elder, in his spoken remarks, noted "the beauty and humanity" that makes
the composer's music "like none other." Janacek's terse musical grammar, inflected with the rhythms of
Czech speech; his abrupt juxtapositions of materials; his frequent stops and starts all these things require
tender, loving attention.

Elder's countryman, conductor Charles Mackerras, had that instinctive feel for the Janacek idiom, and so does
Elder. One heard it in his detailed and assured readings of a suite from Janacek's opera "The Cunning Little
Vixen" and symphonic rhapsody "Taras Bulba" on Thursday night. The "Vixen" suite was essentially the
standard version prepared by Czech conductor Vaclav Talich, though later adapted by Mackerras to preserve
Janacek's original orchestration and to include some music from the opera not present in the Talich.

Has there ever been a more magical musical evocation of bird song and other woodland sounds than those of
"Cunning Little Vixen"? The deep feeling Elder has for the score told in his flexible pacing, in the light and
air and shade he brought to Janacek's transparent writing for woodwind choir. The performance was good
enough to make one hope Lyric Opera will revive its charming 2004 production of the complete work.

"Taras Bulba," a tone poem in three movements memorializing the death of author Nikolai Gogol's fictional
hero, a Cossack warrior, and the equally grisly demise of his two sons, is bolder and bigger, its colors more
brazenly splashed across the orchestra. Here, too, Elder was firmly in control of the instrumental apparatus,
with its stentorian brass and low organ pedals. The CSO musicians dug into their instruments to rousing

The CSO gave Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 2 (1931) its belated U.S. premiere in 1939, with one of the
composer's young pupils, Storm Bull, as soloist, and Frederick Stock conducting. Two years later, Bartok,
Jeremy Denk
Chicago Tribune March 11, 2016
page 2 of 2

who was a brilliant pianist, played the work here, again with Stock and the CSO. This angular and
formidable concerto requires a pianist with nerves and fingers of steel but also a flair for the

Jeremy Denk met all the requirements triumphantly. I have never heard a thoughtless or uninvolved
performance from this remarkably individual American pianist, and the fearless aplomb with which he
stormed through Bartok's knucklebuster was little short of sensational. Few pianists file their rhythmic
attacks to a more incisive point than Denk. The pianist's torrents of notes swept across the orchestral
soundstage like a juggernaut, but always with a tonal solidity that eschewed clatter. The spiky
nervosity that propelled the outer movements enclosed a central movement whose marked contrasts of
prayerful calm and driven fury pianist, conductor and orchestra sustained most beautifully. Quite a
thrill ride, and its effect on the audience was immediate.

Dvorak's playful "Scherzo Capriccioso" opened the concert in a reading alive with dusky woodwind
colorations, stylishly played right down to the subtle portamento slides in the violins.

Someday soon the CSO really should invite Elder to present an entire festival of Janacek's music. Meanwhile,
the conductor will preside over a Beyond the Score examination of Janacek's life and music, as devised by
series creative director Gerard McBurney, on Sunday afternoon at Symphony Center. The musical portion
will include the "Cunning Little Vixen" Suite and "Taras Bulba."
San Diego Union-Tribune January 17, 2016

Symphony gives Beethovens Emperor a fresh spin


To make the old and familiar sound fresh and new again this is what great musicians strive for in
playing the classics.

On Saturday evening at Jacobs Music Centers Copley Symphony Hall, pianist Jeremy Denk, conductor
Cristian Mcelaru, and the San Diego Symphony did just that. They scraped away the heroic bombast
and syrupy sentimentality that all too frequently begrime Beethovens Emperor concerto.

They revealed a noble edifice, compelling in musical argument, yet full of surprises that still had power
to delight or impress. Echoing the title of the Symphonys monthlong investigation of piano concertos,
this Emperor concerto was truly Upright & Grand.

In their performative restoration, Denk and Mcelaru kept rubato to a minimum, yet the crisp rhythmic
drive of the outer movements never felt mechanical. Climaxes and other significant arrival points were
meticulously calculated, channeling the inexorable sweep of Beethovens momentum into a delineation
of his majestic musical architecture.

Some pianists rely on the resonance of the pianos pedal to create great volume, but not Denk. His
pedaling was remarkably clean. It was a marvel to see his hands suspended 8 inches above the keys,
descending with little warning, producing a loud, full, yet musical sonority. Denks clean, powerful tone
helped avoid the sonic bluster that so many pianists succumb to in this concerto.

Mcelaru was a sympathetic collaborator. He achieved a focus with the orchestra too infrequently heard
under Jahja Lings baton, an ability to properly balance the ensemble at just the right volume.

Speaking of volume, Mcelaru seemed to expand the orchestras dynamic range, enabling them to play
more softly than usual, while their loud tuttis had a clarity not often heard in Copley Symphony Hall.
This was especially true in Shostakovichs Symphony no. 1.

Also evident in the Shostakovich Symphony was Mcelarus ability to seamlessly move from soft to
loud, and vice versa. His smooth crescendos were like accelerating in a car with a well-calibrated
automatic transmission, the shift from one gear to the next imperceptible.

Conversation at intermission and after the concert turned to the possibility of Mcelaru becoming our
next music director. Lets hope hes being considered for the job, and that hes willing to accept if
Jeremy Denk
San Diego Union-Tribune January 17, 2016
page 2 of 2

In addition to celebrating piano concertos and soloists, the Upright & Grand festival has also featured
orchestrations of piano music. One of the lesser known yet better arrangements heard on the festival so
far was John Adams version of La Lugubre Gondola II by Franz Liszt, which Adams translates as The
Black Gondola.

Many associate Liszts piano music with florid, virtuosic passagework, but Lugubre Gondola is a spare
and melancholy work. At times the piano dwindles down to a single, soft, chromatically meandering line.
The result, in the hands of a pianist with great tonal range, can be disturbing a tiny, lost melody that
cant find any grounding on its own; a ghastly attempt at a song faintly croaked out by a skeleton.

In Adams effective orchestration, these lines are given life by throbbing strings. This orchestral version
sings more, although the wandering melody still disturbs in its refusal to give listeners a solid footing.
Notable solo work was heard from Sheryl Renk (clarinet), Benjamin Jaber (horn) and Andrea Overturf
(English horn), all of whom played hauntingly.

The New York Times November 22, 2015

Review: Jeremy Denk and Stefan Jackiws Lessons in Ivess

Nostalgic Sonatas

A concert offering all four of Charles Ivess craggy violin sonatas might seem at first more a music history
lesson than an engaging program. If not quite rarities, these fiercely original works are pretty close.

Yet on Saturday night, the tirelessly inquisitive pianist Jeremy Denk, an Ives champion, and the brilliant
young violinist Stefan Jackiw gave arresting accounts of these four astonishing sonatas at the 92nd Street Y.
The event was a model of how performers can both inform and entertain an audience with a challenging

Mr. Denk began with some engaging comments about Ives (1874-1954), whose music was largely ignored
during his lifetime. This American maverick had an unabashedly modernist side, writing works abounding in
tone clusters, polytonality and clashing layers of harmony and melody. Yet, Mr. Denk added, Ives was also a
desperately nostalgic composer who tried to reconstruct childhood memories in his works. His music is run
through with the church hymns, patriotic tunes and marches he heard while learning music from his father, a
small town Connecticut bandmaster. These melodies, which become thematic elements of his pieces, would
have been familiar to audiences in Ivess day.

To better acquaint the audience on this night with the tunes Ives uses in these sonatas, Mr. Denk had New
York Polyphony, an impressive male vocal quartet, sing various hymns and songs before the performance of
the sonata in which they are quoted. Hearing Beulah Land, I Need Thee Every Hour, Tramp! Tramp!
Tramp! The Boys Are Marching and the other tunes was both instructive and delightful.

Mr. Denk and Mr. Jackiw began with the Sonata No. 4 and worked backward, though the pieces seem to have
been composed more or less simultaneously over 15 years or so, starting around 1902. The 11-minute Fourth
Sonata is subtitled Childrens Day at the Camp Meeting, and the lively first movement certainly evokes
boisterous, youthful activity. At one point, as Mr. Denk said, someone practicing the organ intrudes. The
second movement is a misty nocturnal portrait, until a skittish episode when the kids start throwing rocks into
a pond. The final movement Mr. Denk intriguingly likened to Miles Davis not knowing what tune he is
going to play.

The flinty Ives described his Sonata No. 3, the longest (at 30 minutes), as a nice piece for the nice ladies.
He seems to have meant that the work is less radical, more expansive. But the music still has
discombobulating elements, especially the impetuous middle movement, which is like a mash-up of rags and
Jeremy Denk
The New York Times November 22, 2015
page 2 of 2

The first movement of Sonata No. 2 begins like transcendental meditation, though it breaks impulsively into a
fractured hoedown before shifting to a seeming attempt at quizzical reflection. The Sonata No. 1, Mr. Denk
had warned us, is the most boldly difficult. Indeed, the final movement could be stream-of-consciousness
snippets of frenzied marches, until a blissfully ruminative coda.

Mr. Denks playing exuded affinity for Ives and vivid imagination. Mr. Jackiw, deftly balancing fervor and
elegance, beautiful tone and earthy colorings, proved a comparably inspired Ivesian on this exciting night.

The Washington Post October 12, 2015

Denk shows range in iPod shuffle


Listening to an iPod shuffle can be an exhilaratingly untethered experience, as a randomized playlist

materializes out of the ether. For American pianist Jeremy Denk, the shuffle has become an artistic calling
card, offering an innovative model for concert programming that reflects his restless and insouciant

Denks delightful Sunday afternoon recital at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, presented by Washington
Performing Arts, really contained two programs. Denk offered the outlines of a traditional recital, opening
with Bach and closing with Haydn and Schumann. At the heart of the concert, though, was what Denk called
an iPod shuffle of seven eclectic pieces exploring ragtime. But make no mistake: This was not a random
shuffle but an affectionately and expertly curated playlist.

Taking Joplin as a point of departure, Denk presented the rag as a classical form capable of expressing
virtuosity, humor, nostalgia and experimental daring. He revelled in the proto-ragtime rhythmic play of
Renaissance composer William Byrds Ninth Pavan and somehow kept a straight face through Paul
Hindemiths Teutonic parody, Ragtime from Suite 1922. Deconstructions by Stravinsky and Conlon
Nancarrow were contrasted with William Bolcoms gentle and bittersweet homage, Graceful Ghost Rag.
Donald Lamberts Pilgrims Chorus, an astonishing takedown of Wagners Tannhuser, closed the set,
with its fiendish stride bass stretching Denks technique to its limits.

Denks study of rag and rhythmic play also inevitably inflected the standards on the program. In Bachs
English Suite No. 3, Denk brought an almost improvisatory feel to the mysterious Sarabande and powerful
rhythmic drive to the concluding Gigue. Haydns scintillating Fantasia in C was replete with playful verve
and jaunty cross rhythms.

The recital concluded with Schumanns Carnaval, a work of 21 small pieces, which, in lesser hands, could
sound like a random shuffle. In Denks mercurial reading, the individual vignettes were highly characterized
yet also unified by the pianists inimitable sensibility a sensibility alive to the works poetry, wit,
impulsiveness and off-beat yet irresistible charm.

The Telegraph September 28, 2015

Britten Sinfonia and Jeremy Denk, Cambridge: 'exhilarating'


For its first collaboration with the adventurous American pianist Jeremy Denk, the Britten Sinfonia made
Bach the starting point of a wide-ranging programme. A colossus of Rhodes, beneath whom all musicians
pass and will continue to pass, was the 19th-century composer Gounods view of Bach, and few musicians
since have begged to differ. This programme used Stravinsky as the fulcrum for an exploration of 20th-
century refractions and arrangements.

Each half of the concert ended with one of Bachs keyboard concertos, and in both Denks presence
inspired the orchestra to its best playing of the evening. The outer movements of the Concerto No. 4 in
A major, BWV 1055, rippled along with irrepressible energy, and Denks sometimes extrovert gestures
never contradicted his musical humility. In the Second Concerto, BWV 1053 in E major, the central
Siciliano sounded other-worldly; the dialogue between piano and strings in the finale had exhilarating

Elsewhere, there were moments when the Britten Sinfonia could have done with more drive and direction,
but clever programming made up for it. In two Stravinsky arrangements of Bach Preludes and Fugues, the
string sound in Cambridges West Road Concert Hall had sonorous depth, and most of Stravinskys Bach-
inspired Dumbarton Oaks bubbled along with neo-Baroque energy and wit, though the third movement
sagged slightly. Yet its opening sparkled like a firework display over the estate in Washington DC from
which the work takes its name.

Weberns arrangement of Bachs Ricercar from The Musical Offering added another welcome dimension,
though with the orchestra now increased to 30 players, all relishing its incredibly rich sound-world, a
conductor might have helped. Still, it was rewarding to hear this hazy and haunting piece of musical
pointillism, which passes its tunes from one instrument to another.

But the biggest revelations came from Denk, in whose hands the piano always seems a musical time-
machine, capable of transmitting any style and period. Stravinskys cubist Piano Rag Music was
played with improvisatory ease yet total control, and he showed how Hindemiths Ragtime (from his
Suite 1922) subverts a popular American form with Baroque dance. Denk also delivered the first of
Conlon Nancarrows complex Canons for Ursula (written for the pianist Ursula Oppens rather than
his usual medium of a machine) with jaw-dropping virtuosity, taking Bachs contrapuntal inspiration
to extremes.

Twin Cities Pioneer Press September 18, 2015

When SPCO, pianist Denk and Bach meet, inspiration is the result

Everybody loves Bach. But does Bach love you back?

J.S. Bach can sometimes feel like a deeply admired professor who opens new worlds to you but spends a lot
more time getting you to think than to feel. Take his keyboard music. When it's slow, it can be very
emotional. But the faster pieces can give your brain a workout, like a philosophical conundrum or
mathematical proof.

Pianist Jeremy Denk seems to have a deep understanding of how to find both the head and the heart in Bach.
I heard it when he played the daunting "Goldberg Variations" at a Chopin Society recital in St. Paul five
years ago, and it's been the case every time he's tackled a Bach Keyboard Concerto with the St. Paul Chamber
Orchestra. Now that he's an SPCO artistic partner, he's helping shape programs that deepen your
understanding and appreciation of Bach with complementary works. But the crux of these concerts is always
what happens when Denk meet Bach.

And that encounter was inspiring on Friday morning at the Ordway Concert Hall. Denk performed two Bach
concertos for piano and strings (Nos. 4 and 2) and each proved an ideal showcase for this pianist's
interpretive imagination and depth. Throw in four solo piano works that found the Bach in ragtime and you
have a rewarding exploration of how the composer's influence pops up in unexpected places.

The original plan was for Denk to perform three Stravinsky piano pieces (two rags and a tango), but the
pianist decided to go down the rag route even further, offering one by Paul Hindemith, a deconstructionist
take on the form by Conlon Nancarrow and William Bolcom's lovely "Graceful Ghost Rag," which was given
the gentlest interpretation I've encountered.

Finding the Bach within Stravinsky fell mostly to the orchestra's musicians, who emphasized the
deconstructionist elements of Stravinsky's "Dumbarton Oaks" Concerto by placing brief snippets of solo lines
in particularly stark relief. And Stravinsky's arrangement of a Bach Prelude and Fugue stripped things down
further, as the fugue was a tete a tete between clarinetist Jonathan Cohen and bassoonist Charles Ullery.

But the best reason to catch these concerts is to hear what Denk does with the Bach concertos. He gave the
Concerto No. 4 a pleasantly paradoxical combination of lightness and gravitas, using his very engaging body
language to convey the places where battles raged between heart and brain (with left and right brain going at
it, as well). The Second Concerto probably began its life as an oboe concerto, and Denk made the lines sing
out sonorously, infusing the fast movements on either end with ebullience and evoking unease in the central
Siciliano. And the SPCO strings matched him in both passion and precision.
Jeremy Denk
Twin Cities Pioneer Press September 18, 2015
page 2 of 2

Earlier, the gifted Hawley joined Denk and concertmaster Steven Copes in a vivid reading of Bartoks
Contrasts. Before that, Martin, who has a good rapport with this orchestra, skillfully engineered the ever-
shifting tempo changes in the Milhaud, and he moved the Ives symphony with assured pacing and delicate
color. The distant church bells at the end, however, were a little too distant, as if the source might be a
small church on the far side of Anoka.

Star Tribune September 13, 2015

At Ordway, SPCO gets 'serious' with pop-inflected music


Mozart and Haydn drew on folk dances for their orchestral works and chamber music. Mahler used klezmer
Jewish dance music from Eastern Europe in his symphonies. And then in the early decades of the 20th
century there was the short-lived craze for symphonic jazz.

For the first concert of its 57th season Saturday night at the new Ordway Concert Hall, the St. Paul Chamber
Orchestra built a program on concert music that uses popular and folk idioms. Two of the works were
composed in the 1920s: Milhauds ballet The Bull on the Roof, which incorporates popular music from
Brazil, and Gershwins Rhapsody in Blue, which, to quote a publicity slogan of the time, made an honest
woman out of jazz.

One of Charles Ives richest achievements, his Symphony No. 3, The Camp Meeting, based on New
England hymn tunes, also was played, as was Bartoks Contrasts for Violin and Piano, which quotes
Hungarian folk dances.

This made an interesting mix. To be sure, the ideology surrounding some of these works at the time of their
inception, the idea that popular music the vernacular, as its known in academic circles is elevated or
purified or rendered legit through its embrace by serious composers, is no longer a useful notion. Much
popular music today is quite serious and not especially popular while some classical (or concert) music
is frivolous. And jazz, now thought of as an art form rather than folk music, while remaining a more or less
honest woman, hasnt been truly popular since the Swing Era.

The bandleader Paul Whiteman considered Gershwins Rhapsody, which he commissioned, to be the music
of the future. Today it seems dated, a relic of the 1920s Jazz Age. Still, a good performance of the sort the
orchestra gave Saturday night, with Jaime Martin conducting and pianist Jeremy Denk as soloist, can
underline this all too familiar works essential vitality and perhaps even its charm.

Wisely, Ferde Grofs original jazz band orchestration was used. Its played almost as often these days as
Grofs pops-concert version of 1942, probably because it sounds more authentic. Martins tempos were
generally brisk no sentimentalizing of the main theme. Denk played with a kind of swaggering bravura,
fleet and light, carefully nuanced and yet spontaneous and playful in the manner of Gershwins own recorded
performances of the work but, thankfully, without Gershwins sledgehammer touch. Richie Hawley gave the
opening clarinet flourish just the right kind of boozy languor.
Jeremy Denk
Star Tribune September 13, 2015
page 2 of 2

Earlier, the gifted Hawley joined Denk and concertmaster Steven Copes in a vivid reading of Bartoks
Contrasts. Before that, Martin, who has a good rapport with this orchestra, skillfully engineered the ever-
shifting tempo changes in the Milhaud, and he moved the Ives symphony with assured pacing and delicate
color. The distant church bells at the end, however, were a little too distant, as if the source might be a
small church on the far side of Anoka.

Twin Cities Pioneer Press September 12, 2015

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra's opener as adventurous as ever


A theater director once said to me that you choose his art form for one of two reasons: To get people to like
you or to blow their minds. I was thinking of those divergent motivations while sitting in St. Paul's Ordway
Concert Hall on Saturday night at the opening concert of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra's 2015-16 season.

After spending Friday evening with the Minnesota Orchestra as it opened its season with show tunes
(splendidly sung by Audra McDonald) and bite-sized crowd-pleasing fare, I encountered something far more
mind-blowing at the Ordway on Saturday: A program of 20th-century works, all of them adventurous
compositions, most of them unafraid of a little dissonance and some unexpected musical twists.

Yes, one was George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" -- and works don't get much more crowd-pleasing --
but even that was presented in its far less familiar original form, and pianist Jeremy Denk took the cadenzas
in all sorts of thrillingly imaginative directions. And when an orchestra welcomes its audience to a new
season with the music of innovators like Darius Milhaud, Charles Ives and Bela Bartok, it's clearly out to
give you something of substance, not just seeking your affection.

But you should give it to them nonetheless. For the SPCO has the kind of daring that the classical music
world desperately needs right now. Yes, you'll find a fair measure of Mozart, Haydn and J.S. Bach at its
concerts, but the orchestra seldom obeys convention in its interpretations.

It seems more interested in expanding your horizons and sometimes pushing you out of your comfort zone.
That certainly seemed the case Saturday, for neither Darius Milhaud's "Le Boeuf sur le toit (The Bull on the
Roof)" nor Charles Ives' Third Symphony (nicknamed "The Camp Meeting") will ever be mistaken for a
lullaby. The Milhaud piece is a sometimes chaotic pastiche of Brazilian styles the composer learned of while
living there, while the Ives is a complex confluence of clashing rhythms and multiple melody lines that sound
as if each is trying to assert its individuality.

But conductor Jaime Martin and the SPCO made the Milhaud feel like a fun festival before summoning sweet
beauty from the Ives.

It's a program that wears its jazz influences proudly, even on Bela Bartok's "Contrasts," a trio that the
composer wrote partially with Benny Goodman in mind. Pianist Denk, violinist Steven Copes and clarinetist
Jeremy Denk
Twin Cities Pioneer Press September 12, 2015
page 2 of 2

Richie Hawley all impressed on this difficult piece, Hawley following it up by lighting the fuse on
"Rhapsody in Blue" with an adrenalin-raising opening glissando.

The 1924 version of that piece premiered by pianist Gershwin and Paul Whiteman's orchestra proved a
marvelous showcase for Denk's talents, particularly during an explosive first cadenza and a second one that
turned a familiar theme into something percussive, full of short, staccato brush strokes reminiscent of a
pointillist painting. It's no wonder Denk and the SPCO received what might have been the most exuberant
standing ovation I've yet encountered in its new hall.

The Independent September 03, 2015

Prom 60, Royal Albert Hall, review: Jeremy Denk and the San Francisco
Symphony brilliantly revive Henry Cowell

Yet another coup for Proms director Edward Blakeman: composed in 1928, but only now getting its first
Proms airing, Henry Cowells Piano Concerto proved a revelation. Its hard to overestimate the importance of
this American composer, who widely-imitated invention of note-clusters was only one of many ways in
which he broke new ground and gathered distinguished disciples: John Cage, who was one of the latter,
called him the open sesame for new music in America.

Pianist Jeremy Denk and the San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomass direction gave this
work the best possible run, and it really is extraordinary in that the soloist spends most of the time hitting the
keyboard with his forearms and elbows, thus producing Cowells trademark note-clusters. One might have
expected the result to be shambolic, but the reverse was the case: with the orchestra playing tonally and the
piano in seeming opposition, the result was a highly organised and strikingly lyrical work. Denks encore
The Allcotts by Charles Ives, who was one of Cowells supporters rounded things off with a breath of New
England charm.

This was the first of two Proms by the San Francisco Symphony, who further showed their mettle with
Schoenbergs deceptively subtle Theme and Variations Opus 43b and with a heart-warmingly resonant
performance of Mahlers Symphony No 1.

The Guardian August 31, 2015

San Francisco Symphony/Tilson Thomas review - Jeremy Denk is all fists on

the piano... in a good way

We should really hear Henry Cowells Piano Concerto more often after all, which pianist wouldnt want to play the
keyboard with their elbows? Imagine a romantic-era composer writing a concerto to be played by the hooves of a
Lipizzaner horse, and you are getting close. The maverick composers 1928 workholds, in many ways, to the shape and
feel of a classical concerto while reimagining the way the notes might be produced; the keyboard submits to a hail of
fists and arms, but, buoyed by the orchestra, the clusters of notes produced are shaped into something nuanced and
extraordinarily powerful.

In the first of the San Francisco Symphonys two Proms, Jeremy Denk was the soloist in Cowells exuberant yet very
serious score. Playing from memory, he brought to it as much poise and expression as if he were playing Chopin, and
the orchestra offered intense support. The Alcotts, a movement from the Concord Sonata by Cowells friend Charles
Ives, was Denks beautifully shaped encore.

Michael Tilson Thomas and his orchestra had already brought vivid detail and colour to Schoenbergs 1943 Theme and
Variations, an uncharacteristically harmonious but spiky piece commissioned for a student orchestra full of mellow
trumpet, gruff college-band tuba, disembodied violins and tinkerbell glockenspiel.

But it was Mahlers First Symphony that really showcased the rapport this conductor and orchestra have built up during
Tilson Thomass 20 years as music director. The melodic lines tumbled out in one long, easy flow, the violins sounding
sweet, the trumpets very prominent from their position above the rest, but still part of the blend. There was no grandeur,
no posturing in Tilson Thomass interpretation, unless you count a slight underlining of the radiant final climax; the
second movement had an unforced boisterousness, and the funeral march of the third dissolved into a series of tender,
half-remembered songs. No west coast brashness here, just a golden, late-summer, Californian glow.

The Arts Desk August 25, 2015

Prom Chamber Music 6: Jeremy Denk/Prom 53: Fray, Philharmonia,


There were two reasons why I didnt return to the Albert Hall late on Friday night to hear Andras Schiff play Bachs
Goldberg Variations. The first was that one epic, Mahlers Sixth in the stunning performance by Andris Nelsons and
the Boston Symphony Orchestra, needed properly digesting. The other was that at Easter Id heard Jeremy Denk play
the Goldbergs in Weimar, and I wanted that approach to resonate, too dynamic, continuous, revelatory, in a very
different way from how I know Schiff approaches Bach.

Denks recitals are mandatory listening now, and the lunchtime recital yesterday at the Cadogan Hall (****) was no
exception. It was far from light but perfectly digestible, since his approach to the two potential heavyweights leading up
to the magnum opus of Beethovens last sonata made easy and even exultant work of violent discords. Scriabins Ninth,
Black Mass Sonata, didnt seem Satanic or scary at all with this kind of intellectual torch shone on it; with very little
sustaining pedal, its harmonic experimentations seemed not whimsical or self-indulgent but clean and natural an
astonishingly effective prelude, in fact.

Michael Tilson Thomas, with whom Denk appears in Henry Cowells Piano Concerto in Sunday evenings Prom, once
talked about the exultation of the dissonance in hard-hitting scores of the 1920s, and exultant was exactly how the
opening movement of Bartks Piano Sonata came across, dancing in what Denk with typical wit described as that
Hungarian groove. Different colours lit various chords or notes in the slow movement, and the tumultuous repeated-
note finale may have done for the middle C on the Cadogan Steinway, though it only began to sound unhealthy in
Beethovens Op. 111.

Unfortunate, that, since C first minor, then major is the home key of this poleaxing masterpiece. Talking to Petroc
Trelawny before it, Denk gave insights of incredible concision, especially when it came to the nature of the Ariettas
gobsmacking variations. All was clarity again, with space for special articulation, and nothing neutral, even if Ive
heard pianists make more of the lower register and the spirituality of the later stages. A sequence of trills apart, Denks
Beethoven remained resolutely of this world. As, inevitably, his perfect choice of the only possible thing to follow that
the central movement of Mozarts last sonata, with its far more cheek-by-jowl light and shade did not.
Jeremy Denk
The Arts Desk August 25, 2015
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The pianist in the Mozart concerto of the evening's Prom (***), David Fray, made his presence less strongly felt than
the effortlessly elegant and human woodwind of Esa-Pekka Salonens Philharmonia. Certainly that sublime ensemble
led the way in so many of the late C minor Concertos inspired ideas, but its up to the pianist to match them for
imagination. Fray produced a crystalline tone, much less veiled than Elisabeth Leonskajas in the E flat major Concerto
last Thursday; but he rarely made much of the phrases, with the simple theme of the slow movement very much a test
he failed, and more worryingly he never forged a true relationship with his orchestra and conductor (as Leonskaja so
effortlessly had), curved instead introspectively around his keyboard.

Salonen had already tested the two other works on the programme in previous Philharmonia seasons. Theres no doubt
no end of polishing and fine-tuning that can be done to Bartks pantomime-ballet score The Miraculous Mandarin,
especially in the protracted endgame in which the mysterious protagonist refuses to die at the hands of a prostitute and
her thugs. By choosing to open with the complete ballet rather than the suite, which ends with the stomp before the
murder, and doing without the helpful action supertitles which had guided the audience at the Festival Hall, Salonen set
himself, his orchestra and the briefly engaged wordless chorus a challenge which they faced with extremes of
sonorities; never has the score sounded more contemporary, yet at the same time so romantically tender. Awed salutes
to clarinettist Mark van de Wiel, who played the girls three "decoy games" so very humanly, and to a guest principal
timpanist of amazing presence and strength, Paul Philbert.

In terms of great 20th century music, that was it for the evening. At around the same half-hour mark, the Prologue to a
1932 opera for the 15th anniversary of the October revolution Shostakovich could probably never have finished even
for a fortune, Orango, muddled along aimlessly, with a repellent dimension in the way director Irina Brown in a more
than semi-staging made the Prommers and some of the folk in the boxes complicitly infantile in waving red flags for
this piece of shoddy Soviet agitprop. Bad taste; would they have waved little swastikas with the same mindless
enthusiasm, all in "good fun"?

Yes, the opera might have become more interesting when the man-ape of the title turns out to be more human than all
the spectators, but the subtext was virtually non-existent in the hastily cobbled together gallops, marches and waltzes.
Gerard McBurney has done a vintage job in orchestrating those bits that dont come from the ballet The Bolt in true
young-red-Shostakovich style, with piercing trumpets as well as the odd contribution from flutter-tonguing brass and
wind and that flailing metal oddity, the flexatone. Salonen conducted it all with his usual precision, energy and focus,
but to what end?
Its pointless to credit any of the Russian singers, given their negligible roles; the Proms could have saved a lot of
money and done it preferably in English, since they still dont do surtitles at the Albert Hall with students from
one of the UK music colleges. Better still to have put on an act of music from the best of the three early ballets, The
Golden Age. Those who didn't know Shostakovich had a raucous sense of humour might find Orangoamusing for a
while. But as one of Prokofievs professors put it about another piece of ephemera, it's the sort of thing that's
interesting for the history of music, but not for music. Roll on the real thing, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk during work
on which Shostakovich toyed with Orango at the London Coliseum next month.

Bachtrack August 31, 2015

Prom 60: Magical Cowell and fussy Mahler from the San Francisco
Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas

Shostakovich. Cage. Ligeti. Bartk. Henry Cowells music brings them all to mind. If anything, Cowells relentlessly
searching imagination set him on a path to historical perdition; Cage called him the 'open sesame' for new music in
America, and this idea that Cowell simply laid the groundwork for future developments has probably made his music
into something of a footnote. Yet Cowell, to whom Bartk wrote asking if he might borrow the technique of cluster
chords, composed some of the most visionary, passionate, and moving music of the American modernist movement.
Nowhere is this better exemplified than in his 1928 Piano Concerto, given a stunning performance the first at the
Proms - by the indefatigable Jeremy Denk alongside Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony,
alongside the quirky Theme and Variations by Schoenberg, and Mahlers magisterial First Symphony.

Denk seems to be more and more a presence in Britain these days. Having played chamber music with Joshua Bell
earlier this year, he came fresh from a solo Prom on Monday apparently unaffected by the hair-raising demands of
Scriabin, Beethoven and Bartk. Following a recording of Cowells Piano Concerto with this same orchestra and
conductor, the groups faith in the piece was obvious. Every moment felt exuberant; from the almost Emperor
Concerto-like opening which alternates orchestral outbursts with percussive cadenzas featuring heavy use of the
pianists whole forearm, to the affecting slow movement, combining the unique depth of sound clusters give with a
lonely melody, this was real advocacy for Cowells style.

The slow movement opens with a lament for cor anglais, which is then passed, crushingly, to flutes playing a semitone
apart, then goes round the orchestra accumulating notes until that lonely tune has become astonishingly expressive in
its shattering harmonic crunch. Cowells use of clusters as expressive features is beguiling; hearing the expansion of the
harmonic envelope deployed so naturally, particularly as it was played here, one could not help but think Why had this
never been done before? After a whip-crack opening to the finale, some truly unique sounds emerge from the
orchestra, given power by the unabashed dissonance that makes Cowells music sound so fresh. The piece ends with a
screaming clash alongside another clustery piano chord that, with its massive voicing, actually joins the orchestra in an
utterly uncompromising explosion of sound teetering just on the right edge of noise. As if that wasnt enough, Denk
gave a sublime encore performance of The Alcotts from Ivess Concord Sonata.

Given they had engaged so convincingly with Cowells style, why did the SFS and Tilson Thomas remain so seemingly
detached from Mahlers, the symphony orchestras bread and butter? The First Symphony is certainly one of the
greatest first symphonies ever written, full of youthful confidence, orchestral splendour and gorgeous melodies. Here
though, it felt clinical, all the moments that keep this piece on programmes passed over in favour of an architectural
approach, hugely over-emphasising the musics structure with heavy hands.
Jeremy Denk
Bachtrack August 31, 2015
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Before the jarring chord change that introduces the first appearance of the finales fanfare there was a 2-3 second gap;
this is a moment of disjunction, but the harmony does that on its own. Once transitions had been made, the music
tended to go along with little attention to detail; the Scherzo had no rustic stamp of feet, and the Lndler Trio was
scarcely slower, the ingratiating elegance of the melodies lost. The slow movements klezmer interludes were
characterless, and the songful, soulful middle section had no magic, no minute giving and taking of tempo to let the
melodies really shine, a problem that reoccurred in the finales glowing slow interlude. Mahlers glorious D major
ending had no positivity, no distinction from the abortive attempt heard earlier.

Tilson Thomass details-first approach drew some admittedly beautiful playing from the SFS, though, with nary a
technical error throughout. Principal horn Robert Ward was on fine form, the closing solo in the finales slow section
full of nostalgia, and top marks to tuba Jeffrey Anderson and principal double bass Scott Pingel for excellent solos in
the slow movement; Pingels double bass solo played with a particularly beautiful vibrato.

All this was preceded by a Schoenberg curiosity: his orchestration of theTheme and Variations Op.43 for band, rarely
heard even in its original form. In a tonal style, it is characteristically pretentious, packed absolutely to the brim with
contrapuntal detail and colour. Although Schoenberg didnt consider it not being a 12-tone piece one of his main
works, there is much for an orchestra to get ones teeth into, and Tilson Thomass very careful approach brought out as
much detail and interest as one could want. Its just a shame this sort of attention didnt seem to be applied equally
throughout the whole programme.

The New York Times August 2, 2015

Jeremy Denk in a Full-Blooded Performance at Mostly Mozart


A Google search for scores written for one hand alone reveals a considerable repertory for each hand. The best-known
works are for the left hand, like the concertos by Ravel and Korngold, composed for the pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who
lost his right arm in World War I. Injury is often a motivating factor behind such compositions; Scriabin wrote for left
hand after an injury to his right. Brahms dedicated his transcription for left hand of the Chaconne in D minor (from
Bachs Partita in D minor for solo violin) to Clara Schumann, who had injured her other hand.

Brahms urged Clara not to strain her left hand while practicing the piece, which requires considerable firepower (and
which certainly sounds like a work for two hands). The pianist Jeremy Denk demonstrated the requisite force
during his passionate performance on Saturday evening at Avery Fisher Hall, which opened the Mostly Mozart
program, conducted by Louis Langre. Brahmss remarkable, faithful arrangement fully conveys the
counterpoint and intricacies of the original version; Mr. Denk rendered the individual voices clearly in a full-
blooded and colorful rendition notable for its flair and dynamic contrast.

Mr. Denk joined the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra and Mr. Langre for Mozarts Piano Concerto No. 20 in
D minor, a work Brahms admired, and for which he produced a cadenza, performed here. The orchestra played
with bristling energy in the stormy introduction, Mr. Denk rendering his opening measures with an attractively
limpid sound and singing tone. The orchestra played with vigor, enhanced by admirable contributions from the
woodwinds. As an encore, Mr. Denk offered a soulful performance of the 13th variation from Bachs Goldberg
Variations, which has become one of Mr. Denks signature pieces.

A Bach chaconne also inspired the final movement of Brahmss Fourth Symphony, which concluded the program and
whose dark mood mirrors Mozarts turbulent concerto. Mr. Langre led a spirited, polished performance whose
dramatic heft and attention to detail made it easy to forget that this is a freelance ensemble.

At the Little Night Music event later that evening at the Kaplan Penthouse, the pianist Alexei Lubimov brought a
vivid range of colors and pianistic firepower to his program, which included selections from Debussys Prludes
Book 1 and Book 2, the dense textures contrasted with the spare delicacy of Saties Gymnopdie No. 1 and
Gnossienne No. 5. The baritone Thomas Meglioranza joined Mr. Lubimov for excerpts from Saties whimsical
Sports et Divertissements, charmingly rendered here.

There were three encores: the Prelude from Debussys Suite Pour le Piano and some Mozart; a muscular, meaty
rendition of the Allegro con spirito from Sonata in D (K. 311) and an introspective take on the Andante cantabile from
Sonata in C (K. 330).
Jeremy Denk
The New York Times August 2, 2015
page 2 of 2

With encores, this concert scheduled for 60 minutes lasted about 90 minutes. Given the reception of the rapt audience it
seemed that most listeners (myself included) would have been happy to stay and listen to Mr. Lubimov for another

The Seattle Times July 16, 2015

From recital to finale, an evening of chamber finery


Variety was the keyword for Wednesday nights presentations at the Seattle Chamber Music Societys Summer
Festival. The evening began with the most dulcet of Mozart sonatas, and concluded with the desperate renunciation of
Janeks searing The Diary of One Who Disappeared.

Not surprisingly, some of the evenings finest playing came in the preconcert recital, when the stellar pianist
Jeremy Denk teamed up with the young violin virtuoso Benjamin Beilman for a pair of sonatas. For weary
concertgoers who had braved some particularly appalling I-5 traffic to get to Benaroya Hall, the opening strains
of Mozarts K.301 Violin Sonata in G Major were a balm to the soul.

Beilmans sweet, infinitely pliant tone was matched by Denks detailed lyricism at the keyboard, as each phrase
was successively embellished a little more each time it appeared. The level of communication and the degree of
accord were both unusually fine. And the duos approach to the Janek sonata that followed couldnt have
been more different: incisive, restless, and propulsive, with a second (Ballada) movement that demonstrated
Beilmans infinite variety of bowing and tone coloration.

Still more variety was to come in the main concert, which opened with Schuberts brief String Quartet in C Minor
(Quartettsatz), and went on to Respighis Il Tramonto (for mezzo-soprano and string quartet), a Mozart piano trio
(K.502), and Janeks stirring, dramatic Diary of One Who Disappeared. The Schubert, in an energetic performance
with Jun Iwasaki, Yura Lee, Richard ONeill and Andrs Daz, took awhile to come together, and suffered from a few
minor pitch inaccuracies.

The same string quartet accompanied Sasha Cooke in the Respighi, where the rich warmth of her voice illuminated the
joy and the grief of the Shelley poem (The Sunset) on which the score is based.
Mozarts K.502 Piano Trio in B-flat Major brought together violinist Beilman with cellist Bion Tsang and pianist Joyce
Yang, all strong players; Beilman had some particularly expressive moments in the second (Larghetto) movement.

The performance of the evening, however, was tenor Nicholas Phans tour-de-force in the Diary of One Who
Disappeared. The task of presenting (from memory) this long and complicated score in Czech paled in
comparison to the depth of expression with which Phan invested this quasi-operatic role. Denk provided a full
spectrum of almost orchestral colorations at the keyboard, ranging from the spare and subtle to huge washes of

With Sasha Cooke as the protagonists gypsy inamorata, and an offstage trio (Rena Harms, Nerys Jones and
Rachelle Moss), the performance was a chamber opera in miniature. But the show belonged to Phan, whose
impressive emotional and vocal range culminated in a wholehearted, all-out finale of exultation and despair.
The Plain Dealer April 24, 2015

Cleveland Orchestra shines with guests performing Stravinksy and


The only things brighter at Severance Hall this week than the music are the guest artists.
On the podium here for the first time Thursday, conductor Susanna Malkki made the Cleveland Orchestra sound like a
shinier, more transparent version of it usual self. Pianist Jeremy Denk, then, also in his debut, offered Bartok of the
most luminous, pristine sort.

Together, so shimmering, so brilliant were their performances, one almost had to wear shades. Then again, this listener
wouldn't have wanted to miss or darken even a single note.

It helps that they had good source material. Stocked entirely with vivid, colorfully orchestrated scores from composers
in lighter moods, the program would have stood out and hung together especially well even if the performances had
not. If only every program contained such variety and vibrancy while also making such sense.

But the performances did stand out and hang together. With only one exception, Malkki and Denk transformed familiar
scores into new music, rendering favorites as recent discoveries.

Stravinsky's ballet "Petrouchka," in its 1947 version, was literally the clearest example. More than most maestros,
Malkki, future chief conductor of Finland's Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, captured the essence of puppetry,
enabling listeners to envision the tale the way its creators imagined it.

Exceptional precision and articulation evoked the jerky, unpredictable manner of dolls on strings. Piercing trumpets
and tangy woodwinds, meanwhile, rounded out the portrayal by conveying their attitudes and weightlessness.
At the other end of the technical spectrum, the orchestra under Malkki handled the score's lyrical, emotional moments
with uncommon suavity. In this regard, both the strings and percussion sections were exceptional.
Jeremy Denk
The Plain Dealer April 24, 2015
page 2 of 2

That wasn't the limit of Malkki's interpretive prowess. No, the conductor also possessed a unique sense of balance, an
interest in highlighting music that's often subdued. Wherever the score depicted crowds, she revealed whole pockets of
overlooked activity. In short, even for the true Stravinsky fan, the experience was enlightening.

Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 3 hasn't been absent from Cleveland long. Still, for all its rare virtues, Denk's performance
of the work Thursday might as well have been its premiere. Likewise special was the velvety reading of a Bach
"Goldberg" Variation he presented as an encore.

An artist renowned for his depth and virtuosity, Denk brought his full talents to bear on Bartok's last mostly complete
work. Counterpoint sizzled, changes of mood came abruptly and enigmatically, and the slow movement, in his hands,
was solemn and radiant by turns.

Yet not once did the pianist employ a heavy or percussive hand. On the contrary, his performance overall was notable
for its sparkle and lightness. That this was late Bartok, not a work from his fiery middle years, Denk wisely never let
his listeners forget.

Malkki might have been expected to display a knack for Sibelius, and in some respects, she did. Her opening measures
of "The Oceanides," an evocation of sea goddesses, were glistening and inviting, and the finale in her rendering took
the form of a gradual, hard-hitting surge.

Elsewhere, however, the conductor evinced a tepid evenness, muddling textures and tamping down drama. Those
moments will fade away soon. All those in her "Stravinsky," by contrast, will linger in this listener's memory for some
time to come.
The Kansas City Star March 21, 2015

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Jeremy Denk create intimacy

in an inventive repertoire

Intimate and engaging, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, with pianist and MacArthur Fellow Jeremy Denk,
performed an inventive quartet of works for their Friday concert in Helzberg Hall.

The program presented by the Harriman-Jewell Series included two keyboard concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach
sandwiched between two works by Igor Stravinsky. Both composers remain subjects of fascination for their harmonic
and rhythmic ingenuity.

This was a smaller cohort from the full ensemble, with a chamber orchestra of 21 strings for the Stravinsky works and
piano added for the Bach.

The London-based Academy performed sans conductor, relying on the direction of concertmaster Tomo Keller and
looking to Denk during the keyboard concertos. The shared responsibility was evident in the relation of the
instrumental voices, the nuance and sophistication inherent in their interpretations.

Urgency marked Stravinskys Concerto in D, enforced by a brusque, somewhat gravel-y timbre. The play of rhythms
over an impeccable internal pulse created a dancelike, lopsided quality.

For Bachs Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Denk gave a breath to start the stately introduction, then launched
into the florid whirl of a first statement with his impassioned performance style. A peripheral glance, the tilt of the head
or a slight smile of invitation indicated the connection between soloist and ensemble. As Denk played he seemed to
grab handfuls of notes at a time, with energized accents pinpointing the cascading runs.

Denk, of New York, displayed control without overbearing command, creating a lovely space for the melodies to
progress, especially in the largo of Bachs Concerto No. 5 in F minor. In the final allegro, Bach took a two-note tag at
the end of the initial phrase and created a sly melodic component.

Stravinskys Apollon Musagete was conceived as a ballet and this performance retained the quality of movement,
whether through the angular flare from the solo violin, themes gallant and pastoral, or the syncopated, shifting
treatment of rhythm.

During the lento, the principal players further emphasized the ensembles capability for intimacy and communication.
The pianissimo tremolo faded to a nearly inaudible release, the ensuing quiet sustained by Kellers direction.

An encore selected from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts Divertimento in D Major was a spirited finish to an exquisite
The Philadelphia Inquirer December 12, 2014

Concert review: Denk shuffles Schubert, Jancek with creative


Coloring outside the lines is a relative concept in the tyrannically ritualized world of classical music. Creativity is
welcome - but please, nothing too creative. In reformatting the piano recital Wednesday night at the Kimmel Center the
way he did, Jeremy Denk knew he'd better have a compelling justification.

Happily, his point in amassing a half-hour block interspersing Schubert and Jancek was something more than a
concert-hall invasion of the iPod Shuffle aesthetic. Others on this Philadelphia Chamber Music Society series have
manipulated presentation - a joint recital by pianist Richard Goode and soprano Sarah Schafer comes to mind. Denk
wasn't making the point that Schubert influenced Jancek - Jancek sounds like exactly no one - but that perhaps each
heard similar harmonic and motivic material in the air and made it his own.

You didn't need to be an ethnomusicologist to sense an Eastern European longing in both, nor a practitioner of
Schenkerian analysis to hear cells in Schubert's Moments musicaux becoming different life forms in Jancek's On an
Overgrown Path. Schubert's Moments musicaux No. 4 has always seemed Brahmsian in the way the right hand
telegraphs harmonic progress in a series of dots and dashes. But in a Jancek context, the mind started to wander. Was
Schubert - whose churchy harmonic sense and love of folk dance are well-established in the mind - invoking the
cimbalom so obvious in Jancek?

The self-questioning seeped into the rest of the recital, even retroactively to the Haydn sonata with which Denk opened,
the C Major, Hob. XVI (the No. 50). It starts with classic Haydn simplicity - isolated descending notes, like droplets of
rain. But these develop into torrents of ideas, and pretty soon you hear where Beethoven comes from. All the way at the
other end of the recital, Beethoven closed: the Piano Sonata in E Major, Opus 109. Denk was clearly challenged by the
piece, especially the thicket of the third movement. But even through his sense of struggle, Denk communicated values
far more important than technique: a sense of journey, especially in that last movement, which perhaps picks up
Schubert's waltz from earlier, and then turns an earthbound dance into a variation that approaches the Grosse Fuge in its
cosmic searching.

Denk's individuality as interpreter came forth most strongly in Beethoven and Schubert, where he re-emphasized
certain lines, extending the time-release of notes in some places and contracting it elsewhere. When he chooses to
shade a phrase with a particular color, he can set ablaze with emotion even an unsuspecting inner voice. But mostly,
this was a recital as an act of modesty, with Denk a kind of medium. As human beings, these voices long ago fell silent.
As composers, they are still speaking to each other - scarcely running out of things to say even now.
The New York Times November 16, 2014

You Seem Sad, Janacek. Cheer Me Up, Schubert.

Jeremy Denk Knits a Dialogue in His 92nd Street Y Recital

Jeremy Denk, a pianist who plays by different rules to maximize personal expression, Saturday at the 92nd Street Y.
Oh, there are loads of rules, Nick Hornby wrote of mixtapes in the novel High Fidelity. Jeremy Denk predictably broke
them all in a series of piano works by Janacek and Schubert in his very satisfying recital at the 92nd Street Y on Saturday.
Mr. Denk called it a mixtape in a brief program note, but a shuffle from the stage. They imply different things, as do words
perhaps more apt, like suite or collage. Anyway, the idea came from two C flats strewn across nearly a century, one
nagging at an E flat major piece from Janaceks On an Overgrown Path (Book II, No. 1), another more naturally part of a tiny
Schubert Lndler in E flat minor (D. 366, No. 12). From those beginnings, a half-hour journey took in six more pieces from the
Janacek books, interwoven with digressions on Lndler and two of the six Moments Musicaux (D. 780).
Schubert and Janacek do share moods of tension and ambivalence, even if, to my ear, Schumann has more in common with the
latter. Mixes are all about transitions, and they worked here, particularly the last, from the silly Schubert C major Grazer
Galopp (D. 925) to the devastated C minor of the last of Janaceks pieces (Book II, No. 5). But it cohered, because Schubert
was at his least fretful under Mr. Denks fingers, waltzing along for the most part and constantly undercut by unexpected
phrasing or harmonic emphasis. All that gave Janaceks hollow desperation space for entrancing.
If the rest of the program was less inventive, it was a reminder still that Mr. Denk is no ordinary pianist. He plays by different
rules someone has to by aiming not for simple control or technical wizardry but for the most direct and personal
expression. Take Mozarts Rondo in A minor (K. 511), here a mad scene without the release of a denouement.
Idiosyncratic? Perhaps, but you know its Mr. Denk, and you know hes going to make you laugh. He revealed an innate wit as
amusing as anything in Beethoven in Haydns C major Sonata (Hob. XVI:50), in form and in phrasing. Schumanns Carnaval
was echt-Denk, too, insouciant and impulsive as ideas ran amok in Arlequin and Pantalon et Colombine, dreamy and
visionary in brief mirages like Eusebius and Chiarina. And the same combination makes him a fine Ivesian, as shown by
The Alcotts from the Concord Sonata, an unexpected encore.
The Ottawa Citizen September 30, 2014

Jeremy Denk brings a delighted surprise to Mozart

concerto in Vienna Festival's

American pianist Jeremy Denk is as famous for writing about music as he is for playing it. Tuesday evening, the
popular Think Denk blog author was in Ottawa to close the NAC Orchestras Vienna Festival with a performance of
Mozarts Piano Concerto No. 20.
The 44-year-old MacArthur Fellowship and Avery Fisher Prize winner brings the same quirky wit and keen insight that
characterize his essays to the piano. But his intellect isnt cold or confrontational; Denks playing is lovely as well as
clever, with crisp articulation, imaginative voicing, and a tone that radiates silver from a warm golden centre.
His greatest charm is his ability to appear perpetually surprised and delighted by music he knows intimately. Theres a
spontaneous, almost improvisational, quality to his playing, like an exceptionally accurate sight-reader discovering it
for the first time.
He paints the concertos opening movement in mysterious, cloak-and-dagger tones there is less drama here than
some interpretations, but more real excitement. Denk plays his own cadenzas, this one a brilliant tour de force, both
modern and faithful, with plenty of playful, inside piano jokes in the form of quotations from other works. The second
movement was a miracle of tenderness and intimacy, illuminated by a filigree of inventive ornamentation. The uneasy,
crossed-handed middle section was almost operatic in its declamatory contrast.
Zukerman was an attentive accomplice, weaving a discreetly shimmering backdrop to Denks astonishing flights of
Schuberts two earliest symphonies filled the first half of the program. Composed when Schubert was still a teenager,
both are indebted to his early role models, especially Beethoven. But while the works are immature, Schuberts genius
for melody, his harmonic audacity, and the peculiar melancholy that haunted his music all his life are already evident.
Zukermans approach to both was to underline the youthfulness of the works almost to the point of glibness. There
were moments of dreamy lyricism, but both symphonies wanted a more precise attack, firmer shape and confident
direction. The graceful theme and variations that make up the second movement of the Symphony No. 2 are marked
Andante, but Zukermans tempo was closer to a brisk jog than a walk. The intonation in the strings was occasionally
uncertain and the brass section was messy, but the woodwinds produced an admirably cohesive, burnished sound.
Los Angeles Times May 30, 2014

'Classical Style' at Ojai Music Festival draws on wit,

Ojai festival's opera centerpiece eloquent, ingenious


OJAI Charles Rosen's "The Classical Style" is an illuminating, academic, occasionally combative, close study of the
musical style of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven by a brilliant pianist and scholar who died in 2012. Though a technical
tome, it takes on big, universal issues and proved a surprise hit of 1971, winning a National Book Award and reaching
a remarkably wide audience.
Rosen's 43-year-old book, never out of print, pulled a bigger surprise Friday as the subject for the first opera
commissioned in the 68-year history of the Ojai Music Festival. The rules of musical form attempted a spectacularly
absurd leap off the library shelf onto the lyric stage in the form of Steven Stucky's "The Classical Style: An Opera (of
The concept and comic libretto are by another brilliant pianist and writer, Jeremy Denk, this year's Ojai music director.
If this sounds like a somewhat ridiculous centerpiece for festival programming that revolved around issues of
reinterpreting the Classical era (and will be reviewed further Tuesday), that of course was the point. The whole thing is
so side-splitting that one rehearsal reportedly broke down when conductor Robert Spano had an uncontrollable
laughing fit and had to be carried off the stage to recover.
He was entitled. "The Classical Style" is a mash-up of Glenn Gould at his most satirical, PDQ Bach at his sauciest and
a distractedly erudite Rosen cooking up a French sauce while pontificating on harmonic structure in his kitchen. But
underlying the jokes (good ones and the groaners) and tomfoolery, Stucky's resourceful score and Denk's droll text
produce an ingeniously eloquent musing on the meaning of life.
On the surface, "The Classical Style" is a supercilious opera of sorts about death. It opens in heaven, with Haydn,
Mozart and Beethoven playing Scrabble and squabbling like sitcom characters. They are dismayed by newspaper
reports of the death of classical music and their own apparent irrelevance. They get wind of Rosen's book and go
looking for him for advice.
The composers turn up at a bar, where they encounter Tonic, Dominant and Subdominant, personifications of musical
chords, carrying on. Tonic, the home key, is a grand narcissist. Dominant, harmonically the closest key, is the needy
one in the relationship, always dependent upon resolving on the tonic. Sultry Subdominant is the sexy harmonic
diversion. Mozart makes a beeline to her.
Rosen can't help. Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven return to heaven unfulfilled. Musical styles, we must accept, can mean
something to us only if they function like living processes. But to live, styles must also die.
Jeremy Denk
Los Angeles Times June 16, 2014
page 2 of 2

The opera ends with a visit by Robert Schumann to Rosen. A controversial thesis of Rosen's book is that Beethoven's
visionary late music was not ahead of its time but rather the fulfillment of the Classical style, taking its implications to
their ultimate conclusion. Schumann represented a new departure.
This is Stucky's first opera. In his two-decade association with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he proved himself a
consummate composer of instrumental music. He has a gift for lyricism, exquisite coloration and supple forms. He
sometimes reflects on composers of the past.
All of that is characteristic of Stucky's score to "The Classical Style," but a good deal of the Stucky style here is
necessarily a pastiche. He subtly interweaves quotes of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven with made-up classical riffs and
elements of Stucky's own music, adeptly moving us not only back and forth through history but also through reality and
fantasy. There are musical jokes aplenty, some intended for a general audience, wonkier ones setting traps for Spano.
In the end Spano led a finely nuanced performance that featured the Knights, the orchestra from New York that is this
year's resident band for the festival, and an excellent eight-member cast assuming 18 roles. Among them were Dominic
Armstrong (Haydn and the bartender), Jennifer Zetlan (Mozart and Donna Anna), Ashraf Sewailam (Beethoven and the
Commendatore), Aubrey Allicock (Tonic and Don Giovanni), Kim Josephson (Rosen and the Tristan Chord), Peabody
Southwell (Subdominant and Schumann) and Keith Jameson (Snibblesworth). Making Mozart and Schumann pants
roles sung by mezzo-sopranos proved a touching touch.
Unfortunately Mary Birnbaum's production at the Libbey Bowl, while engaging, made silliness an enduring priority.
Melissa Trn's costumes had a Halloween flavor. Postmodernism was not invited to the party.
That allowed for little room to follow Denk and Stucky into the deeper regions that the opera unexpectedly reaches at
the end. If Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven are inane in death, that is because they are dead. The profundity of "The
Classical Style," on page and stage, is that we can, with historical hindsight, understand them in death,
But where does a new style come from?
Birth, not death, is music's and hence life's greater mystery. Schumann makes the final entrance, transforming
Beethoven, a new life with Beethoven's DNA.
Like all births, there is something new in the room that wasn't there before. For Stucky and Denk, this is a fleeting
instant of transcendence, namely a miracle.
Wall Street Journal May 12, 2014

Words and Music

Classical pianist Jeremy Denk is equally at home at both types of keyboard

Jeremy Denk lives surprisingly modestly for an American pianist of rising fame. The living room of his Upper West
Side apartment barely contains his nearly 7-foot-long Steinway grand, so visitors are led to a tiny but light-filled
kitchen, where last month he expounded on a range of musical and literary topics over herbal tea and green apples.

In person, Mr. Denk, who last year received a MacArthur fellowship and this year won the Avery Fisher Prize, exudes
unpretentious learning and enthusiasm, qualities echoed not just in his playing, but also in his articles for The New
Yorker and other publications. The opportunities to write came about thanks to his popular blog, Think Denk, inactive
for almost a year because of his increasingly busy schedule. He recently promised Random House a book on piano
lessons, an expansion of an essay published in The New Yorker last year.

"I always loved books and writing," said the prematurely gray Mr. Denk, who turns 44 on Friday. Wearing a black V-
neck sweater and charcoal trousers, he sat on an uncomfortable-looking kitchen chair. "Though I let it go for a while,
succumbing to the single-mindedness you need to be a pianist, the blog seemed a natural way to return to that. And
then The New Yorker wrote me, and that sort of freaked me out, causing me a whole new level of stress. It's a very
neurotic profession, writing. Blogging is much freer. And it had a wonderfully synergistic connection with my career.

Now writing has become symbioticor parasitical. It can be very satisfying to write down something about music
that's important, just as there's a thrill playing a phrase as you've always imagined it. It is weird being in these two
professions at once, but it rises from music as origin. And they both demand a lot of time."

Free time is increasingly scarce for Mr. Denk. Just back from So Paulo, he performs Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.
1 with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in Glendale, Calif., and L.A. this weekend. He'll also play a selection of
etudes by Gyrgy Ligeti on that program, giving audiences a preview of his biggest commitment this season: the music
directorship of the Ojai Festival in California, which runs June 12 to 15 and concludes with a concert featuring the bulk
of Ligeti's etudes.

Composed in the late 20th century, these short studies have become something of a specialty for the pianist.He
performed six of them during his last solo recital in Manhattan, at the People's Symphony Concerts last month. And he
recorded most of them, to wide acclaim, on an album released by Nonesuch Records in 2012. "The conceptions in the
Jeremy Denk
Wall Street Journal May 12, 2014
page 2 of 2

etudes are death defying," Mr. Denk said, explaining some of their appeal. "Even though they draw from the modern
world, they reach back meaningfully to the world of Chopin in terms of lilt and color and phrasing. They are complex
but visceral. Their gestures are well defined and powerful. There's passageslittle, seemingly innocuous onesin
which there's slowing down, and every chord is immaculate and perfect and has wit and elegance. But it's preposterous
some of the things he writes and says you should do. It's not exactly a perversity, but something like that."

Mr. Denk, whose formative years were spent in almost equal part first in North Carolina, then in New Jersey and
finally in New Mexico, is also widely admired for championing the music of Charles Ives and for his way with Bach's "
Goldberg " Variations, one of the keyboard's most unforgiving milestones, which he recorded last year for Nonesuch on
an album that also includes a novice-friendly DVD lecture by the pianist in lieu of liner notes. In typically self-effacing
fashion, he described the bonus disc as "really more of a fireside chat."

Yet despite the recent praise, his success with the " Goldbergs " was neither instant nor assured. "I'd agreed to learn it
for my friend Toby Saks's chamber festival, and then it was too late to back out," he recalled, referring to a recital in
Seattle in 2008. "The first performance was terrifying." Subsequent engagements proved less taxing, so much so that
"though I had been reluctant even to play it, I was suddenly touring with it. And then Bob Hurwitz "the president of
Nonesuch"asked me to record it. He said I was making a unique statement, though I don't claim that. But it does
affect your life. You inhabit it, like a house."

Bach doesn't figure on the pianist's programs at Ojai this year (he played the "Goldbergs" there in 2009), but he has his
hands full with other concerns, especially the premiere of a worksubtitled "An Opera (of Sorts)"for which he
wrote the libretto. Titled "The Classical Style" and based on Charles Rosen's seminal 1971 book of the same name, the
endeavor, with music by Steven Stucky, was initially suggested by Mr. Denk as a joke before taking on a life of its own
at the encouragement of Thomas W. Morris, Ojai's long-serving artistic director. "I tried to write something rather
serious but kept coming up with these comic thought-experiments," Mr. Denk said, attempting to explain his concept.
"It's a little like 'The Impresario' of Mozart with Tom Stoppard's 'Travesties' thrown in. So it's not an opera in any
conventional way. There's a lot of spoken text and 18 charactersthe singers have multiple roles. To the extent it has a
plot, it's prone to digressions and mishaps. People shouldn't expect 'Aida.'"

While acknowledging that "the very premise is absurd" and that the finished product is "music about music" on "a very
wonky topic," the pianist-cum-librettist clearly found the effort rewarding. "Steve and I did a lot of giggling during the
workshop," he said. "It's very silly and joyful. It's the world's first and last musical vaudevilleprobably." Yet despite
the self-deprecation, Mr. Denk cannot suppress some deeper feelings for the project, which is no surprise given his
friendship with Mr. Rosen, who died in 2012 not long after granting permission for the adaptation. "I'm very happy
about the ending," Mr. Denk said. "I think it really captures something about Charles and about the book's conclusion,
which is very affecting and touching. Steve first went for funny in the score but then sweet and sincere. And the ending
just blows me away. I was in tears several times when we played it through."
The New York Times April 13, 2014

Diving Into the Strange, Retrieving Its Beauty

Jeremy Denk Performs in Peoples Symphony Series

The pianist Jeremy Denk recently picked up the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize to go along with the MacArthur
Foundation fellowship that he received last year. This is what you call being on a roll. These honors were in recognition
not just of his excellence as a pianist but also of his adventurousness as an artist. Both qualities were on display on
Saturday night, when Mr. Denk played a recital at Washington Irving High School, part of the very affordable Peoples
Symphony Concerts series.

On paper, it was hard to see any thematic link between the diverse pieces on this program: a Mozart piano sonata; six
of Ligetis eight tudes for Piano, Book II; A Voluntary by the Renaissance English composer William Byrd; and
Schumanns Davidsbndlertnze.

By the end, though, a common thread Mr. Denk may have had in mind had come through: These are all wondrously
strange works. While playing with his trademark vitality and elegance, Mr. Denk relished the strangeness in
every piece, starting with Mozarts Piano Sonata No. 15 in F, which, believe it or not, was almost the strangest of

The oddities of this engrossing 1788 sonata are masked by its deceptively jolly surface. The music keeps flying
off the skids, erupting with spiraling passagework and taking jerky detours. Mr. Denk played the sonata with
pristine clarity, ebullience and just a touch of coyness, which made the curious bits even more fascinating.

Before playing the Ligeti tudes, which have become a Denk specialty (he recorded them brilliantly), he gave a
humorously descriptive spoken introduction. While these technically daunting pieces are musically complex, he
said, they are also playful. The title of Galamb Borong, Mr. Denk explained, comes from two Hungarian
words that make no sense together, but were intended to sound vaguely Indonesian, since the tude evokes
gamelan music, as was clear from his restless, shimmering performance. He gave a demonic, yet mischievous
account of Der Zauberlehrling (The Sorcerers Apprentice) and was exhilarating in LEscalier du Diable
(The Devils Staircase), which is like a hard-driving toccata.

After intermission, Mr. Denk teased out the quirks in the Byrd voluntary, which seemed here a curious cross
between a fantasy and a set of ornate variations. And talk about the fantastical: Mr. Denk ended with a
rhapsodic and poetic performance of the Schumann work, a 40-minute suite of 18 pieces, less an actual dance
suite than a metamorphosis of the dance. Some pieces are dreamy and suffused with inner pain; others are wild
eyed, almost unhinged.

It is always good to see important musicians making time to perform in the Peoples Symphony Concerts, a series that
began in 1900 and had been run for years by the manager Frank Salomon. At a time when classical music is facing
Jeremy Denk
The New York Times April 13, 2013
page 2 of 2

challenges, the mission of the venture proposes a simple answer: If you keep concerts affordable, people will come, and
the music will take care of the rest.

Mostly older people seem to take advantage of the series. Where are the younger people who complain that high ticket
prices keep them away from classical music?
Arizona Daily Star April 5, 2014

Review: Hanson shines in 'Ring Without Words'


When they put together George Hanson's Tucson Symphony Orchestra career highlights to commemorate his finale
next season, surely last night's performance of "The Ring Without Words" will make the list.

In the first of two performances the concert repeats at 2 p.m. Sunday Hanson led the orchestra in a furiously
emotive, raucous ride through the highlights of Richard Wagner's epic "Der Ring des Nibelungen" cycle. Watching all
four operas that make up "The Ring" would take you 15 hours at least spread over two or three nights. American
conductor/composer Lorin Maazel condensed the orchestra parts into a concert piece that clocks in at 70 minutes.

But what an action-packed 70 minutes. Maazel broke the piece up into four movements that are based on each of the
four "Ring" operas: "Das Rheingold," "Die Walkre," "Seigfried" and "Gtterdmmerung." There are no defined
pauses or breaks between movements. The tempo goes from dramatically slow in the opening twilight scene with a
motif that's passed from the deep-throated brass through to quiveringly urgent strings as Wotan rages. By the time the
orchestra reached the popular "Ride of the Valkyries" near the end of the second opera possibly the only truly
familiar tune for the 80 Cholla High School students sitting in the nearly sold-out Tucson Music Hall audience Friday
night they looked like distance runners who had reached the midway point: not quite breathless, but certainly
sporting hints of fatigue.

But they powered through with an intense energy that followed Hanson's lead, He conducted the piece without a score.
bringing out all that rich drama and intrigue of Wagner's complex and beautiful music. The performance seemed to
flow from a place of quiet passion and intuition.

That also was the impression you got from watching pianist Jeremy Denk perform Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25
the first time the orchestra had ever performed the work. (It also was the first time the TSO played "Ring Without
Words" and it has been 20 years since they played the prelude to Act III of Wagner's opera "Lohengrin," which opened
the concert.)

Denk is an artist who needs a whole new set of adjectives to describe his performance. He is terrifically talented with
unparalleled technical skills. His style is expressive but not at the expense of the composer's intent; the music he creates
springs forth not just from notes on a page but from an intuition that goes much deeper.

But that is only one side of the joy of experiencing Denk on a Tucson stage for the first time.

The other, arguably bigger side is watching what goes on before he puts his hands on the keys.

On Friday night, as he sat at the bench while the TSO played the expansive, orchestral showpiece of a first movement,
Denk bobbed his head along to the beat. He swayed and moved to and fro as if he were a teen air-conducting a rock
band as they jammed.
Jeremy Denk
Arizona Daily Star April 5, 2013
page 2 of 2

When the music hopped, Denk bopped. He tapped his foot in time with the beat, shimmied his shoulders along to the
soaring strings and rocked along. If the Mozart had written lyrics for the concerto I'm sure Denk would have sung

Friday's performance was the first of a busy weekend for the TSO. Tonight they join Grammy winning pop/Christian
singer Amy Grant for a special concert at 8 p.m. At 2 p.m. Sunday, they will repeat "Ring Without Words."
March 18 2014

Jeremy Denk awarded 2014 AVERY FISHER PRIZE "for his

outstanding contributions to the music world and his artistic
The 2014 Avery Fisher Prize has been awarded to pianist Jeremy Denkone of his generations most eloquent and
thoughtful interpreters (New York Times). This announcement crowns a sensational season for Denk, who won both
a 2013 MacArthur genius grant Fellowship and Musical Americas 2014 Instrumentalist of the Year last fall.
Denk will be formally recognized at an invitational ceremony on May 29, at Lincoln Center. His name will join the
twenty-one previous Prize recipients on a marble plaque in Avery Fisher Hall including Murray Perahia, Yo-Yo Ma,
Emanuel Ax, Richard Goode, Yefim Bronfman, and Joshua Bell.

Denk has also been named as the newest Artistic Partner of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, where over the next
four seasons, his work with the SPCO will include recording Bach and Stravinsky for Nonesuch Records in addition to
giving live chamber and concerto performances, premiering new commissions by both emerging and established
composers, and a North American tour with the orchestra.

Earlier this season, Denk's recording of Bachs Goldberg Variations topped the Billboard classical chart and was
named one of the Best of 2013 by the New Yorker and the New York Times. In June he will serve as Music Director
of the Ojai Music Festival, at which he will perform works by Janek, Schubert, Ligeti, Ives, and Beethoven, and
oversee the world premiere of a new opera, The Classical Style, with music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven
Stucky and a libretto by Denk himself. The opera will also be performed at Zankel Hall in December. In an article on
Denk in yesterday's New York Times, the opera was described as "very much in keeping with [his]...unusual, deeply
thought out and simultaneously respectful and irreverent approach to music." Read the full piece here.

In 2014-15, Denk will make his subscription debut with the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Susanna Mlkki, and
with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Upcoming performances also include returns to
Jeremy Denk
March 18, 2014
page 2 of 2

the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony.

The pianists blog, Think Denk, is widely read and enjoyed both within and outside the industry, and he has made
witty and personal contributions to the New Yorker, the New York Times Review of Books, Newsweek, the New
Republic, and the website of NPR Music. The New Yorker recently published a personal history that will form the basis
of Denks forthcoming memoir, Every Good Boy Does Fine, to be published by Random House. As the Washington
Post observes, he is one of the most interesting pianists around.

More information is available at the Avery Fisher Prize website and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's website.
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra | March 18 2014

Celebrated American Pianist Jeremy Denk to become The Saint

Paul Chamber Orchestras newest Artistic Partner
Denk is the recipient of a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship, is Musical America's 2014 Instrumentalist of the Year,
and the 2014 winner of the Avery Fisher Prize.

Mr. Denk, clearly, is a pianist you want to hear no matter what he performs, in whatever combination both
for his penetrating intellectual engagement with the music and for the generosity of his playing. The New
York Times

SAINT PAUL, MN, March 18, 2014 The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra announces today that internationally
celebrated pianist Jeremy Denk has been named the orchestras newest Artistic Partner. Denks tenure will begin in the
2014-15 season.

SPCO President Bruce Coppock is thrilled to announce that this Artistic Partnership marks Denks first appointed
position with an orchestra. Jeremys star is clearly on the rise and we consider it a major coup for him to join us. I
have had the pleasure of witnessing Jeremys extraordinary gifts since serving on the jury that chose him as the 1999
winner of the Andrew Wolf Chamber Music prize, his first major public recognition. Jeremys rapacious curiosity and
rhapsodic imagination and his prodigious pianistic skills have combined to fuel his growth into an extraordinary
potentially iconic artist. We know that Jeremy will bring every bit of his imagination to his work with the SPCOs
musicians, with many of whom he enjoys longstanding personal and musical friendships. It will be a great partnership
most especially for our audiences, who will be taken on a great musical journey, juxtaposing music of every period
from the Baroque to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in fascinating, stimulating ways.

During the past two years, Denks distinctive artistry has been recognized in an extraordinary run of honors and prizes.
In addition to being awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize on March 18, he was named a 2013 MacArthur Fellow
for his extraordinary originality, dedication in his creative pursuits, and a marked capacity for self-direction and he
was also named Musical Americas 2014 Instrumentalist of the Year.

Denk is the music director of the 2014 Ojai Music Festival this summer for which he has written the libretto to a new
comic opera, The Classical Style, by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky. Ojais Artistic Director Thomas
W. Morris congratulated the SPCO on Denks appointment, saying, Jeremy Denk was chosen Music Director of the
Jeremy Denk
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra | March 18, 2014
page 2 of 3

2014 Ojai Music Festival because of his fantastic piano artistry, his inquisitive mind, and his infectious imagination.
The SPCO is lucky to benefit from these same stellar qualities in his new role as one of its Artistic Partners.

Denk is also known for his original and insightful writing on music, which has appeared in The New Yorker, The New
Republic, The Guardian, and on the front page of The New York Times Book Review. For his work as a writer and
pianist, Out magazine included Denk on its Out 100 list celebrating the most compelling people of 2013.

Denks recording of music by Ligeti and Beethoven for Nonesuch Records was included on many Best of 2012 lists,
including those of The New Yorker, Washington Post and NPR Music; his second Nonesuch recording released in
September 2013, is of Bachs Goldberg Variations, a work with which Denk has had a long and close relationship
throughout his career. The album reached number one on Billboards Classical Chart and was featured in Best of
2013 lists by The New Yorker and The New York Times. Following the success of those recordings, Denk and the
SPCO will make a recording for Nonesuch during his partnership of an intriguing combination of works by Bach and

Denk has performed with the SPCO many times in recent years, including performances this season of Mozarts Piano
Concerto No. 25 and the Brahms Piano Quintet. Denks 2014-15 SPCO season performances will include Mozarts
Piano Concerto No. 20 as well as a program featuring a pairing of works by Bach and Janek. In addition to
performances of chamber music and well-known piano concertos, his work with the SPCO over the next three years
will include collaborations with vocal artists and an emphasis on commissioning new works by both rising and major
American composers. During the 2016-17 season, Denk and the SPCO will make a North American tour under the
auspices of Opus 3 Artists.

When asked about working with the SPCO, Denk said Rehearsing Mozart with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra last
fall was one of my happiest experiences; they have the kind of openness and freedom that I have always dreamed of in
a relationship with an orchestra. I am excited to pursue various musical curiosities and enthusiasms with them, to
create interesting programming, and, most importantly, to have fun.

Kyu-Young Kim, the SPCOs senior director of artistic planning and principal second violinist, looks forward to
working with Denk both as a musician and colleague. "The SPCO absolutely loves making music with Jeremy. He is a
fabulous pianist with a probing intellect and the ability to express his ideas with utter conviction and clarity, both in
rehearsal and in performance. Jeremy can make you hear a work that you've played and heard a million times in a
completely new way, and not through gimmicks or artifice, but by making a deep personal connection with every note
and gesture in the score. We are thrilled to welcome him to our stellar roster of Artistic Partners."

The SPCO is recognized for its innovative approach to artistic leadership. In 2004, the SPCO transferred broad artistic
responsibilities from a music director to the SPCO musicians and an intentionally diverse group of Artistic Partners
which have included Italian conductor Roberto Abbado, French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Scottish conductor
Jeremy Denk
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra | March 18, 2014
page 3 of 3

Douglas Boyd, American violinist Joshua Bell, Dutch conductor Edo de Waart, British conductor Nicholas McGegan,
American pianist and composer Stephen Prutsman, American soprano Dawn Upshaw, German pianist Christian
Zacharias, and Austrian violinist Thomas Zehetmair. Moldovan Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja will begin an Artistic
Partnership in the 2014-15 season. In collaboration with a committee of SPCO musicians and management, the Artistic
Partners develop distinctive multi-year programming plans focused on the particular musical interests they share with
the SPCO.


The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, now its 55th season, is widely regarded as one of the finest chamber orchestras in
the world. In collaboration its artistic partners, the virtuoso musicians present more than 130 concerts and educational
programs each year, and are regularly heard on public radios Performance Today which reaches 1.2 million listeners
each week on 256 stations, and SymphonyCast reaching 230,000 listeners each week on 126 stations nationwide. The
SPCO has released 67 recordings, commissioned 133 new works, and performed the world premiere of 49 additional
compositions. The SPCO has earned the distinction of 16 ASCAP awards for adventurous programming. Renowned for
its artistic excellence and remarkable versatility of musical styles, the SPCO tours nationally and internationally,
including performances in premier venues in Europe, Asia and South America. Launched in 1994, the SPCOs award-
winning CONNECT education program reaches over 5,000 students and teachers annually in 12 Minneapolis and St.
Paul public schools. For more information, visit
The New York Times March 17, 2014

String of High Notes for Pianist


Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven are playing Scrabble in heaven. No, it is not the setup of a joke well, not exactly. It is
the first scene of the highly improbable comic opera being written by the pianist Jeremy Denk and the composer Steven
Stucky, based on one of the most influential scholarly music books of recent decades: Charles Rosens The Classical

Weltanschauung! Triple word score ... 183 points! the know-it-all Beethoven sang at a recent workshop run-through
here, as he played the German word for worldview. The operas Mozart sung by a soprano, in a nod to the kind of
trouser roles that the real Mozart sometimes wrote for women playing men responded gleefully with a 28-point
German word that, if translated into English, would be of the four-letter variety.

Youre that kind of person in Scrabble, Mr. Denk coached his Mozart during a break, who only plays dirty words.

The news that Mr. Denk had come up with the idea of writing a comic opera based on The Classical Style, a work of
rigorous analysis with its own chapter on comic opera, was greeted in musical circles with amused curiosity and a little
disbelief. It was as if a well-known author had decided to write a novel based on Strunk and Whites seminal writing
guide, The Elements of Style, or an artist had decided to paint a fresco of H. W. Jansons History of Art.

Mr. Denk was frank about the genesis of the idea. I think it involved a little alcohol, originally, he said with a laugh.

The madcap project which Mr. Denk conceived and wrote the libretto for is very much in keeping with the kind
of unusual, deeply thought out and simultaneously respectful and irreverent approach to music that has helped make
this Mr. Denks moment. During the past year, he has gotten a contract from Random House to expand a piece he wrote
for The New Yorker into a memoir; been named a MacArthur Fellow (referred to colloquially as winning a genius
award); and been designated Musical Americas instrumentalist of the year.

Mr. Denk will receive his next accolade on Tuesday when he is awarded the Avery Fisher Prize, a $75,000 prize
established 40 years ago to recognize both musicianship and, more broadly, contributions to the musical world. (The
pianist Charlie Albright, the violist Dimitri Murrath and the Calder Quartet will each get $25,000 career grants.)

The Classical Style, which will have its premiere this June at the Ojai Music Festival in California and will be
performed at Zankel Hall in New York in December, teems with musical jokes and quotations from notable pieces. In
one scene, three characters playing the building blocks of tonality Tonic, Dominant and Subdominant walk into a
bar, only to be frightened by the Tristan Chord. In another, a symposium on sonata form is written in, well, you can
guess. There are in-jokes, but listeners will not need Ph.D.s to get them all. Besides looking for laughs, Mr. Denk and
Mr. Stucky said they hoped the opera would illuminate some of Mr. Rosens insights on classical music, and inspire
people to think about its place in the modern world.
Jeremy Denk
The New York Times March 17, 2013
page 2 of 2

In recent years, Mr. Denk, 43, has become well known not only as a concert musician but also as a writer and explainer
of classical music, from his blog, Think Denk (, to the liner notes of him speaking and playing the
piano on a DVD, which was included with his recording of Bachs Goldberg Variations. Mr. Denk became friends
with Mr. Rosen, who was himself a well-regarded pianist and a scholar, in the years before his death in 2012 at 85. He
said he hoped that the opera would be seen as deeply respectful of Mr. Rosen.

Mr. Denk recalled feeling nervous before asking Mr. Rosen if he could turn the book into an opera.

He laughed, and he thought it was ridiculous, but he gave his permission, Mr. Denk recalled. It was a big thing
building up to it, because I wanted to ask him, and didnt want him to feel that it was a jape. So I asked him over
dinner. Im sure he never really believed that it would actually come to pass.

It came to pass largely because of Thomas W. Morris, artistic director of the Ojai Music Festival, who asked Mr. Denk
in 2009 if he would take on the rotating post of music director for this springs festival.

Jeremy said, Well, Ive had a very mad idea for an opera, and when I tell you what its on, youll laugh, Mr. Morris
recalled. But Mr. Morris signed on, seeing it as in keeping with Ojais mission of letting artists take risks. Its not a
place where you trot out your party pieces, he said.

Mr. Morris helped line up Mr. Stucky, a composer with a background in academia who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for
his Second Concerto for Orchestra, which weaves allusions to past composers into a contemporary setting.

Tom attempted a shotgun marriage, Mr. Stucky said, recalling that he initially thought it was a brilliant but
impossible idea. But the more I talked to Jeremy, and the more samples of libretto that I saw, the more impossible it
became for me to get out of it.

Mr. Denks sudden burst of attention has been a big change. Now, just a few years after he was little known outside of
piano circles, offers are pouring in. On Tuesday the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra will name him an artistic partner,
beginning next season.

Its insane, he said during an interview after a run-through of The Classical Style here at the Isabella Stewart
Gardner Museum, where he is an artist in residence. Its wild, and Im a little bit in shock, kind of. Its a great shock.

My dad wrote me an email after the MacArthur: Keep it up! he recalled. And I thought, I cant keep this up, this
is pretty much as good as its going to get.
Philadelphia Inquirer January 28, 2014

Denk stages a composers' conversation


Mozart isn't who you think he is. Jeremy Denk said as much in comments to Sunday afternoon's audience at the
American Philosophical Society. But really, the pianist needn't have uttered a word. In this most recent appearance with
the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, his playing made the point loud and clear.
Denk is an emotional player. He tends to hear contrasting material as a date with a severe mood swing, and he manages
to infuse archness or sow gnawing doubt about the composer's sincerity into unsuspecting phrases, as he did throughout
Schumann's Carnaval.
You might not have agreed with all of his views. Mozart's Piano Sonata in A minor (K. 310) was highly stylized,
especially in the second movement, and if some aspects flirted with overthinking, the approach also kept the music
from becoming unduly prettified. Refinement was not the goal, and the chance-taking in the last movement paid off
This sonata, paired here with the less often heard F major (K. 533), built the case for the composer as an unstable
element. Surprising harmonic twists and turns in the second movement make Mozart seem unmoored from his time, a
lone traveler who had somehow never gotten the memo on certain conventions of the day. Denk let these moments
sneak up on listeners by cloaking the entire movement in a warmer, rounder sound than he brought to the rest of the
Along with Mitsuko Uchida, Denk is one of Schumann's most questioning admirers. He followed a volatile exploration
of the Carnaval with an encore from Schumann's Davidsbndlertnze ("zart und singend") that recalled his visit here in
2012. But he led into Carnaval with three tudes from Gyrgy Ligeti's Book II - "En Suspens," "Galamb Borong," and
"L'escalier du diable"- and, in a way, these made for the most fascinating moments of the recital.
Drawing on jazz, Bartk, and perhaps even Schumann, they had a unifying effect on the entire program. The title of
"L'escalier du diable" ("the devil's staircase") refers to a mathematical function, and turns the piano into a percussive
computer spitting out equations at a pace threatening to veer out of control. If Denk was drawing parallels to similar
aspects of Schumann, this was no surprise. In retrospect, it made the "presto" of Mozart's K. 310 a revelation.
The Washington Post January 17, 2014

Jeremy Denk, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra play Mozart with

impish charm

In Mozarts day, virtuoso composers ruled the musical roost. Artistic creation went beyond mere composition to
encompass the public display of new works in live performances. At the Baltimore Symphony Orchestras concert
Thursday night at Strathmore, pianist Jeremy Denk evoked the spontaneity and sense of discovery of those occasions
with a scintillating account of Mozarts Piano Concerto No. 25 in C.
The concerto was the highlight of a genial survey of the great classical triumvirate Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven
led by early music specialist Nicholas McGegan. The evenings curtain-raiser, Haydns Symphony No. 30, reflected
many virtues, and few of the vices, of McGegans period instrument background: transparent textures, rhythmic
alertness and an astute balance between boisterous energy and courtly elegance.
Denk, meanwhile, reveled in disregarding purist notions of Mozart. With impish charm, he performed this grandest of
Mozart concertos with light-hearted irreverence. Each note sounded fresh and alive, as if thought through anew, with
Denk rarely missing the chance to tease out or embellish a phrase. His riveting first-movement cadenza, full of
searching harmonies and mercurial shifts in mood, smiled affectionately back at Haydn while looking forward to the
storminess of Beethoven.
Denk more than occasionally gilded the lily, yet his crystalline passagework and playful spontaneity proved a delight.
Performing as if a new masterpiece were at hand, Denk channeled that most venerable of performance traditions:
composer as rock star.
Mozarts Bassoon Concerto received more conventional treatment from Fei Xie, the BSOs principal bassoonist. Xie
performed with suavity and uncommon precision, if not the utmost in personality.
The concert concluded with a taut and not-so-slyly mischievous account of Beethovens Eighth Symphony. McGegan
enforced rhythmic propulsion and earthy joviality, with brusque accents, pungent brass and striking dynamic contrasts
reinforcing the works rough humor. In an evening not short on civilized amusement, it was the mighty Beethoven who
enjoyed the hearty, last laugh.
The Boston Globe January 14, 2014

With Denk, disparate ideas find common ground


At the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on Sunday, Jeremy Denk pianist, writer, thinker, and recent recipient of a
MacArthur Foundation "genius" fellowship while acknowledging his predilection for programs with a theme ("or, if
you're feeling less charitable," he said, "a shtick"), insisted that the afternoon's recital was simply a collection of pieces
that he loved. But affection creates its own web of correspondences. Denk's choices revealed a fascination for works in
which disparate and even contradictory ideas and moods could find common ground in sheer musicality.
Two sonatas by Mozart explored variances without and within. In the F major Sonata (K. 533/494), the ideas were
historical: backward-glancing, Bach-like counterpoint woven into envelope-pushing harmonies. Denk correspondingly
adopted a 17th-century touch crisp, close-up, clavichord-like but 19th-century phrasing, the tempo in constant,
subtle fluctuation, keyed to Mozart's slippery shifts of mode: major-key lift and minor-key ballast in tensile parity.
The touch remained in the A minor Sonata (K. 310), but the music's expressive mismatch between classical proportion
and tragic sentiment was rendered strikingly intense: the grace note launching the opening theme drawn out into a kind
of melodic sprain, repeated notes and chords lashed like a penitent's scourge. Even in quieter passages, Denk channeled
a Mozart too compulsively buffeted by emotion for drawing-room propriety.
Three of Gyrgy Ligeti's piano etudes were more joyously voluble, seemingly incompatible technical ideas brought
together with virtuosic matchmaking. "En Suspens" has two disparate time signatures repeatedly stumble into each
other's arms; "Galamb Borong" layers two different scales one for each hand into a chiming hybrid; "L'escalier
du diable" makes two hands conjure the work of four, while its torrents of notes seem to tumble beyond the piano's
compass. Denk, in gregarious command, made the games kinesthetically enthralling.
Robert Schumann's "Davidsbndlertnze" (Op. 6) draw their contrasts from the composer's own diverse personality:
The boisterous Florestan and ruminative Eusebius, as Schumann named his own proclivities, oscillate through these 18
dances like an alternating current. It brought out the most singular qualities of Denk's music-making, the way his
ceaseless invention, his constant scrutiny of touch and tempo, creates the sense that the music's shifts are almost
involuntary, a surprise to listener, composer, and performer alike. It's an illusion; Denk (and Schumann) always have a
surplus of technique waiting around every seemingly unplanned turn. But it makes manifest the paradox that
invigorates the repertoire: that notes foreordained, familiar, fixed on the page for centuries, can still take one
completely by surprise.
The New York Times November 15, 2013

Bated Breath, as a Baton Is Raised for a Specialty

San Francisco Symphony Performs at Carnegie Hall

When the San Francisco Symphony canceled an East Coast tour in March because of a players strike, one event that
went by the board was a Carnegie Hall performance of Mahlers Ninth Symphony, to have been led by the ensembles
music director, Michael Tilson Thomas. The loss disappointed many, since this combination of orchestra and conductor
is typically potent in Mahler.
Together they have recorded all nine symphonies and other Mahler works over the last decade on the orchestras own
label, SFS Media. As Brent Assink, the ensembles executive director, said in March, These musicians have inhabited
Repairing that loss was simple enough: the orchestra shunted the Ninth ahead a season and performed it at Carnegie on
Thursday evening in the second of its two concerts there. (Alas, what fell victim to this exchange was Mahlers Third
Symphony, a work Mr. Thomas interprets particularly well.) So expectations ran high on Thursday, especially after the
orchestras excellent performance of a catchall program of Mozart, Beethoven, Copland and Steven Mackey on
Wednesday evening.
But a bit of sour intonation from the horns at the beginning of the Mahler spelled trouble, and other minor mishaps
followed. Still, those would have mattered little if the performance had been more persuasive over all.
It had wonderful moments, though not always a compelling flow. Mr. Thomas worked the extremes: in dynamics, from
fierce outbursts to barely audible string pianissimos; and in tempos, from headlong dashes to the distended dying,
yearning wisps at the end of the work.
The pace had a herky-jerky feel at times, though those extremes could also pay dividends. The near-stasis early in the
development section of the first movement added point and poignancy to Mahlers haltings and misdirections.
If the orchestra as a whole sometimes lacked heft, a compensating transparency allowed Mahlers intricate counterpoint
to shine through. The strings missed some of the warmth essential to this piece, though there were excellent solos by
Alexander Barantschik, the concertmaster, and Jonathan Vinocour, the principal violist.
So it was a good performance, if not the great one many had hoped for. But there was little to fault in the conceptions
or performances of the works on Wednesday: Mozarts Piano Concerto No. 25 in C, Beethovens Leonore Overture
No. 3, Coplands Symphonic Ode and, in its New York premiere, Mr. Mackeys Eating Greens.
The pianist Jeremy Denk, seemingly gaining recognition everywhere these days, was the superb soloist in the Mozart
concerto, exuding personality, teasing out humor with widely varied touch and articulation, dropping in elegant
embellishments, tagging along with the orchestra to end the piece. Mr. Thomas and the orchestra were also fine here, as
they were on their own in a hearty rendition of Leonore.
Mr. Mackey also courts humor in his Eating Greens, of 1993, inspired, he writes in program notes, by a painting of a
multigenerational African-American family by Margaret Leonard, whose work he calls deeply playful, and by the
Jeremy Denk
The New York Times November 15, 2013
page 2 of 2

crackpot inventors of American music, from Ives to Carter. The work a hallucinatory concerto for orchestra,
Mr. Thomas called it from the stage is an exercise in rhythm and color, orchestral and otherwise, with its use of
electronics, sampling and noisemakers of all types.
The orchestra responded gamely, and the audience seemed genuinely amused and pleased, not the standard Carnegie
response to contemporary music.
Coplands Symphonic Ode, from his late 20s, already shows the composers considerable flair for orchestration,
though he uses it here abstractly. We know it better from his more pictorial later pieces, and Mr. Thomas obliged with
one of those as an encore, Hoe-Down from Rodeo.
San Francisco Chronicle November 8, 2013

Pianist lights up Mozart


How do you get to Carnegie Hall? You practice - everybody knows that one - but it also helps to have a ringer in your corner.
For Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, that would be pianist Jeremy Denk, whose appearance with
the orchestra was the brightest spot in an otherwise iffy concert in Davies Symphony Hall on Thursday night. This was a
preview of the touring program scheduled for next week at Carnegie; I'll be curious to see whether it impresses New York
Certainly it would be hard to withstand the depth and subtlety of Denk's performance in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25 in
C, K. 503. This has been a good stretch for Denk, who was named a MacArthur Fellow in September and followed that up
with a dazzling new recording of Bach's "Goldberg Variations."
His Mozart has a cousinly relationship to his Bach - it boasts the same crystalline textures and rhythmic bounce, while
introducing a host of darker and more varied tonal colors to the mix. The imposing grandeur of the opening movement
contrasted beautifully with the intimate lyricism of the slow movement - which Denk rendered in softly nuanced shades - and
in turn with the restrained exuberance of the finale. And his original cadenzas were splendid, both idiomatic and arresting.
Yet what's most striking about Denk's playing is the level of interpretive specificity he can pack into a performance without
making it seem mannered or ornate. Every note of the concerto sounded judged and deliberate - and yet somehow the entire
thing flowed naturally along, with utmost ease. This is the art that conceals art.
Thomas and the orchestra, meanwhile, waited until the final performance of Copland's "Symphonic Ode" to come into their
own. Written in the late 1920s and revised some 30 years later, this is one of those pieces that are most comprehensible in
hindsight, in which a young composer stakes out a more expansive stretch of turf than he can quite handle yet.
The main interest of the piece is all the ways it foreshadows Copland's later career - it includes big, brassy fanfares, jazz
rhythms, luminous open harmonies a la "Appalachian Spring" and much more besides. It requires a capacious, overarching
vision to keep the piece from settling into whiplash, and Thomas - who introduced the piece to the Symphony repertoire in
1996 - sustained just that big-picture view. The brass playing was gritty and inspired, the woodwinds wonderfully pointed.
Presumably the Copland also sucked up all the available rehearsal time - at least to judge by the scattershot and often error-
prone performance of Beethoven's "Leonore" Overture No. 3 that began the evening. No one involved with this one sounded
quite on their game.
And finally, there was "Eating Greens," composer Steve Mackey's unfocused exercise in facetious mugging. In his
introductory remarks, Thomas insisted that this 1994 piece is not funny, and the performance proved him right. But it's not
very interesting, either - an extended skein of vignettes that never seem to amount to anything.
There's some fragmentary Christmas music, a Gershwin street scene, an episode in which the concertmaster's violin runs
aground on a low re-tuning, a Godzilla-meets-"Nutcracker" pastiche and finally a taut, jazzy dance that offers the score's only
actually memorable passages. In the department of small favors, at least a gimmick involving a mid-performance pizza
delivery has finally hit the cutting-room floor.
San Jose Mercury News November 8, 2013

Jeremy Denk's charismatic Mozart at San Francisco Symphony


In September, the MacArthur Foundation gave one of its "genius" awards (along with a $625,000 payout) to pianist Jeremy
Denk. For many listeners, it was the mere certification of a known fact: Denk, 43, is a musician who stands out, even in the
cruelly rarefied world of classical music, where superhuman talent can barely get you through the door.
Thursday at Davies Symphony Hall, Denk was an animating presence, playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major
with the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas conducting. It was a great performance of a familiar piece. What
made it so special? We're getting into murky territory here -- the intangibles of musicianship, personality and charisma, and
how they mix -- but Denk can bring such clear focus and tingly zest to a performance that it lifts up, transforms.
Mozart's piece is sly and shadowy, darting from major to minor and tumbling from key center to key center. Denk's entrance
in the Allegro maestoso was bright, confident, playful -- "Here I am!" -- and, with it, a hand-and-glove conversation with the
orchestra commenced. The performance was unencumbered: streaming piano lines of pearly tone or music-box delicacy; a
quasi-Marseillaise march tossed back and forth between the piano and various winds; or a trill by Denk that somehow
enlivened the whole, buoyant ensemble. His cadenza felt like an improvisation.
The slow Andante was balletic -- seeming to expand onto some other, larger stage of the mind -- with Denk as lead dancer,
playing with the conductor's pliant tempos, partnering with this and that member of the orchestra. The pianist's crisp
rhythmic drive in the finale was infectious. Experience it yourself: The program repeats through Sunday. (And, if you aren't
already familiar with Denk, man of the hour, you might enjoy his occasional New Yorker essays, his "Think Denk" blog at, or his illuminating new "Goldberg Variations" recording on Nonesuch.)
The program began with Beethoven's "Leonore" Overture No. 3, which Tilson Thomas and the orchestra recorded just a
couple of years ago, and which they performed Thursday with fine-spun intimacy: its sighing rises and falls, its flurry-to-a-
storm crescendos. After intermission, Mozart made for a neat bookend.
There was another pairing within this very strong program: Steven Mackey's "Eating Greens" (from 1994) and Aaron
Copland's "Symphonic Ode" (composed in 1932, revised in 1956). Mackey followed Beethoven, while Copland followed
Mozart. But the connection between the two burly American works was impossible to miss.
Drawing its title from a painting by Margaret Leonard, Mackey's piece also is inspired by Henri Matisse and such musical
iconoclasts as Harry Partch and Thelonious Monk, the composer has said. It's a musical quilt, filled with brash and rapid
juxtapositions. And while it begins as a romp, quoting "Joy to the World" and Gershwin -- while having fun with exotic
percussion effects, including a referee's whistle -- it turns nocturnal. It becomes a haunted hallucination for orchestra, broad
and gripping, staggering through the darkness, with echoes of Mahler and Stravinsky -- and Copland.
What a work is Copland's "Symphonic Ode" -- "a big, craggy, American, skyscraper landscape piece," said Tilson Thomas. It
is muscular and tightly wound, driven by relentless energy, and it points straight toward the pulsing and expanding structures
of John Adams, who can be thorny and menacing in a similar manner. "Ode" speaks on more than one level: One hears mid-
century America grappling with its role in the world, and one practically sees lonely, lost individuals, wandering the late-
night streets of Manhattan.
Tilson Thomas and the orchestra, who recorded this provocative work in 1996, should record it again. They performed it
Thursday with sensitivity and bracing power.
The Guardian November 7, 2013

Bach's Goldberg Variations caused me misery but I still can't get

Bach's towering keyboard masterpiece, by turns obsessive and joyous, is one of the most notoriously difficult pieces to
grapple with. So why do pianists keep feeling its lure?
I stopped watching Breaking Bad early in season three for a strange reason: I felt it was bad for my soul. Frankly, I had
never been that concerned about my soul before, but when charred plane fragments began to rain down on Albuquerque
(fans know what I'm talking about), I felt a dull ache, an unusual suffering, and I decided enough was enough. If you
like, Breaking Bad is the Goldberg Variations of misery. How many terrible consequences can Walter White reap from
his first bad decision? At least as far as I watched, the show's approach was exhaustive: a survey of emotional, physical,
and spiritual harm. The Goldbergs are also exhaustive, and contingent on Bach's first fateful decision, on the bassline
he has chosen, the parameters he has set forth.
In fact, the Goldberg Variations have caused me more misery than any other piece of music in history, with the
exception of the Tchaikovsky Trio (for totally different reasons). How many hours have I spent backstage fretting,
knowing that there will be several insufferable know-it-alls in the audience, with their 700 recordings and deeply
considered opinions? How many hours have I spent practising those passages where the two hands climb over each
other, then turn around (as if revisiting the site of an accident) and head for each other again?
The Goldbergs, originally for a two-keyboard instrument, become uniquely treacherous when played on just one. There
are many impossible crossings, many unplayable moments. You have to decide which hand goes over the other, and
practise how to make the switch smoothly; but there is always the possibility you will be on stage, communing with the
spheres, and your fingers and wrists will literally tangle like two dancers who stumble over each other scattering
wrong notes into paradise. You must always also be reminded that the instrument you are playing them on is the
"wrong" one, especially by critics.
On top of their difficulty, the Goldbergs are terrifyingly clean. The work clings mostly to the purity of G major, and its
materials are so self-evident: the variation with the scales chasing each other in thirds (horrible memories of practising
scales as a child); the variation with the arpeggios (ditto); the variation with the scurrying passages in one hand and the
leaps in the other. It almost like a lesson plan, with modular units, and everyone knows them they are as well-
travelled as a seasoned flier in an airport lounge.
I never wanted anything to do with the Goldbergs, but one day I don't know how my friend Toby Saks convinced
me to learn them for her festival in Seattle. She thought it would change my life. With one hasty yes I was committed
you cannot do a programme substitution with the Goldbergs; it would be like trying to replace George Clooney. As
usual, I procrastinated, and a panicky, cold December and January ensued, a Christmas holiday spent with a piano,
wondering why it couldn't have just been 15 variations, say, or 18, instead of 30? I broke them into bundles of five, to
cope with the project's enormity.
The day before my first performance, I remember sitting in a Vietnamese restaurant, hunched over a giant bowl of Pho
(outside fell classic Seattle drizzle), while my musician friends murmured consoling epithets at me "I'm sure it will be
fine" treating me like a patient who was about to undergo an operation.
Jeremy Denk
The Guardian November 7, 2013
page 2 of 2

The first performance was a bit like a dream, much of it bad, but a few variations had something, I felt. My first taste of
Goldberg addiction. Was I encouraged or war-scarred? A second period of obsession began, going over those stubborn
variations in order to understand the independence (or lack thereof) of my hands, trying to find the most transparent and
loving way to express them. And now, nine years later, with a recording under my belt, I probably belong in Goldbergs
The Goldbergs, insular and obsessed, have all the failings of classical music in general. The piece is a text reflecting on
itself, satisfied in its own world, suggesting that everything you would ever want to know is contained within. The
variations (by definition music about music) are subject to countless insider discussions in the outer world, to
comparisons of recordings like heavyweight bouts, to that annoying word "definitive". Despite this, Bach's smile wins
through. The piece is a lesson in many things, but primarily in wonder: the way that the tragic variations fuse
seamlessly into the breathlessly comic, the way that simple scales become energy, joy, enthusiasm, the celebration of
the most fundamental elements of music. This is the kind of beatific happiness that Beethoven eventually tried to attain,
after the heroic happiness of the middle period. The last movements of Beethoven's Op 109 and Op 111 invoke the
Goldbergs, and represent a joy beyond achievement.
The copout of Breaking Bad, shared by many great novels and works of art (I'm thinking of you, Balzac!), is to leave us
mired in a sea of human degradation. It is often easier to write sadness. And happiness easily becomes a shortcut, or a
falsehood; "happy ending" is often a derogatory term. Of course, the ending of the Goldbergs is cut with melancholy
(unlike Walter's pure blue stuff). When the theme returns at the end, you realise this is the last time you will hear that
turn into bittersweet E minor (melancholy about melancholy), and also the last time you will experience the chain of
fifths with which Bach escapes from it. I'll admit it always chokes me up, not because the piece is over, not because
things are ending, but because of a sense of the completeness of everything that has come before, the rightness, and if
it doesn't sound too cheesy to say the radiance of experience. It gives you that rare thing in human existence: a sense
that, at the end of something, it has all been worthwhile.
San Francisco Classical Voice November 6, 2013

Jeremy Denk Captures the Wonder


Whats your definition of genius? If the term refers to someone with a sharp, probing mind, wide-ranging interests, and
a commitment to creativity, Jeremy Denk fits the bill. A recent recipient of the coveted MacArthur Fellowship the
so-called Genius Grant he is highly accomplished as both a pianist and a writer. Denk just signed a deal to turn a
New Yorker article about his musical education into a book, and he recently completed a libretto for an irreverent new
opera, to premiere next spring.
Trading one type of keyboard for another, he will be this weekends soloist with the San Francisco Symphony. He will
then join Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra on a short tour, including a Nov. 13th performance
at Carnegie Hall. The 43-year-old North Carolina native chatted about a wide range of topics from his New York City
All of the mature Mozart concertos are pretty sublime. How did you and MTT choose No. 25 [in C Major, K. 305] for
this tour?
This one has always had a special place in my heart. The last movement contains, for me, one of the most ravishing,
extraordinary passages in all of Mozart, and therefore in all of music.
Its one of the pieces where Mozart is experimenting rather profoundly with certain kinds of instabilities and
ambivalences. It has an obsessive retreading of the boundary between light and dark. I find that fascinating and
beautiful, and very moving. It has an almost Schubertian bittersweetness except bittersweet isnt quite the right
word. Its more unsettling than that. Its as if hes trying to destroy the very language that he brought to its epitome. Its
a piece that gives me a lot of shivers.
So how do you decide which of the many elements of Mozarts music to emphasize when youre playing it?
James Wood, the literary critic at The New Yorker, has this great phrase about narrators who are reliably unreliable.
You learn that they are not to be trusted, and that becomes part of the fabric of the book. I think theres something
about that in how you play this concerto how you waver back and forth. Obviously, there are passages where youre
just playing it beautifully, or wittily. For me, a very important part of playing a Mozart concerto is the wonder of each
moment. In this case, part of the wonder is the sense that it might turn at any time.
You have mentioned that some of the first records you fell in love with as a kid were of Murray Perahia playing Mozart
concertos. But from what Ive read, youre not the type of player who goes back and listens to other pianists
recordings when youre learning a piece. Youd rather start from scratch, as it were. Whats your reasoning behind that
I dont mind clearing my head. I dont think thats unwise. Sometimes I will listen to other pianists for inspiration about
a particular passage, listening for how other pianists have approached it. But I do enjoy taking my own counsel, so Im
not retracing other peoples steps too much. Its very personal, but for me, its easy to get overwhelmed by the number
of recordings that exist of any given piece, and feel a little bit stifled. There are some pianists I listen to very often, such
as [the late Alfred] Cortot, but playing something completely different [from what Im working on].
Jeremy Denk
San Francisco Classical Voice November 6, 2013
page 2 of 3

I keep reading references to different places where you grew up. Was your family in the military, or something?
Heavens no! We were in North Carolina until I was 5. My dad, who used to be a Catholic monk, was in the early wave
of constructing computer networks on campuses. We moved to New Jersey for five years, where he worked for a lot of
institutions, including Rutgers. We then moved to New Mexico, where he got a job at New Mexico State.
Was music a constant for you, as you moved from state to state?
I suppose it was. My parents were not musicians, but they were big music lovers, and they had a nice stable of records.
Once I started the piano, at age 5, I never stopped. I had a lot of academic interests in my teen years I still kind of do
but I never seriously considered quitting the piano.
I was surprised to read that your college minor, at Oberlin, was in chemistry.
Actually, I had a desire to cut chemistry and go for English, which my parents resisted. I think I was more suited to
math than chemistry, actually. I remember being moved, when I was about 15, by the Mandelbrot set in mathematics.
The what?
Its this beautiful fractal situation in math. You can construct it through fairly simple mathematic means, and it comes
out this incredibly beautiful, self-replicating shape of great symmetry and infinite complexity. I remember being very
excited by that.
The Mandelbrot set shows you how seemingly abstruse math percolates into the most beautiful things we know in life,
like fjords or snowflakes. I think there is some connection between that and music. When I delve into the complexities
of how music works, its never just because I like complexity. Im usually after that beauty.
Discussing mathematics, you sound like a true MacArthur Genius.
Thanks, but youre not supposed to use that word. Im a MacArthur Fellow.
I read a piece congratulating you on being one of three gay recipients of this years grants, at which point I realized I
had no idea you were gay.
I dont make a big point of the gay business on my blog. I dont want it to be a gay blog. But if you read it closely,
the gayness is there, especially when I post a shirtless picture of [Twilight actor] Taylor Lautner. So there are cues! Im
very open about it; its obviously a very important part of my life and my identity. I came out pretty late. I was 32.
Did coming out change your playing?
I feel that it did. It certainly changed my emotional life, in mostly good ways. I never felt I was hiding anything or
keeping a secret, but when it finally happened, I definitely felt more truly myself than I had before.
The MacArthur comes with a $625,000 stipend. What are you going to do with the money?
Its the question of the hour, and one I have no satisfactory answer for. I cant change my life on a dime right now,
because Im booked for concerts [many months into the future]. So I need to prioritize. I hope it allows me to clear out
some of the year to practice, recharge, and learn new repertoire. I hope I can expand the possibilities of the blog. Id
also like to do some commissioning. I feel a little bit guilty about not doing more of that during the last several years.
But mainly itll give me the freedom not to be a hamster on a wheel as much as I have been.
Speaking of writing, you recently completed writing the libretto for a new Steven Stucky opera, which will have its
debut at next Junes Ojai Festival. [Editors note: Denk is music director of that festival for 2014. Much of its
programming, including the opera, will then travel to Berkeley for Ojai North, June 1921.] Youve adapted a classic
book of music theory by Charles Rosen?
Jeremy Denk
San Francisco Classical Voice November 6, 2013
page 3 of 3

Of course, its intrinsically ridiculous to make an opera out of Charles very wonky musicological book The Classical
Style. On the other hand, I always wanted to know what the tonic and the dominant would say if they could talk.
So you turned them into actual characters?
Yes. Theyll be talking for themselves, as will Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Charles. [Steven Stucky and I] are
bringing the ridiculously abstruse language that we use to describe classical music to life. Hopefully, in the process,
were demystifying it a little bit, and having a lot of fun with it. Itll be a kind of music theory lesson for some people.
For the people who know all that, it will hopefully be very amusing.
I once wrote a blog post about the issue Can classical music be funny? I think thats a ridiculous question. Charles
Rosen wrote that the classical style of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven was basically built on the style of comic opera.
Thats the foundation. Obviously, they very often turned comic means to tremendously profound ends. But for me,
humor is built deeply into the fabric of a lot of the music I love the most.
Huffington Post November 5, 2013

A Conversation With Pianist Jeremy Denk - at San Francisco


Beginning this Thursday, 11/7 and through Sunday, 11/10, San Francisco Symphony (SFS) presents Mozart's Piano
Concerto No. 25 in C major featuring pianist Jeremy Denk. Conducted by Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas
(MTT), the program includes Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3; Eating Greens by Steven Mackey; and Aaron
Copland's Symphonic Ode. From November 13-16 the Orchestra will be on tour, arriving at Carnegie Hall for two
performances - the first, featuring the same program with Jeremy Denk, and the following evening, Mahler's Symphony
No. 9. On November 15, SFS and Mr. Denk move to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois where they will appear at the
Krannert Center at the University of Illinois. The tour concludes on 11/16 with Mahler's Ninth at the Hill Auditorium,
University of Michigan.
For Jeremy Denk, the tour comes at a most auspicious time. Just weeks ago he was selected for the MacArthur
Fellowship. The award is dubbed as a "genius grant", the recipient being nominated by others in their field. The
generous stipend is extended to individuals whose work looks to be of benefit to everyone on the planet. To know the
artistry of Jeremy Denk is to understand the principle of the Fellowship.
During our recent interview, Jeremy and I talked about the peculiarities of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major.
I mentioned the exciting parallels in Jeremy's position right now and the time in early December 1786 when Mozart
debuted the concerto in Vienna. He was at a peak point in his popularity. A few weeks after that performance, the
composer was in Prague presenting his just completed Symphony No. 38 in D major - known today as the "Prague"
Symphony. Performances of his Le Nozze di Figaro were also underway at what is now the Estates Theatre and Mozart
would conduct one of them.
Jeremy's latest CD, J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations, released 9/30 on the Nonesuch label is currently in the top position
of Billboard's Traditional Classical Albums chart. The work is the Mount Everest of piano repertoire. Jeremy is also the
Music Director of the Ojai Music Festival. He has recently completed the libretto for a new opera composed by Steven
Stucky and based on Charles Rosen's critical masterwork, The Classical Style. The opera will premiere at the 2014 Ojai
Festival in June. Designed as an "opera buffa", the story places Mozart together with Haydn and Beethoven and
surrounds them with such characters as Dominant and Tonic. I asked Jeremy if it was his suggestion to play the Piano
Concerto No. 25 with San Francisco Symphony.
"It was at least partly my suggestion," he responded.
I just feel so attached to it, obviously. There are so many passages that are almost like Schubert or Mahler - this
mixture of joy and sadness. Mozart is incredibly beautiful, but this piece has many shimmering passages of beauty -
unearthly and uncanny. I've always had very strong feelings about this concerto. In a certain sense, it is a musician's
piece. It has a lot of qualities of his other concertos, but it has others that are strange and wonderful. I've always been
attracted to it. It's interesting that you're bringing up this historical parallel. It is a piece that I feel a great deal of joy
playing. But the work is about this sort of mixture of the pure light of C major and the darkness of C minor. It doesn't
have the same kind of singable themes that his other concertos have. It's a piece that Mozart was experimenting with -
Jeremy Denk
Huffington Post November 5, 2013
page 2 of 2

harmonic ambivalence or, put another way, bi-curious. It begins with two very clear phrases in C major. Suddenly the
bottom drops out of the experience and we're in this desperately different world of C minor - and for no apparent
reason. That is his first gesture of this kind of opposition of light and dark. It is an obsession within the piece - its most
profound and prominent obsession. It very clearly percolates to a genial, happy rondo theme - then it's slipping on the
banana peel of sadness and then recovering. It happens many times and each time it becomes this deep uncertainty.
During this 1787 whirlwind adventure in Prague, Mozart was commissioned for another opera. The end result would be
Don Giovanni which premiered there in late October. How much did the surrounding atmosphere of these theatrical
successes influence the construction of this piano concerto?
I think it's less conventionally theatrical than some of the other nearby concertos. It has an experimental aspect to it,
testing the boundaries of what the style can bear. How obsessively can he treat this motif - the sort-of motif of
Beethoven's Fifth. Like any Mozart piece, it has its theatrical flair. In a way, nothing could be more theatrical than its
grand opening followed by this sudden turn to minor. The piece feels like it's something that Mozart wrote not for his
own pleasure, but inspiration. What I experience is like shivers of surprise and shock. The concerto prefigures a lot of
what Beethoven was going to do - expanding the realm of what a single motif can bear. It also prefigures that
Schubertian instability at the heart of things. It has a sort-of insider baseball quality. Charles Rosen in The Classical
Style writes that this concerto has always been seen by musicians with special affection. I have a feeling that it is a
special piece for him too. There are so many transitions that are almost deliberately bizarre or awkward, that explore
possibilities of how I can make this work.
Jeremy's blog, think denk is a gold mine of essays and exchanges that reveal the heart and soul of the man and his
music. Like a great Shakespearean actor on tour, there is always the question of personal stamina and maintaining one's
"motivation for being in the room". Given the musical complexities within the Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, how
does Jeremy keep the creative juices going during the course of a tour?
Some people describe this piece as cold. I don't know what they're listening to. For me, the middle section of the last
movement has the most beautiful and heart rending passage in all of Mozart. It starts out as a kind-of A minor episode,
a sad episode within the rondo - which would be normal enough, a business-as-usual for a classical rondo. Then it
peters-out and launches into this F major theme. If it were only for those two minutes of the piece, it would be one of
my favorite pieces in the world. It's this incredible F major theme which is everything that the piece -- up to now -- has
not been. It has a flow, a fullness. At the end of that F major paragraph, the C minor comes back again in and wings
through this unbelievable prolongation of the theme of joy turning into tragedy. He looks at this ambiguity for such a
long time and in such an extreme way. That's a rather over-the-top way of describing it. This piece is an obsession of
mine and it is an obsessive piece. I am thrilled that Michael Tilson Thomas agreed to do it and I can't wait to do it.
Wall Street Journal October 24, 2013

They're Taking Bach to the Future

Of all America's up-and-coming classical instrumentalists, Jeremy Denk, the pianist-blogger who won a MacArthur
Foundation "genius grant" in September, might well be the most interesting. A brainy virtuoso at home in the world of
words, he plays with a striking blend of deeply considered expression and total technical command. Mr. Denk records
for Nonesuch, which favors smart artists who do it their way, and he made his solo debut for the label last year with a
coupling of Beethoven's knotty C-Minor Piano Sonata, Op. 111, and Gyrgy Ligeti's bracingly modern Piano Etudes, a
fusion of past and present that set the critics to buzzing.
Now Mr. Denk has released his second Nonesuch album, a performance of Bach's "Goldberg" Variations, the
mammoth keyboard masterpiece to which eggheads of all sorts have long been irresistibly drawn. It's gorgeously and
insightfully played, and I can't imagine any musician not wanting to hear what so thoughtful an artist has to say about
so towering a musical monument.
But what about everybody else? The "Goldbergs," after all, have already been recorded by such celebrated pianists and
harpsichordists as Daniel Barenboim, Simone Dinnerstein, Keith Jarrett, Wanda Landowska, Murray Perahia and
Andrs Schiff, as well as in arrangements for brass choir, harp, marimba, organ and string trio. Glenn Gould recorded
the "Goldbergs" twice, in 1955 and 1985, and both of his versions are widely and rightly regarded as indispensable. All
this being the case, is it possible for any musician, even one as gifted as Mr. Denk, to further enhance our
understanding of so oft-told a musical tale? Or would he have done better to pick a less well-known piece?
For my part, I find Mr. Denk's interpretation of the "Goldbergs" to be enthrallingly involving. He is one of our finest
musical minds, and anything that such folk have to say about the classics is by definition worth hearing. Yet if you
asked me to explain to a nonmusician why that is sowell, I'd be up against it. As obvious as the differences are to me
between Mr. Denk's "Goldbergs" and Mr. Perahia's "Goldbergs," they don't lend themselves to simple verbal
description, nor will they be self-evident to a listener who doesn't already know the piece well.
It's a lot easier for a drama critic to explain to his readers the point of going to see a new production of an ultrafamiliar
play like, say, "King Lear." I've reviewed eight "Lears" for the Journal in the past decade, ranging from Bill Rauch's
modern-dress Oregon Shakespeare Festival version, in which Shakespeare's aging monarch is seen relaxing after hours
in a La-Z-Boy, to a Chicago staging by Robert Falls whose opening scene was set in a men's room. Some were
remarkable, others preposterous, but all were sharply differentiated in ways that made immediate sense to lay
audiences. Can the same thing be said of Mr. Denk's recording of the "Goldbergs," marvelous though it is and love it
though I do? I suspect not.
Mr. Denk, who is nobody's fool, has shrewdly chosen to release his version of the "Goldbergs" as part of a two-disc set
that also contains a DVD devoted to "video liner notes" in which he speaks with uncommon perspicuity about how the
piece is put together, accompanying himself on piano. That's one wayand a good oneto stand out from the pack.
An even better one is exemplified by another of Nonesuch's recent releases, an album in which Chris Thile plays three
of Bach's sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin on mandolin. Mr. Thile, who is better known for the riotously
creative music that he plays with the Punch Brothers, his progressive bluegrass-pop combo, is by no means a classical-
music dilettante. His delicate yet propulsive interpretation of the G-Minor Sonata would be more than worth hearing on
violin, and the pointed sound of the mandolin endows it with a thrillingly new palette of instrumental colors.
Jeremy Denk
Wall Street Journal October 24, 2013
page 2 of 2

Don't take my word for it. The liner notes to Mr. Thile's album eloquently make the case for playing Bach on mandolin:
"The plucked and decaying notes call the harpsichord to mind, a harpsichord freed from its box. I can't help feeling a
different weird connection between these ancient and arduous works of Bach and old-fashioned banjo picking, or
country fiddlingthe pleasure and discipline of virtuosity over centuries."
Well saidand who said it? None other than Jeremy Denk. He knows a good thing when he hears one, and so will you.
If I had to guess what the future of recorded classical music will sound like, I'd bet on Mr. Thile's Bachas well as on
Mr. Denk's video liner notes. That's the kind of fresh thinking of which we can never have too much.
SFGate October 17, 2013

Album review: Jeremy Denk, 'Goldberg Variations'


In a witty and eloquent blog post last year, pianist and newly minted MacArthur Fellow Jeremy Denk made the case
against Bach's "Goldberg Variations," singling out the piece's flawlessness as its greatest flaw. One could make a
similar objection to Denk's new recording. It's so sparkling, so suave, so emotionally rich and so playful that after a
while the listener almost begins to long for a misstep of some kind. No chance. Denk's technically adroit reading of the
"Goldbergs" is at once loving and slightly skeptical, without any hint of false piety, and he brings out all the beauty and
ingenuity of the music. The transparency of the counterpoint, the rhetorical fervor of the melodic passages, even the
dark splendor of the set's few minor-key movements - all these qualities and more come through in glorious,
maddening brilliance. And as a bonus, there's a DVD in which Denk sits at the piano and talks you through some of the
music's most striking aspects.
The New Yorker, Oct 14, 2013 10/7/13 12:55 PM Page 1 of 1
Chicago Classical Review October 14, 2013

Denk traverses Goldberg Variations with freshness and humor


The sheer familiarity of Bachs Goldberg Variations is a curse and a blessing. Amateur pianists love to tinker with
them, and there were pianists aplenty in attendance at Jeremy Denks traversal of the Goldbergs Sunday afternoon at
Orchestra Hall. Some followed with their fingers on air piano, while others were content to follow with personal scores.
Listeners know the work inside out from recordings, and many have a favorite or even multiple favorites. Expectations
are thus high, room for error low. Little wonder Glenn Gould gave up performing live. The end result has been a live
Goldberg performance tradition that tends towards the cautious and the reverential.
Not with Denk, thankfully. From the rather optimistic account of the opening Aria, Denk made clear that he considers
this joyful music that should not be taken too seriously. He took his time unspooling the famous theme which allowed
him to open up and take the repeat slightly faster and louder. His ornamentation was delightfully exaggerated yet
organic and persuasive.
The first series of variations followed as a block, Denk bringing out the light, bouncy dancelike quality of the opening
variation. He tended to emphasize a prominent quality in most preceding variations by carrying that same quality to the
following one without interruption and always with a careful eye on the properties of the aria.
Sometimes Denk would come to larger fugues that he would treat as stand-alone pieces presumably so that their
structure would not be lost in the maze but when a light-hearted cross-hand piece would follow, for instance, he
would launch right in.
Occasionally when a toccata-like iteration was played, if Denk felt the musical content needed emphasis, those would
be left alone as well. Each piece was allowed to breathe and his convictions as to where and when multiple variations
should be treated as a unit and when not were immensely convincing.
Most repeats were taken but it is to Denks credit that there was contrast even within repeats so that they rarely seemed
It was also striking that whenever the aria itself came up, Denk would use the same rubato and phrasing that he had in
the aria to emphasize that fact, always having an eye on macro as well as micro properties of the piece.
A refreshing aspect of Denks interpretation was also how consistently lyrical it was, not a quality that is often
emphasized in todays Bach playing.
The seventy minutes flew by, Denks technique rarely faltering until he arrived at the end of the penultimate variation
when he happened to hit the final note, of all things, clumsily. As a result, he came full circle to the aria with greater
confidence and swagger. The audience was immensely appreciative and offered a well-deserved standing ovation.
After a series of bows, Denk obliged with a single encore, the Andante from the Mozart Sonata No. 15, K. 533, an ideal
choice as it showed Mozart taking a similar, and in this case a more radical path as to what could be done in spinning
out permutations on a theme which clearly owes a debt to Bach.
Chicago Tribune October 14, 2013

Denk's journey through Bach's 'Goldbergs' playful and profound


Few of today's important concert pianists have pondered J.S. Bach's "Goldberg" Variations as deeply, written about the
piece as extensively or play it as exuberantly, as Jeremy Denk.
His absorbing performance of this Baroque keyboard masterpiece on Sunday afternoon at Orchestra Hall followed on
the heels of several blog posts he did in recent years for National Public Radio, including a wickedly funny essay titled
"Why I Hate the Goldbergs."
Denk, who last month received a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, clearly respects and admires the music he
purportedly hates, if his probing yet bracing account was any indication.
One measure of how fully he is able to draw the listener into his own feeling of renewed discovery when playing the
"Goldbergs" was how quietly and attentively the audience took in all 70 minutes of this opening recital of the
Symphony Center Presents Piano Series, before breaking into sustained applause.
To an extent, every modern interpreter must operate in the long shadow cast by the late Glenn Gould's pioneering
reinvention of Bach's iconic set of 30 variations. Denk has broken free of the Gouldian model, even if certain tempos he
adopted for fast variations, No. 8 in particular, felt rushed, as if he were trying to beat the land speed record of the
Canadian pianist's famous 1955 recording. Even so Denk's rhythmic verve was very much in the Gould class.
In the informative "video liner notes" DVD that accompanies Denk's newly released Nonesuch recording of the
"Goldbergs," the pianist says he likes to think of the piece as "a vast desert of happiness in which there are oases of
sadness." He also points to "the continuity of the harmony" as "the soul of the 'Goldberg' Variations." Both
observations informed Sunday's performance.
Each variation had a distinct expressive character, yet a cohesive structural integrity was maintained. Denk set a
moderate pace for the opening aria, a stately sarabande whose 32-measure bass line inspired Bach to compose this
astonishing series of inventions, canons and dances, plus an overture and a quodlibet (a piece combining two German
folk tunes). Observing most, if not all, the repeats, the pianist emphasized the playful aspect of many of the variations;
for instance, he had fun with the racing 16th notes of No. 23, a capricious, even madcap variation Denk has likened to a
silly cartoon on a Saturday-morning kids' TV show.
That palpable sense of joie de vivre also suffused his account of Variation 20, with its dazzling chain of rapid triplets,
and the sprays of arpeggios that make up Variation 29, which Denk considers "the most schizophrenic" of the set; it
certainly sounded it here. Bass lines were a model of clarity and definition, staccatos as crisp as could be. There was
almost no use of pedal, yet there was no attempt to turn the modern concert grand piano into a fake harpsichord.
And Denk found all manner of ways to subvert the harmonic monotony of G major Bach built into the "Goldbergs."
Sometimes he lowered the dynamic level for repeated sections, sometimes inflected the phrasing with subtle rubato, or
both. The limpid grace of his figuration in Variation 13 was so ravishing that one couldn't imagine the piece played
more beautifully.
Jeremy Denk
Chicago Tribune October 14, 2013
page 2 of 2

The slower, more somber variations took on even greater profundity by virtue of the sunniness of their surroundings. Its
aching chromatic lines moving with exquisite deliberation, the deeply tragic Variation 25 (dubbed "Black Pearl") was
made to feel as disquieting as Bach no doubt intended. It was a key signpost in a memorable journey of Bachian
Denk offered a single encore, an affecting account of the Andante movement from Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 15 in F
major, K.533.
Daily Gazette October 4, 2013

Pianist Denk masterful, intense in Union College series opener


SCHENECTADY Pianist Jeremy Denk opened the Union College Concert Series Friday night in masterful style. As
an often guest on the series, audiences have come to expect sometimes sensational but always expertly played
On Friday there was an especially jubilant edge to the two works he offered: Mozarts Sonata in F Major (1786-88) and
Bachs Goldberg Variations. Perhaps, because Denk is one of this years MacArthur Fellowship awardees, his
playing always assured was an expression of pure joy. The win, however, caused some havoc in his practice
schedule with all the commitments, so the printed program was shelved. Then, too, Denk released a disc of the Bach
(Nonesuch) barely two weeks ago. The near-capacity crowd was not disappointed.
Denk said the Mozart, which had been scheduled, was a late work and was very complex, fascinating and had
counterpoint connections to Bach in its first movement. He also found its frequent shifts from major to minor keys
wild and funny ... with hints of tragedy. The second movement was beautiful, bizarre, austere and audacious; and
the finale was a delightful joke that began in the treble range but ended in the bass.
Denk then played each movement with great clarity, a delicate ringing tone, strongly inflected phrases with gentle
nuances, and a judicious use of the pedal. His phrases also had lift, and the fluidity of his technique in the fast passages
created streams of silvery notes. Everything was played with much feeling and an exquisite sense of taste.
The Bach is a tour de force that shows off not only Bachs fertile imagination and daring, mind-bending inventiveness
but also a pianists skills. Every aspect is touched upon from technical facility and musicality to stamina. The thirty
variations plus the two playings of the theme take more than 60 minutes.
Denk was tireless. Except for a few moments of silence before the slow variations, Denk attacked each variation in a
quick segue. Tempos were boldly vigorous and often very fast, rhythms were taut and pungent, yet melodies were
strongly emphasized. The few slow movements in which Bachs daring harmonies were most audible were done with
loving care. Denks intense energy was itself electrifying. It was marvelous playing.
The audience was rapt but just as it took Denk huge amounts of concentration to play the Bach, it took equal amounts
to listen to it. Overheard after the concert: That was huge. Ive got to get my mind back.
21C Media Group September 25, 2013

Pianist Jeremy Denk Wins 2013 MacArthur Fellowship

It was announced today that Jeremy Denk one of his generations most eloquent and thoughtful interpreters
(New York Times) has been named a 2013 MacArthur Fellow. Selected for his extraordinary originality, dedication
in his creative pursuits, and a marked capacity for self-direction, the pianist is one of 24 recipients of this years
genius grant, which awards each fellow a stipend of $625,000.

Denk has established himself as one of Americas most thought-provoking, multi-faceted, and compelling artists.
September 30 sees the release of his second recording for the Nonesuch label, a CD/DVD set of Bachs Goldberg
Variations, accompanied by recitals in Boston, Chicago, and Washington, DC. Denks first Nonesuch recording,
which juxtaposed Beethoven with Ligeti, featured in many Best of 2012 lists, including those in the New Yorker,
Washington Post, and NPR Music.

This season, orchestral collaborations take the pianist to three continents in concertos by Bach, Beethoven, Liszt,
Ravel, Ligeti, and Mozart. He also returns to Carnegie hall on tour with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael
Tilson Thomas performing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25, which he will play throughout the Fall. In 2014 Denk will
serve as Music Director of the 68th annual Ojai Music Festival, for which, besides performing and curating, he is
writing the libretto for a semi-satirical opera by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky.

The pianists blog, Think Denk, is widely read and enjoyed both within and outside the industry, and he has made
witty and personal contributions to the New Yorker, the New York Times Review of Books, Newsweek, the New
Republic, and the website of NPR Music. Just days after his recent main-stage solo recital at Carnegie Hall, the New
Yorker published a personal history that will also form the basis of Denks forthcoming memoir, Every Good Boy Does
Fine, to be published by Random House in the 2015-16 season. As the Washington Post observes, he is one of the
most interesting pianists around.

More information is available on the artists web site: and the MacArthur Foundation's website.
Milwaukee Journal September 21, 2013

Big finish, big ovation for Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's opener

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's season-opening concert Friday night at the Marcus Center for the Performing
Arts led to a big finish and an equally big ovation.
The orchestra, led by former music director Andreas Delfs and joined by pianist Jeremy Denk, opened with Aaron Jay
Kernis' introspective "Musica Celestis" (Heavenly Music) for string orchestra.
Delfs and the players brought life and focus to the piece's shadowy, ethereal strains and poignant swells of sound and
Denk took the stage with Franz Liszt's dramatic "Concerto No.1." Although Denk captured the power and drama of the
piece, his performance was about far more than the piece's biggest moments.
The piece's small, internal details proved as compelling and important in his interpretation as the stormy chords and
sweeping crescendos.
Taking just a pinch of rubato at the top of a phrase or a quick, light release of the end of a passage, he drew his
audience into the details of the piece. He moved from soulful, lyrical playing to a jaunty playfulness in this articulate,
yet wordless, explanation of the piece.
Tchaikovsky's "Symphony No.4" is high on the list of standard orchestral repertoire. From the stirring horn lines that
open the piece and expanding into powerful sounds from the full brass section, to flowing string passages and gorgeous
woodwind solos, the symphony is beautifully constructed and deeply moving.
Delfs and the players brought focus and clarity to what we know to be Tchaikovsky's musical tirade against fate,
despite a few uncertain entrances and transitions. A broad dynamic range and informative shifts in tempo were part of
the performance's power.
The real heart of the performance lay in the big, well-blended string sounds and the equally effective delicate string
moments. Equally important were powerful, cohesive brass playing, driving percussion passages and some wonderfully
expressive woodwind playing, particularly oboist Katherine Young Steel's opening lines of the second movement.
The audience responded to the Tchaikovsky with a loud, long standing ovation, calling Delfs back to the podium
several times and offering shouts and cheers to individual players and entire sections as the orchestra members took
their bows.
Sydney Morning Herald August 18, 2013

Brahms Piano Quintet review: Denk finds fertile ground in blend of

old and new
Brahms Piano Quintet ACO
City Recital Hall, August 17

It was a meeting of kindred musical spirits when American pianist Jeremy Denk joined Richard Tognetti and the ACO
principals (Satu Vnsk, violin, Christopher Moore, viola, and Timo-Veikko Valve, cello) for a program that was
totally rewarding from the first delicately played notes of Bach's Goldberg Canons to the resounding final chords of
Brahms' Piano Quintet.
The familiar Tognetti approach of juxtaposing the old and the new in such a way that each informs the other created a
program for which its spiritual mentor might have been Charles Ives, who saw perfectly fit to combine the past with the
present, the consonant with the dissonant, and the highbrow with the lowbrow.
Ives' brief Scherzo for string quartet, Holding Your Own!, was played with exhilarating tautness, while the third
movement of the Concord Sonata offered an evocation of a session around the Alcott family piano: here the opening
motif of Beethoven's Fifth mingles pensively with fragments of Wagner, ragtime and folk songs, woven into a stream-
of-consciousness narrative of domestic contentment. Denk's performance was poetic, intimate and totally persuasive.
Purists beware: in Tognetti's arrangement for piano and string quartet of Bach's 14 canons on the ground bass of the
Goldberg Variations, there is no attempt to be authentic, but rather the desire to make this simple eight-note theme
yield as much musical variety and interest as possible. By turns reflective and joyous, the music remained alive and as
eloquent as any historically informed reading.
It was an inspired decision, worthy of Ives, to interleave between these canons four of Ligeti's virtuosic piano Etudes,
where Denk's flawless technique served the imaginative range of these mercurial and fiendishly difficult studies with
Denk's superlative pianism was revealed again in Bach's F minor keyboard concerto and the massive Brahms Piano
Quintet. His subtly nuanced and ever-thoughtful phrasing, along with his infinite control of tonal and dynamic shading,
allow him to create music that seems to spring from spontaneous invention, fresh with every note.
Lovers of fine music making should not miss the concert when it returns on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday next
Brisbane Times August 17, 2013

Musical alchemist
A multitalented pianist brings eloquence and intelligence to every

After retiring from insurance, American composer Charles Ives began working on a grand sonata for solo piano
dedicated to five great intellectuals of the 19th century.
The four movements of his Piano Sonata No.2, Concord, are named for the literary giants Ralph Emerson, Nathaniel
Hawthorne, Bronson and Louisa May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau. They are all heroes of the New York pianist
Jeremy Denk, for whom the piece has become a calling card.
Denk has joined the Australian Chamber Orchestra as a guest artist to play the Alcotts movement and is rhapsodic in
his description of the sonata as a grand epic in the tradition of the 19th-century romantic novels.
''It grapples with the classical canon, it grapples with Beethoven, it grapples with ragtime; it's like taking the whole
world in your hands and, as such, it is more a happening than a piece,'' he says. ''It yields a million different
interpretations. There is the connection to Thoreau, and I've always been nuts about Emerson. The last Concord is
Thoreau and there is a beautiful passage where Thoreau is meant to be playing his flute over Walden Pond and you
hear him surrender, after all sorts of activity and goal-oriented things, to the rhythm of nature at night. It's incredibly
There is a witty eloquence to the piano soloist that marks him as unique among classical music performers. In
articulating what lies at the heart of music, Denk demystifies what it is to be a classical pianist. His satirical
observations for The New Yorker, in which he likens piano lessons to the weekly ritual of laundry or church, to either
the occasioning of wisdom or subtle psychological torture, have netted him a book deal.
He has a blog, Think Denk, which recounts his experiences of touring and performing, and its unexpected popularity
has served to make classical music less of a fusty Renaissance painting to be admired on a gallery wall, and much more
present. ''My blogs are about a particular moment in music or a set of moments that I find incredibly beautiful and
meaningful and I try to sometimes find sideways or weird comic byways to get at what that is,'' Denk says.
Among the things we learn about Denk in the blog is how he just loves coffee. One filtered cup a day to lift his head
from the pillow.
He also recalls his humiliating debut at his parent's retirement village in New Mexico where he played to dubious
applause and was hurried by the dinner bell. ''My father's assessment was on the mark: 'I don't think they'll lower our
rent,' he said. 'Let's hope they don't raise it.'''
Denk has a thing for Roland Barthes' A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, and carries a copy most places in his
''structureless'' life. As if to illustrate his itinerant existence, this telephone conversation has taken two weeks to
organise. It took 18 months after meeting the Australian Chamber Orchestra's artistic director, Richard Tognetti, in
New York for Denk to find dates for his first Australian recitals.
Jeremy Denk
Brisbane Times August 17, 2013
page 2 of 2

Denk is in Jacksonville, Wyoming, and asks me what day it is. Thursday or Friday? Losing track of days ''happens to
me a fair amount'', he says, ''especially these days - my life is crazy.''
Denk, 43, could have done anything with his life, such were his intellectual gifts. He has a degree in chemistry but
piano is his first love. He played from age five on the family's spinet piano inherited from a great aunt, shuffling from
one teacher to another as his talents blossomed.
''From the moment I started playing the piano occasionally it would come up, the thought I might quit the piano, and
that always seemed to me the worst possible eventuality in life,'' Denk says.
''I think I'm drawn to music more profoundly than anything else in life, although I thought about doing a lot of things.
I'm fascinated by maths and chemistry and especially writing but obviously music has a deeper connection for me than
almost anything.''
A great performance, Denk suggests, is the alchemy of acoustics and audience sensibilities. It looms in the spaces
between notes, in the millions of little decisions a performer makes on any one day. In that sense, the performance is so
much more than the score.
''If you have your computer play a score exactly as notated on the page, which now you can do, what comes out is
exactly the opposite of what is music to my ear in every possible way,'' he says.
The Australian August 15, 2013

Penetrating pianist a perfect match for Bach, Ligeti and Ives


AUSTRALIAN audiences have never seen Jeremy Denk before, and one can only wonder why. Hailing from the US,
he is a formidably strong pianist who knows his way inside a piece of music with a penetration of vision that is
extremely rare these days. It makes droves of other fine concert pianists look either frustratingly uninvolved in what
they are doing or just plain ignorant.
To hear Denk play alongside members of the Australian Chamber Orchestra was enough to conclude that here is a
performer one has been hanging out to hear for years.
The program was a puzzling box of tricks, consisting of canons, exercises and riddles from Bach to Ligeti, but this only
served to emphasise the point.
Bach's Canons on the Goldberg Ground, arranged by the ACO's director Richard Tognetti, laced their way through an
extraordinarily eclectic oddments drawer of music that included Charles Ives's almost bar-less The Alcotts from his
Concord Sonata, his polyrhythmic scherzo Holding your Own!, and four of Ligeti's etudes.
It could all have sounded intellectually dry and didactic. However, the complete opposite was the case as Denk
unravelled the beautifully glistening spider's web of Etude No. 7 and hammered out the manic force of No 10. Up high
in the piano's register he extracted a most distinctive, electronic-like sharpness of sound, exactly in keeping with
Ligeti's futuristic sound-world. Two more etudes, Nos 11 and 13, and one could only thirst for more: breathtaking in
his boldness, Denk really understands this music.
Tognetti's arrangements of the Bach canons, in which Denk was joined by Tognetti and Satu Vanska on violins, violist
Christopher Moore and cellist Timo-Veikko Valve, proved a worthy counterpart to the Ligeti. Stylistically free but
sympathetically in keeping with Bach's contrapuntal methods, these sounded inventively fresh and invigorating.
Denk gave towering, magnified power to Ives's The Alcotts while the strings played Holding your Own! with biting
The concert's two longer works, Bach's Keyboard Concerto in F minor and Brahms's Piano Quintet, saw the same five
performers in effervescent form and revelling in their combined musicianship.
The Bach flowed with infectious vivacity, great responsiveness within the ensemble, and cheeky humour in places.
They seemed to aim for rather too much flight in the Brahms. It lacked heart in places, but the famous scherzo was
white hot in its savagely cut rhythms and excitement.
The Australian July 23, 2013

Pianist spells out his notes


JEREMY Denk is not the first musician to turn his hand to writing: one thinks of Alfred Brendel, the pianist who has
just penned a deeply thoughtful piece on music and performance, published in The New York Review of Books, and of
Stephen Hough, whose blog appears in Britain's The Telegraph. Closer to home, there are writers such as composer
Andrew Ford and pianist Anna Goldsworthy, both of whom have opened the world of music and musicians to the
reading public.
Denk, a concert pianist, started writing a blog eight years ago and a writing career has since flourished alongside his
musical one. For magazines such as The New Yorker he has written long-form essays about the difficulties of the
recording studio and about his student piano lessons with Gyorgy Sebok, a cultivated European with a taste for
He has recently been invited to write a book of reminiscences and ruminations for Random House. And he is writing an
opera libretto based on, of all things, Charles Rosen's musicological study The Classical Style.
Denk discovered the power of the keyboard -- the Qwerty kind, as distinct from the chromatic one -- when he was
asked to write a diary about the life of a concert pianist for National Public Radio in the US. A friend urged him to
continue writing and suggested he start a blog.
"That day, I actually did," Denk says on the phone from NewYork. "It was like an itch that I had. It was something I
had been dying to do, to write more properly, for many years."
The pianist-blogger is about to tour with musicians from the Australian Chamber Orchestra. He'll be playing solo and
as part of a quintet with ACO's Richard Tognetti and Satu Vanska (violins), Christopher Moore (viola) and Timo-
Veikko Valve (cello).
Denk's writing shows a flair for mixing high-cultural subjects with nothing-off-limits observational humour. In one
post, he opined on Schubert and Taylor Lautner's abs; in another, he took musicologist Richard Taruskin to task over
Don Giovanni.
It's not surprising to learn that he counts essayist-authors Geoff Dyer and David Foster Wallace among writers he
admires. There's a similar delight in intellectual jest, with the effect not of dumbing down the subject under discussion,
but of speaking the same language as their readers. "Semi-casual, digressive whatever . . . That late-night, slightly
stoned, watching-TV mode" is how Denk describes it.
Writing about music, as someone once said, is like dancing about architecture: it's either useless or impossible. And yet
there may be parallels in the creative efforts of writers, musicians and, indeed, other performers. Writing prose, like
musical composition, involves extempore technique within a set of formal constraints. Performance also involves the
testing-out of an idea -- dramatic, choreographic or musical -- that may be likened to the writer chasing an intellectual
Jeremy Denk
The Australian July 23, 2013
page 2 of 2

Denk agrees with the proposition that performance can be a kind of essay in the broad sense of the word. He refers to
the Brahms Piano Quintet that he will perform with the ACO players, and the beginning of the Andante second
movement with its "transcendentalised" Viennese waltz.
"It's a very long-breathed sentence, it doesn't stop for quite a long time," he says. "Brahms is sort of testing out the
limits, the elastic of a phrase: how long can you prolong the intensity before it breaks. It's like winding out a great
paragraph, and trying to find the punctuation places that will will make the climaxes better, and the rhythm of it, so it
will feel inevitable. Great prose can be a little bit inevitable too."
The prose-music connection is more explicit in the case of Charles Ives, the composer and insurance agent who is
among the pioneering figures in American music. His Piano Sonata No 2, Concord, Mass., 1840-60, published in 1919,
is simultaneously nostalgic and avant-garde, involving heady dissonances and cluster-chords played with a piece of
wood. Its four movements are named after literary figures from the New England region: Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Nathaniel Hawthorne, the Alcotts (including Louisa May Alcott of Little Women fame) and Henry David Thoreau.
This remarkable piece has been essayed, not least by Ives, who wrote a 30,000-word description of it while debating
substance and manner, or style, in music.
"He tries to outline a way in which his music is more difficult and requires more effort to approach, and yet the
substance of what is expressed is therefore more profound," Denk explains when asked to summarise Ives. "That is the
quality he loves in Emerson and Thoreau, and that he finds in Beethoven, Bach and Brahms, composers he admires."
Denk wrote about his trials when recording the sonata -- with its "polytonal, polyrhythmic mayhem and mash-up" -- for
The New Yorker. He describes the sensation of listening to different takes in the producer's booth and the paradox of
hearing one thing while being sure he played another.
"You hear two tracks at once: what you desire and what you have produced," he writes.
"Notes dangle before you without their motivations, minus the physical struggle of playing them; my muscles twitch
strangely while I listen."
Denk is appearing with the ACO after an introduction by his friend Steven Isserlis, the British cellist (and children's
author) who has been a frequent guest with Tognetti's band, and who returns to tour with them in October.
The program for Denk's tour includes Tognetti's arrangement of Canons on the Goldberg ground, which Bach based on
the Goldberg Variations. Denk will be the soloist in a selection of Ligeti etudes and the "Alcott" movement from the
Concord sonata. He will join the ACO players for a keyboard concerto by Bach (BWV 1056) and the Brahms quintet,
both in the key of F minor. It is rounded out with a string quartet movement by Ives called Holding Your Own.
Denk's writing commitments may have got the better of him. His blogging and other writing, he says, has helped
promote his work as a musician. But the blog, which started as a torrent of posts in 2005, has been reduced to a trickle
as the pianist has become busier as a performer and professional writer. He has recently signed with recording label
Nonesuch, has concert engagements, and has the book and libretto to write. His opera The Classical Style, with music
by Steven Stucky, will have its premiere at the 2014 Ojai Music Festival in southern California, where Denk is music
director next year.
He admits that blogging threatened to take over his life. "I don't mean to complain," he says. "In a way, it's another
venue for me to speak about music. You could never write a program note like some of these blogs, you could never do
those blogs in a pre-concert lecture. The sort of things I'm doing there, only belong there."
Denk is about to make his first visit to Australia and is anticipating great coffee and restaurants, as well as his debut
performances with the ACO. Will he be tempted to blog about his antipodean adventures? "I'm almost sure that I will,"
he says.
Santa Barbara Independent July 18, 2013

Jeremy Denk at Hahn Hall

Accalimed Pianist Returned to S.B. on Wednesday, July 17

As if conjured from a piano lovers wish list, Wednesday nights recital at the Music Academy was a dream program of
two iconic suites, one for the right brain and one for the left, played by one of the hippest pianists on the classical music
scene these days. Last March at Campbell Hall, Jeremy Denk performed a memorable Santa Barbara debut courtesy of
UCSB Arts & Lectures. And this week, only four months later, the New York City pianist again materialized before us,
this time in the intimate quarters of Hahn Hall.
Open-minded patrons arrived at this TBA program expecting to witness fine keyboard artistry wherever it might fall
along the broad spectrum of Denk specialties. Over the years, Denk has dabbled in J.S. Bach partitas, songs of Charles
Ives, and excursions into the combustive combination of Gyrgy Ligeti and Beethoven, as were featured on his 2012
CD. What no one could possibly have expected was precisely what we got: the pairing of Robert Schumanns
Davidsbndlertnze, Op. 6 with the Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 by J.S. Bach. In his introduction, Denk himself
admitted, with a wry wit, that the two pieces have absolutely nothing to do with each other, unless perhaps a
relationship of nemesis. In soft tones of bemused defiance, Denk frequently relishes juxtapositions that flout easy
sense and category. The Schumann is romantic in the extreme, forged in the blaze of young Roberts love for his future
wife, the brilliant pianist Clara Wieck. Its 18 movements impulsively swerve through extreme tones of unguarded
elation and longing, one answering the next fitfully, reactively. The Bach, by contrast, is a mature geometers study, a
consummate and controlled evolution of form, ticking through 32 gears of a Newtonian clock.
A bold program for a debut recital at the MAW? Yes. But then again, coolly bold seems to be the Denk way, a
confidence grounded in obsessively thorough preparation. These works, played entirely from memory, have long
cultured in the imagination and sinews of the pianist. Clarity and command were abundantly evident, but so was a
signature sense of exploratory wonder by an artist who Vanity Fair rightly calls a frontiersman.
Aspen Times July 18, 2013

Review: Denk throws changeups in an offbeat program


Jeremy Denk admitted that a few too many sakes in an Aspen restaurant might have motivated the lineup he fielded
for his Aspen Music Festival appearance Saturday evening at Harris Hall.
You might be wondering what these pieces have in common, he said before settling in to play Stravinskys lively
Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, Janaceks Capriccio and Beethovens Archduke Trio. The answer is
nothing, except they are all among my very favorite pieces to play.
Both the Stravinsky and Janacek pieces use some of the strangest instrumentation, he noted. Few, if any, piano
concertos completely avoid calling for a string section. Even fewer works for the piano by famous composers use
Janaceks ensemble.
This is certainly the greatest piece ever written for flute, bass flute, trumpets, trombones, euphonium and piano (left
hand), he deadpanned.
Moreover, none of the pieces presented Denk alone, as might be expected in a concert titled A Recital by Jeremy
Denk. But then, Denk relished the unconventional. Its what makes him such an exciting musician to hear. And his
advocacy of eccentric music can result in performances that make you shake your head and say, Wow.
Saturday night was one of those. The concerto found him in a jolly mood, practically butt-dancing to jagged rhythms,
Stravinsky inspired by nothing less than ragtime piano rolls and the fox trot. In the score, the piano and band play off
each other constantly, each filling in the blanks for the other. Denk reveled in jumping in feet-first each time the ball
came his way.
Christopher James Lees, winner of the Aspen Conducting Prize for 2013, led the ensemble and got the tight rhythmic
interjections to fit cleanly with the piano throughout, even if the playing could have been crisper.
In the second movement, where the music becomes gentler, Denk found a lovely sense of delicacy and managed to
make it feel like it was hiding some unseen energy. The finale put the cap on without losing the thread.
In the Capriccio, the bass flute and euphonium players (unnamed in the program) took full advantage of their solo
opportunities to add depth and diversity to the piece. Like most of this composers works, it speaks in a highly
chromatic, sometimes dissonant, language as it wrestles with tonality, but it still ends up in a big, fat major chord at the
very end. Perversely, Janacek seems intent throughout to make the pianist play at the high end (normally played by the
right hand) in this left-hand-only piece. Denk not only made it all seem like childs play, he made use of his right hand
to flip back the page in a minor disagreement with the page turner about when exactly to act. (Also to help conduct.)
Faculty stalwarts David Halen (violin) and Michael Mermagen (cello) joined Denk in the piano trio. The muscular but
refined effort was notable for how smoothly the melodic lines glided from one instrument to the next and the gratifying
balances they found in the harmonies. This was no-nonsense Beethoven that refused to push or pull on the music,
letting it emerge with its energy and meaning intact.
In Fridays Aspen Chamber Orchestra program, conducted by music director Robert Spano, the modern first half also
outshone the more familiar music after intermission. Prosperos Rooms by Christopher Rouse opened proceedings
Jeremy Denk
Aspen Times July 18, 2013
page 2 of 2

with 10 minutes of fascinating, colorful, dense, dark, eerie music that would fit perfectly in a horror movie. Then Wu
Han brought her penchant for bringing out every phrases individual character to Brittens early Piano Concerto. By
contrast, Mozarts magnificent Symphony No. 41, Jupiter never quite lifted off. A penchant for obvious slowing-
downs and speeding-ups did the first movement no favors. The inner movement Menuetto moved more nimbly, and the
lovely Andante Cantabile sang sweetly. But the payoff in the finale foundered as rhythms blurred and the music lost the
gracefulness that characterized the middle movements. In welcoming a sparse crowd to Sundays Festival Orchestra
concert, festival CEO Alan Fletcher held up a program and noted that it was the featured solo piece of the day, the
Britten Violin Concerto, that inspired the Robert Motherwell painting used on the cover, and the festivals theme for
this season, Conscience and Beauty.
Both the concerto and the painting, part of his Elegy to the Spanish Republic series, focus on lives lost in the Spanish
Civil War. Violinist Daniel Hope delivered a soulful, musically complex and vivid performance, referencing the cries
from the gut of flamenco that are in the heart of the music. Especially in the soft, sobbing final pages, he drew
magnificently expressive sounds from his instrument.
Michael Sterns sensitive conducting supported the soloist with a steady pace in the passacaglia finale. Pace was an
issue in Elgars Enigma Variations in the second half. Stern chose a plodding tempo for the opening Andante and first
variation. Though he picked it up to normal for several variations, he returned to a glacial pulse and, curiously, resisted
Elgars marked legato (in one place, legatissimo) for the famous Nimrod. The result was a sporadically rewarding
performance, highlighted by Joaquin Valdepenas floated solos in the penultimate variation and sonorous brass
statements throughout.
Not to miss in the coming days
Bounce, a world premiere from Adam Schoenberg in his approachable modernist style, enlivens an Aspen
Philharmonic concert Wednesday evening that also featured pianist Jonathan Biss playing Beethoven and Spano
conducting. Later Wednesday, the American Brass Quintet offers its signature mix of madrigals, canzoni and
contemporary pieces.
The New York Times June 18, 2013

Variations On an Article: Jeremy Denk Gets a Book Contract


Soon after The New Yorker published the pianist Jeremy Denks Every Good Boy Does Fine in its April 8 issue, Mr.
Denk took to his blog Think Denk, and offered a bit of editorial second-guessing about his illuminating memoir of his
In the essay, many sins of omission, he wrote, noting that in the interest of focusing on the particular influence of the
Hungarian pianist Gyorgy Sebok, and what he called this moment when Old Europe landed on top of me, he had
neglected many teachers who were also important to him, including Joseph Schwartz at the Oberlin Conservatory of
Music and Herbert Stessin at the Juilliard School.
Now Mr. Denk, who at 43 is regarded as one of his generations most eloquent and thoughtful interpreters, will have a
chance to offer a fuller picture of his student years, as well as some of his broader reflections on the piano repertory.
Random House has signed him to transform the New Yorker piece into a book, also called Every Good Boy Does
Fine a phrase that anyone who has taken piano lessons will recognize as a mnemonic children use to memorize the
notes on the musical staff when it bears a treble clef. (One popular variation, Every Good Boy Deserves Favor, was
used by the Moody Blues as an album title, and by Tom Stoppard and Andr Previn as the title of a musical.)
I hope it doesnt sound silly to say that for me there is a connection between the task of piano playing, trying to find
the elusive combination of nuances that bring the phrase alive, and the search for the perfect combination of words to
express something, Mr. Denk wrote in an e-mail. I guess the common thread is communication and hopefully that
shiver of delight when something is expressed in an imaginative, unexpected way.
Andy Ward, Mr. Denks editor at Random House, said that Mr. Denk had two years to write the book, which is due to
be published in 2015 or 2016.
The trick is to find time to write this book over the next year or two, while practicing and performing, Mr. Denk said.
He added that the book would probably include material that he had explored in his blog, but that the idea at the
moment is to attempt something a bit bigger, more continuous a weaving of wry autobiography and accessible, even
bizarre, musical analysiswhich I have never done, and well see if I can do! (Im excited to try.)
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Vanity Fair April 2013

Piano Forte

For all his self-effacing urbanity, Jeremy Denk is a frontiersman. The 42-year-old pianist, who earned a doctorate at the
Juilliard School, has a way with some of the most encyclopedic works in the repertoire, music that catalogues the
known world before striking out into the wilderness. His first recording was of the massive, Whitman-esque piano
sonatas of Charles Ives. His latest pairs the sundry virtuosity of Gyrgy Ligetis piano tudes with the final,
untrammeled piano sonata of Ludwig van Beethoven, his Opus 111a work that also culminates his March 22 recital
at Carnegie Hall. For Denk, the reward is bringing out the valedictions within such manifestos. What they all share is
this tenderness, he says, a tenderness at the edge of the universe, where one world is going away and another one is
coming in.
Like a handful of similar polymaths, Denk is also a writer of free-range acuity, in articles, reviews, and Think Denk, his
online journal, a treasury of ruminations, both deep and daffy, on the nature of music and the adventuresand
misadventuresof making it manifest. At the center of his curiosity are the gateways between musics seemingly
paradoxical layers: micro and macro, detail and whole, the transition from the close-up work of practicephysics and
housekeeping, as he puts itto the structural sweep of a performance. Playing and writing are disparate tasks but
similar challenges. I cant decide which is more frustrating and more neurosis-inducing, he says. A typical deflection,
but next time you see him, hes off in the wilds, surveying, exploring, adventuring.
The New York Times March 25, 2013

Exploring the Language That Speaks the Inexpressible

Jeremy Denk, Pianist, at Carnegie Hall

Listening to the pianist Jeremy Denk play, you never doubt that he is someone who thinks about music deeply and
rather a lot. Its not that you sense that he fusses overmuch about tempos and dynamics, or that hes out to demonstrate
his awesome cleverness through programming juxtapositions. Rather, what Mr. Denks playing conveys most is an
inclusive consideration of where each piece came from, what it reflects about its composer and how music connects to
a lifes broader concerns.
What you dont get from Mr. Denk is a sense of a butterfly flitting through the canon, briefly alighting on some major
piece to test its flavor before fluttering on to the next. Among the works he played at Carnegie Hall on Friday night,
one, Beethovens Sonata No. 32 in C minor, had appeared in several previous recitals and on his Nonesuch debut CD.
Another, Liszts Aprs une Lecture du Dante, was what Mr. Denk paired with that Beethoven work in a memorable
2010 Mostly Mozart Festival recital.
Mr. Denk, clearly, is a pianist you want to hear, no matter what he performs, I wrote on that occasion. Now Ill add
that he is a pianist whose fresh insights in familiar territory warrant continued acquaintance.
Again, colossal interpretations conveyed the sense of composers grappling with the ineffable, inventing new
vocabulary to express the inexpressible. If the terrors in Beethovens stormy first movement were less overwhelming at
Carnegie than they had been in the tiny Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center, the rapt Arietta had a frisson of added
awe: a humble utterance lofted prayerfully into a void.
Mr. Denk opened the recital with a demonically festive rendition of Bartoks Piano Sonata, with chattering dance
rhythms and low notes that rang like gongs. He framed Aprs une Lecture du Dante with more Liszt: Weinen,
Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, based on a stern descending bass line by Bach; the grace-infused Sonetto del Petrarca No.
123; and the reverently rumbling transcription of Isoldes Liebestod from Wagners Tristan und Isolde.
The concerts second half opened with Bachs Prelude and Fugue in B minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier,
Book 1, which Mr. Denk played with a subtlety that approached disappearance. The prelude had a breath and pulse less
perceptible than palpable; in the fugue Mr. Denk deftly calibrated his dynamic intensity across the works full span.
After the concluding Beethoven, thunderous applause elicited two encores: a genial Variation No. 13 from Bachs
Goldberg Variations, and a keenly wrought account of Brahmss wistful Intermezzo in A (Op. 118, No. 2).
ArtsATL March 18, 2013

Review: In Spivey Hall recital and master class, pianist Jeremy

Denk shows power of letting go

On Saturday night, the illustrious pianist Jeremy Denk performed a solo recital of music by Bartok, Liszt, Bach and
Beethoven at the likewise illustrious Spivey Hall at Clayton State University. The night before, he taught a master class
to four eager pianists from the region who auditioned for the opportunity.
The Friday master class was a chance to see and hear Denk spontaneously respond to the playing of others, and
hopefully to get into his head in terms of how his observations and suggestions translate into his own music making.
Beyond his skills at the piano, Denk has been articulate about life and music in both nationally published articles and in
his own copious blog, Think Denk: The Glamorous Life and Thoughts of a Concert Pianist.
Several observations from the master class such as Denks attention to balance and emphasis of detail within a
phrase, or thinking in terms of complete gesture are too extensive to try to detail here. But a commonality worth
noting was how, in different ways, he encouraged the students to let go and play. As performers, we can often get in
the way of ourselves, the fearful, self-critical part of our mind causing internal tension that manifests physically in ways
that make playing more stressful and exhausting.
This ability to let go is audible in Denks playing and observable in his body movements. Tellingly, when he placed
his hands on the keyboard to demonstrate a passage, the difference in character of the sound extracted from the
instrument was electrifyingly noticeable, taking on a color and sparkle that was like opening a windows blinds to
The recital on Saturday opened with an announcement from Sam Dixon, Spivey Halls executive and artistic director,
and Clayton State University President Tim Hynes about the establishment of the Spivey Hall Endowment for Piano
Artistry, with a major gift to the CSU Foundation from Jeffrey Adams and Susan Hunter, both charter members of
Friends of Spivey Hall. Not surprisingly, Adams and Hunter were also the sponsors of the recital.
Denk kicked off with the vigorous, rhythmically sizzling Sonata, Sz. 80 of Bela Bartk. Four works by Franz Liszt
followed, the first three played as a set, opening with the Prelude on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, S. 179, based
on a theme from the church cantata of the same name by J.S. Bach. Two pieces from Annes de plerinage. Deuxime
anne: Italie (Years of Pilgrimage, Second Year: Italy), S. 161 followed: Sonetto 123 del Petrarca, I vidi in terra
angelici costumi, a transcription for solo piano of Liszts own setting of that sonnet for voice and piano, and Aprs
une lecture du Dante, fantasia quasi sonata.
The first half of the recital ended with one of Liszts transcriptions, Isoldens Liebestod, S. 447, a transcription for
piano of Isoldes final aria Mild und leise from Wagners opera Tristan und Isolde, onto the beginning of which
Liszt took liberty to tag the four-bar motto of the love duet from Act II.
For the second half, the pianist paired Bachs Prelude and Fugue No. 24 in B minor from Book I of Das
Wohltemperierte Klavier with Beethovens last piano sonata, the Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111. Two encores
Jeremy Denk
ArtsATL March 18, 2013
page 2 of 2

capped it all off: No. 13 of Bachs Goldberg Variations and the Intermezzo in A major from Klavierstcke, Op.118
of Johannes Brahms. Dixon said later that Denk was still humming the Brahms backstage after the concert.
That is worthy of note because, unlike with many pianists, there is not an observable bright red line between the
offstage Jeremy Denk and the onstage one. In other words, one does not feel a hard, self-conscious shifting of gears
when he sits down at the keyboard. His performance was both unaffected and profoundly thoughtful, not leaning upon
the virtuosity required by these challenging works alone, but emphasizing their most intimate expressions and
innermost workings. And he does it with such apparent ease. Denk is a compellingly imaginative musician, seriously
joyful, who knows how to let go and play.
Democrat and Chronicle March 15, 2013

Pianist Jeremy Denk thinks a lot about music, literature, life


Not every pianist can create a fictional conversation on the Beethoven Hammerklavier Sonata with politician Sarah
Beethoven, the fictional Palin says, is the guy who said thanks but no thanks to Napoleon.
Nor could every pianist find traces of Schubert in the Twilight series soundtracks. And it takes guts to admit that
annoying your collaborative partners, which include world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell and cellist Steven Isserlis, is
on the top of your to-do list possibly above practicing Ligeti tudes for a concert later the same day.
But pianist Jeremy Denk who performs a recital at the Eastman School of Music on Tuesday isnt an ordinary
In his popular blog, Think Denk at, he reveals the person behind the pianist, who is not only
constantly thinking about music in endlessly creative and relevant ways, but also one whose writing ability is only
second to his piano playing. His blog, started in 2005, has been a gateway for invitations to write pieces for The New
York Times and The New Yorker magazine.
Denk, 42, chalks it all up to a lifelong love for literature and an attention deficit for sticking to one intellectual task. As
an undergrad at Oberlin College, he double-majored in music and chemistry, while also squeezing in as many English
courses as he could muster. He earned his masters degree at Indiana University and his doctorate at Juilliard.
Ive always had a yen to be a writer, Ill admit that. I love to read, Im obsessed with literature, he says.
Playing the piano or writing about music, its all just communicating about music, he says.
Its complicated, because I wrote something about how in some corners of the world, musicians arent really supposed
to think. The corollary to that is that somehow thinking deprives music of its emotional core, he says. I still think it
can, but I dont necessarily think it has to. When David Foster Wallace decides to think about tennis, he somehow finds
a way to reveal incredible emotional layers: the game, the idea of the game, the players, what they must be going
through, for example. And so, Im mostly of the school that thinking isnt always bad.
Indeed, his quirky, postmodern writing transfers well to the keyboard or maybe vice versa. He seeks connections
between the two disciplines.
I love seeing the literary qualities in music, the narrative qualities, the things about the rhythm or sentence or poem
that are connected to the way music unfolds. I find all those connections often very enlightening and inspiring, and they
help me think about music freshly again, he says. How do we reawaken the moment when Beethoven had written
something but people didnt even know it yet, it was just sitting on his music stand? Or maybe, even when Beethoven
was in the middle of composing and didnt know how it was going to go?
Its the literary and narrative qualities of music that inform his interpretations, particularly in his current recital
program. The dualities of heaven and hell bind the wildly contrasting Liszt Dante Sonata with Beethovens brooding C-
minor Sonata, Op. 111. Bachs Prelude and Fugue in B-minor sustains the mood.
Jeremy Denk
Democrat and Chronicle March 15, 2013
page 2 of 2

Literary notes on love, first based on the Italian Renaissance poet Petrarch and then the story of Tristan and Isolde set
to music originally by Wagner, are the sources behind two other Liszt works to be performed. And Liszts Hungarian
nationality left the window open for Denk to start off boldly with another Hungarian, Bartok, where the pianistic color
and shading are elements shared between the two composers, however different their approach to tonality and rhythm.
Denk, as usual, says it best: Beethoven is channeling Bach in op. 111, then theres Bach on the program, and then
theres Liszt channeling Bach. I think all of that is supposed to sit together, sort of a mini-theme, a sub-plot. If all the
sub-plots involved in the program sound too numerous to recognize, Denks playing will surely lead listeners through it
Denks playing has often been called cerebral though its a designation he wears with caution.
Its usually associated with something where the flesh of the music vanishes and youre left with the skeleton of the
structure, he says. Instead, he probes the score to find metaphor and imagery that can help access its emotional depth.
Such ambitions are his hope with his latest recording project, the monumental Goldberg Variations, which should be
released this spring.
As well worn as piano literature gets, Denk hopes to reveal not only its complex construction but also its humanity.
What I have to say about it is hopefully about how much of a big tent piece it is, in which every imaginable human
emotion is contained, he says. It is a little miniature universe; some of the silliest to the most profound thoughts are
in it.
For the moment, he continues to receive praise for his recent recording of Ligeti and Beethoven works; he performs his
Eastman program three days later at Carnegie Hall.
In the little bit of time left in between his concert schedule, hell likely be seeking idiosyncratic ways of writing about
the untold life of a concert pianist, his analytical thoughts along with the search for good coffee serving as a very
personal kind of program notes into his creative mind.
FresnoBeehive March 15, 2013



Many audience members at piano recitals prefer to sit on the left side of the house facing the stage so they can watch
the keyboard and see the pianists fingerwork. I never get to Keyboard Concerts recitals at Fresno State early enough to
grab one of those prime seats. And, besides, sitting on the other side of the house gives you a great view of the pianists
face as he or she plays.
In the case of Jeremy Denk, who wowed an appreciative audience with a memorable concert Wednesday, I was glad to
sit where I did. Denk is about as far from pretentious as you can get when it comes to his music read his notable
blog and you can see how he makes merry with some of the more poseuristic aspects of the genre and he never
grandstands while he plays. But to watch his face, his head, as he plays is revelatory: at times holding it aloft as if hes
inspecting the ceiling, shaking it back and forth at other times ever so slightly, his features practically quivering.
Beginning with Bartoks rarely played Sonata and continuing on with four Liszt pieces in the first half of the program,
Denk truly caught me up in the moment, though that description pales compared to the music he made. The Dante
Sonata, with its inferno section like a freight train roaring through, left me feeling as if a zealous spring cleaner had
scrubbed away all the cobwebs in my brain.
But it was Denks triumphant performance of Beethovens Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111, which concluded his
program, that left the lasting impression. (He preceded the piece with Bachs Prelude and Fugue in B minor, a major
influence on Beethoven.) Denk took time before the piece to explain why he feels the piece is one of the most affecting
moments in the classical music literature, speaking of Beethovens determination to go on creating groundbreaking
music even with his reputation firmly cemented. Denks interpretation was somehow muscular and gentle and fierce
and tender, all rolled into one, and the prolonged trill in the Arietta movement which I swear nearly created sparks
in the Fresno State Concert Hall was something Ill never forget. The sonata storms to a near cacophony of rhythmic
turbulence and repeated key changes, but it manages, wondrously, to resolve. As Denk says, its as if Beethoven was
telling us that no matter what happens along the journey, we are not lost.
Santa Barbara Independent March 12, 2013

Jeremy Denk, Piano, at UCSBs Campbell Hall

Saturday, March 9, Recital Included Works by Bartok, Bach, Beethoven,
and Liszt

Pianist Jeremy Denk performed a blazing Santa Barbara debut Saturday night in solo recital, the penultimate attraction for
UCSB Arts & Lectures two-week Winter Festival. After first drawing the audience in with a rocking sonata by Bla Bartk,
Denk quickly plunged into deep waters with a suite of works by Franz Liszt, and two deadly serious pieces (Denks own
description) by J.S. Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven.
A sizable portion of the near-capacity audience seemed to be notebook-toting undergraduates on class assignment; any
rookie to classical music earned her stripes here. Yet I cannot think of a better initiator than Denk. Dressed in a black jacket,
gray slacks, and a green shirt with open collar, there was no stuffy formality to the youthful 42-year-old. Indeed, Denk has
made a name for himself not only as an impressive and intellectual pianist but also as an original, and often irreverent, writer
on music. Onstage, he exudes both good-natured nonchalance and a solid sense of focus.
There was no gentle entrance, as Denk cracked into the evening with Bartks Sonata, Sz. 80 (1926). The driving duple beat
of the first movement combines steady pulse in the left hand with surprising and extravagant statements in the treble,
sounding like the perfect accompaniment for circus acrobats. Some pianists are impassive in performance, but Denk wears an
expression of discovery, as though he were as much audience as performer. The stately and meditative mood of the second
movement demonstrated Denks magnetic capacity to still the hall and draw listeners into his world of introspection.
A fantasy sonata based on Dante was at the center of a suite of four works by Liszt, a dramatic 15-minute journey through
heaven, hell, and everything in between. But the heart of the program as a whole was Beethovens Sonata No. 32, Op. 111, a
work that Denk has recorded recently, and toward whose beguiling and baffling mystery he has bent considerable intellectual
energy. His extraordinary artistry (and his excellent introduction) gave us a glimpse of the infinity he gazes upon.
Santa Barbara Independent March 7, 2013

Jeremy Denk Brings Intellect to Two Keyboards

Pianist Will Perform at UCSBs Campbell Hall on Saturday, March 9

It shouldnt be news that a musician as distinguished as Jeremy Denk is also an excellent writer and a well-rounded
intellectual, but somehow it is, especially now that he has released a spectacular solo album, Ligeti/Beethoven, and is touring
to support it in a series of solo recitals. When Denk arrives in Santa Barbara for his UCSB Arts & Lecturessponsored gig
this Saturday, he will come armed not only with his acclaimed technique at the piano keyboard but also with a significant
constituency for his work on another keyboard, that of his computer, where he writes a funny and interesting blog, Think
Denk, along with his own liner notes and numerous articles for such prestigious publications as The New Yorker and The
New Republic.
Of course no amount of writing, no matter how witty or intelligent, could possibly come between a serious musician and his
or her audience, but for Denk, thats not a problem. He commands maximum respect from his listeners, critics, and peers for
his unfussy, spellbinding performances, and he has attracted the attention of such discriminating collaborators as violinist
Joshua Bell, with whom he recorded the outstanding 2012 CD French Impressions. Saturdays recital at UCSB should show
Denks commitment to clarity and cohesiveness at its best, as he has put together a program that includes everything from a
Bartk sonata (Sz. 80) to Bachs great Prelude and Fugue in B Minor, BWV 869. Denks take on four relatively unusual
short pieces by Franz Liszt will round out a night that will end with the majesty of Beethovens Sonata No. 32 in C Minor,
Op. 111.
Speaking with Denk by phone from his home in New York City last week, I was struck by the pianists apparent willingness
to think afresh about everything hes doing, even when confronted by what are likely to be some old familiar questions. He
said that the hours that pianists must spend to keep in practice can leave them feeling as if they are chained to a big black
beast, but he also acknowledged that certain composers such as Bach have the ability to create real joy every time he
encounters them. When asked the inevitable question about his multifaceted life as a musician who also writes, he said that
going back and forth between the two has helped him to learn to trust himself. In both capacities, what I am trying to do is
to look into the music without a lot of preconceptions and really open my brain to it. If I can achieve that openness to the
music, the playing just grows from that.
Sometime this spring, Denk will release his second solo effort for Nonesuch Records, a CD of the oft-recorded Goldberg
Variations of J.S. Bach. I just played it how I see it, he said of the recording session. I was not self-consciously trying to
be irreverent or absurd. I wasnt aiming to be weirder than Glenn Gould, or more aristocratic than Murray Perahia, he said,
mentioning two of the most revered recordings of the Variations that are currently available. They get a little wild towards
the end, and I found that very stimulating. Its almost like the pieces are coming apart, and I love disintegration.
As for Think Denk, which is subtitled the glamorous life and thoughts of a concert pianist, Denk insists that its not about
participating in any kind of movement or trend. Im not good with trends, he said, so thats not what it is about at all. It
really happened for personal reasons, because one of my friends kept yelling at me that I had to do it. Despite the modesty
of this disclaimer, the proof is in the writing, which manages to be both charming and substantial. Those who attend
Saturdays concert are likely to feel the same way about the music.
Boston Globe March 4, 2013

Denk carries audience through a masterful maze


There were several ways to look at the program of Jeremy Denks Saturday recital at Jordan Hall. You could see it as
opening with Hungarians (Bartok and Liszt) and closing with Germans (Bach and Beeth-oven). You could hear
sensuousness dominate the first half, a more austere tone in the second. Or you could perceive a maze of connections
among four composers who both embodied their present and anticipated the future. Or, finally, you could hear the first
three-quarters of the program as a giant prelude to Beethovens final piano sonata, Op. 111, of which Denk gave a
revelatory performance.
But were getting ahead of ourselves, something to be avoided when Denk is the subject. He is not only a superb and
insightful pianist but an eloquent and insightful writer, who takes no small pleasure in deflating the stuffier aspects of
music writing. Every concert reviewer should read the Mad Libs version of concert reviewing on his blog, Think Denk.
It is extremely funny; it should also induce at least a little trepidation.
Lets put such misgivings aside, though, and report that Denk began Saturdays Celebrity Series recital with Bartoks
rarely played Sonata. Often played for sheer percussive intensity, the Sonata here sounded opulent, its rhythms crisp
and jazzy rather than barbaric.
Some moments were so witty they could almost have come from Gershwin, but for Bartoks acerbic dissonances.
Out of Liszts vast body of piano music Denk constructed an ingenious four-piece suite that began with earthly
suffering the prelude on Bachs cantata Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen and moved to the angelic grace on
earth of the Petrarch Sonnet No. 123. The heart of it was the Dante Sonata, an action-filled portrayal of inferno,
purgatory, paradise, and much else in between. The tone painting is not subtle in the inferno section he hammers
repeatedly at the diminished fifth, which used to be called the devils interval. The ending conjures a huge organ-like
sonority to inform you of your heavenly arrival. How to out-paradise Paradise? Only with the arrangement of Wagners
Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, which was the suites conclusion.
Denk played all of this with astonishing command of the sheer torrent of notes. But what stood out was the control and
relative restraint of his playing; he clarified textures, refused to linger over the biggest, flashiest moments, and
streamlined the rhetoric whenever possible.
Its debatable whether any Liszt playing can be described as self-effacing, but if its possible, Denk achieved it. Bachs
Prelude and Fugue in B minor, the last in Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier, was plaintive and beautiful. In the
Beethoven that followed, Denk heightened the tensions between the sonatas two movements.
The first was nervous and edgy, the music almost seeming to rush ahead of itself. What was so masterful about the
ethereal second movement was Denks pacing, the natural way in which each section flowed into the next and never
lost a steady sense of forward momentum. A movement shot through with change seemed to unfold in one single, long
expressive breath, as it approached infinity.
Jeremy Denk
Boston Globe March 4, 2013
page 2 of 2

There was a single encore, the 13th of Bachs Goldberg Variations just enough not to disturb the vibrations left by
the Beethoven. Denk told the Globe recently that he deplores the myth-making aspect of music writing, but it would
be foolish to understate how remarkably talented he is.
Boston Classical Review March 3, 2013

Jeremy Denks recital showcases pianists insightful artistry


Pianist Jeremy Denk has earned a reputation for an intelligent and insightful approach to repertoire and programming.
Boston audiences are already familiar with his adventurous, wide-ranging recitals at the Gardner Museum.
In his Celebrity Series debut at Jordan Hall Saturday night, he was in top form, offering reflective and tenderly hewn
readings of works by Bach, Beethoven, Bartk, and Liszt. Each work on Saturday nights program conveyed Denks
pearly tone, crystalline technique, and his arresting sensitivity to the musical phrase.
His approach was delightfully suited to the collection of Liszt pieces on the program, which offered darkness, light, and
every shade in between. Liszts Prelude on Bachs Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, a mournful and thought-provoking
exploration of a descending chromatic bass line Bach used in his Cantata No. 12, showcased Denks dark and powerful
piano tone.
Similar moments of reverence and rapture filled his rendering of two works from Liszts Italie, the second of the
composers travelogues in music, Annes de plerinage. The Sonetta 123 del Petrarca is a yearning portrayal of
Petrarchs sonnet I beheld angelic grace on earth. And Aprs une lecture du Dante, an expansive fantasy exploring
themes from Dantes Divine Comedy, took listeners on a sonic journey through heaven and hell.
Throughout, Denk performed with poetic grace and with deft handling of the musics show-stopping filigree. Denk
followed with an impassioned performance of Liszts transcription of the Liebestod from Wagners Tristan and Isolde,
capturing to good effect the orchestral grandeur of the original.
The pianist opened the concert with Bartks Piano Sonata, Sz. 80. This bold yet concise three-movement work is
particularly known for its barbarism, hard driving rhythms, and folk-dance melodies that clash in modal and bitonal
But Denk, with a solid but not overstated touch, performed this modern work with welcome color and nuance. With
fine attention to balance, he brought out both the stately and witty sections of the first movement. The pianist
approached the second movement almost as an elegy where the simple, repeated-note melody rang clear over the heavy
dissonances, giving listeners a taste for the depth and sonic beauty in Bartks score. He performed the final
movements cascading lines, which swirl in a whirlwind of polyrhythm, with energy and poise.
To open the second half of the program, Denk offered a charming and sweetly phrased rendition of Bachs Prelude and
Fugue in B Minor, the last coupling from the first book of the Well-Tempered Klavier. By extending the cadences and
altering dynamics ever so slightly, Denk enabled the fugues themes to sing expressively, which added shape and even
a touch of drama to the music.
The pianist closed with a dramatic performance of Beethovens Piano Sonata, No. 32, Op. 111. The last and, arguably,
one of his most austere works in the genre, Beethovens two-movement work bears the imprint of Bachs craft, made
manifest in a churning fugue in its dark, declarative and contemplative opening movement. Most impressive were the
variations on an Arietta theme in the second of the two movements, which Denk played with utmost precision. He
Jeremy Denk
Boston Classical Review March 3, 2013
page 2 of 2

struck a fine balance between the staid, but poetic theme and the animated swing-style passages of the central
As Denk notes and explores in his own writings, music is a living and breathing art, and he lived up to that axiom
Saturday night with performances that make him a musicians pianist in the fullest sense of the phrase.
American-Statesman February 26, 2013

Pianist Jeremy Denk reveres the music but is not afraid to reveal his
irreverent self

If a classical musician is known for his sense of humor, its often comedy in a pretty limited range strange stories about
composers or jokes about oboes.
But the pianist Jeremy Denk is funny in a much broader sense. In fact, its not going too far to say, with his impish sense of
humor, Denk is probably the most talented artist we have at putting the peculiarities of a musicians life and thoughts into
Denk plays a solo recital his first in Austin Wednesday at Bass Concert Hall.
Its always dangerous to describe your own piano playing, Denk begins.
Hes talking about a story he wrote for the New Yorker last year; a searing, enchanting account of his tormented struggle to
record a version of Charles Ives Concord Sonata that would do him justice for eternity.
Speaking from his New York apartment, Denk addresses a broad range of topics, from Beethoven and blogs to the question
of placing music from the past into the present.
I tried, in the New Yorker piece, to be very frank, Denk says.
He was that. But he was also very funny. We read along as the pianist obsessively played, and then re-played, the piece,
shedding a little more certainty and control each time.
My notions of the piece are constantly fluctuating, he says.
And that was before the editing process. It turns out that listening to yourself play the same work 15 different ways is not an
especially happy pursuit. Its kind of a hall of mirrors, Denk says.
Yet, what he wrote wasnt the whole story. Its easier to write about insecurity than security, Denk admits. The Ives record
was a success, and since then, two more have come: an album of French music with violinist Joshua Bell and a solo record of
Beethoven and Ligeti.
It can sometimes be a challenge to picture musicians as regular people they appear onstage, display incredible skill, take a
bow, and disappear. Denks writing is especially helpful for exposing the other side of this life: the hours of rehearsal, the
artistic second-guessing and the inane minutia of a concert performers lifestyle.
Except his blog, Think Denk, is not a catch-all for garbage. Its more like a treasury of clever and revealing episodes, all
smartly constructed and crisply edited. In one, Denk agrees to play an electric piano at his parents New Mexico retirement
community and they mock his song selection. In another, hes detailing an excruciating performance by a cafes barista.
So, what should we make of a respected artist whose blog has candid pictures of him eating pizza and riding the subway?
Theres an irreverence to the blog, Denk says. Thats probably its most prominent feature. The point is that Denk has no
strategy. Its really just me, trying to express me.
Jeremy Denk
American-Statesman February 26, 2013
page 2 of 2

In the tuxedoed world of classical music, his frankness is a little unusual. Most musicians websites are plastered with
glamour shots: the artist leaning provocatively against a piano; a string quartet taking their instruments for a walk through
I feel like some of the aura around classical music, the mythmaking of its performers, the stuffiness of concert halls, in some
ways puts a veil between me and the wonders of the music itself, he says.
Some of the purpose of my writing, and some of the playing, is to remove that some of the varnish.
Denk scrubs away that varnish with irony. A YouTube clip follows him around his Geneva hotel room, where he gives us a
tongue-in-cheek tour of his pile of clothes on the floor. Very glamorous.
But his musical abilities are nothing to joke about. When Denk plays Bass Concert Hall, hell perform on Texas Performing
Arts new Steinway grand, nicknamed the Cornelia, a gift from the Mary Potishman Lard Trust and the Friedman children
in honor of their mother Cornelia C. Friedman, who was key in starting the Van Cliburn piano competitions in Fort Worth.
Among some Bartok and Liszt, Denk will play Beethovens Sonata 32, Op. 111.
Its a piece Ive thought about a tremendous amount, he says. Living up to playing these masterpieces is something Denk
portrays as a constant, an almost absurd responsibility hanging over every performance.
Its one of the greatest pieces ever written so theres that, Denk says.
Its Beethovens farewell to the piano sonata. Its a kind of summation. It actually reminds me why I returned to music in
the first place.
Denk wants that reverence for the music to leak out into the audience. Hes written a manifesto against jargon-y program
notes, arguing that they actually do the opposite of what classical music concerts need to be doing right now.
Program notes have their own conventions, he says, and a lot of them are sleepy and tired.
Blathering on about the same historical touchstones take us out of the moment, Denk argues. These dense paragraphs of
technical details do not help a general audience take in the piece.
Im trying to erase the distance of centuries, he says, and pretend like the piece was just written. That requires seeing
music not simply as a historical document that should be performed in only one way, but as something thats more alive.
Ive never been a big fan of the imagine how revolutionary this piece was when it was written school of inspiration. For
my money, it should be revolutionary now, Denk wrote in his manifesto.
The serious pomp and circumstance of concert halls can be another barrier.
One of the things people discount in great music is the humor in it, Denk says. Theres a lot of wit and play along with
insanity, he laughs. Polite applause and cocktail receptions are not conducive to Beethovens 111 Sonata, Denk says.
This part was a little harder to follow.
There are at least two sides of Denk. One who sees irony everywhere, and another who closes his eyes during an
excruciatingly delicate passage of the Concord sonatas. In a way Bach and Beethoven and Mozart are my religion, he
For a concert pianist, this kind of beauty becomes part of everyday life, Denk says. Its like, I wake up, I make oatmeal, I
play 111.
And maybe thats Denks point: Beethovens sonata is the kind of beauty he wishes could leap out of the concert hall and
become part of anyones life.
Boston Globe's Third Ear February 23, 2013

Jeremy Denk: at work on two keyboards


NEW YORK On a recent Thursday afternoon, the pianist Jeremy Denk sat at the small kitchen table of his
Manhattan apartment, seemingly searching for the right words.
We had been discussing the sheer athleticism the gymnastic precision required to play the most demanding works
of the piano repertoire. Having mastered his share of violently percussive, finger-twistingly avant-garde music in recent
years, Denk, 42, understands this athleticism as well as any pianist. Its just that hed like to find a better way of
describing it.
I always get so upset about sports and classical music comparisons, he says. Not that I dislike sports but because for
me the essential thing about [classical music] is that its everything that sports could never be: freed from the constraint
of winning or losing. Whats valuable in music is exactly the sort of vulnerability that is not an asset to a sports icon.
Its just a passing thought, but its also classic Denk: sharply observed, deftly expressed. The pianist, who will play
Beethoven, Liszt, Bach, and Bartok on a Celebrity Series recital on March 2 in Jordan Hall, has seen his career blossom
in recent years, and deservedly so. Local concertgoers may recall his two hugely ambitious Gardner Museum recitals
offering intimate, probing tours of vast pianistic monuments (Ivess Concord Sonata paired with Beethovens
Hammerklavier; Bachs Goldberg Variations with Gyorgy Ligetis Etudes). Yet whats particularly unusual about
Denks ascent has been the way his public artistic identity what one might call his brand as a performer has been
shaped by a kind of secret weapon: his gifts as a writer.
In 2005, Denk launched his own blog called Think Denk ( Now highly visible, it was at
first, he says, just written for me and my friends, a place for weird intersections between life and practicing. It
quickly became home to witty and sometimes disarmingly personal reflections on the itinerant life of a concert pianist.
He wrote about the sensual pull of Charleston, S.C., and about disagreements over a Medtner Piano Quintet in
Camborne, England; he conducted a hilarious fake interview with Sarah Palin about a late-Beethoven sonata (Trill,
baby, trill); and he disclosed with powerful candor the rapture of performing Messiaens Quartet for the End of
When I stopped by the other day, Denk seemed less than keen to speak head-on about the intersection of his writing
and performance. If I think about it too much, its a little dangerous, he says. He appeared more at ease talking about
his literary loves and influences. The French critic Roland Barthes was on his mind, and he declared himself almost
disgracefully a fan of David Foster Wallace and Geoff Dyer, these very informal essayists in which profound topics
are treated with a very light touch.
One learns most about Denk, in a way, by simply reading the blog itself. One of his favorite stylistic moves is to toss
high and low references into a single post (Goethes poetry and Taylor Lautners abs, for instance), or even into a
single sentence (Ligetis notion of infinity and, naturally, the Big Gulp from 7-Eleven). That classical musicians can
and do live in both worlds, seems to be part of the point. I cant stand the myth-making kind of writing about
musicians and what they do, he told me.
Jeremy Denk
Boston Globe's Third Ear February 23, 2013
page 2 of 2

On occasion, the blog has gleefully skewered the rituals of concert life itself. One of his favorite targets is what he sees
as the staid and musty prose style of too many program notes, which he accuses of essentially numbing readers
sensibilities before they encounter a living, breathing work of art. Of the dreaded Program Note Style, he writes, you
know it when you read it, by a slight heartburn of the soul.
But he has also used Think Denk as a venue for plumbing the details of the music he loves, or riffing on the more
complex and sometimes elusive ways that art intersects with life, how the experience of listening to a Schubert recital,
for instance, can open onto a world of personal memories and spark reflections on the illusions and elisions of
intimacy. These weirdnesses in Schubert, he writes, are not failures of decorum, like the revolutions of Beethoven.
These are deliberate failures of communication, slackenings of the narrative, digressions for the sake of digressions; the
priorities of the world are not its priorities.
More recently, the blog posts have slowed as Denks music writing has been turning up in prominent national
publications, and as he prepares for a new recording of the Goldberg Variations. In both of his pursuits, he remains a
strikingly fresh, salutary voice. We talk about everything else, he says, why not talk about the music we make?
The Globe and Mail January 14, 2013

Two concerts, two Mozarts from the TSO


A while back, I discovered something unexpected about the music of Mozart: Its chameleon-like. Play Mozart after
Tchaikovsky and it sounds ultra-romantic. The same piece after Bach sounds severe and orderly; after Haydn, playful
and quirky. The music of Mozart is so spiritually ambiguous, it takes on the emotional colouring of whatever surrounds
it and whoever plays it. Its unique in all of music in that regard. So, not surprisingly, we heard two quite different
Mozarts on Wednesday and Thursday night at Torontos Roy Thomson Hall as part of its annual Mozart Festival.
When Mozart was 13, he wrote to his mother from one of his innumerable road trips, My heart is quite enraptured for
pure joy because I feel so merry on this journey, and because our coachman is a brave fellow who drives like the
Pure joy, driven by the wind that was the Mozart we heard from guest conductor Johann Debus on Wednesday
evening, making his Toronto Symphony Orchestra debut, along with American pianist Jeremy Denk and Canadian
soprano Layla Claire.
Denks joy was in evidence even before he took his seat at the keyboard to play Mozarts Piano Concerto in C Major.
He bounced from the wings to the stage, an artist enraptured with the music he was presenting. Even before the
official entry of the pianist, Denk was playing chords along with the orchestra, nodding in time to the music,
providing a portrait of a musician discovering the beauty of his material as though for the first time (although you can
be sure this wasnt Denks first time through, or first one 1,000th time through, Mozarts K. 467). And although his
carefree approach may have robbed the famous second movement of some of its pathos, the purity and honesty of his
conception shone through in his take-no-prisoners, rush-to-the-exits bravura handling of the concertos finale.
For his part, Debus provided us his wind-driven music-making in his handling of the Haffner Symphony. Leading an
impressively disciplined TSO, he presented us the four movements of this galvanizing and shimmering work as though
they were four opera overtures not surprising, as he is the principal conductor of the Canadian Opera Company.
The Mozart we have learned to accept as a tortured, dark soul was nowhere to be heard in Debuss reading of this
masterful work. All was surface charm and brightly lit drama, the opulent glitter of the 18th century at its most
To round out the evening, Claire applied the gorgeous range of her mezzo-to-soprano vocal equipment to Susannas
fourth-act aria from The Marriage of Figaro, and the Alleluja finale of Exsultate jubilate. A powerful artistry was
present in all she sang.
It was a different Mozart we met on Thursday night. This was a younger, more conventional Mozart, carefully
negotiating the musical styles of the Europe into which he was born. Thursdays music was thus more lyrical, less
improvisatory, smoother and statelier in its approach. Partly this was due to a difference in artistic temperament
between Debus and TSO music director Peter Oundjian, who was on the podium Thursday. Partly it was due to the
music itself.
Jeremy Denk
The Globe and Mail January 14, 2013
page 2 of 2

However, Thursdays concert was notable for the remarkably beautiful playing of its soloists. Two concertos
dominated the program, written by Mozart just before and just after his 20th birthday. Concerto for Flute and Harp is a
rarity, as Mozart hated the first instrument and seldom wrote for the second.
But the playing of the TSOs principal flautist, Nora Shulman, and principal harpist, Heidi van Hoesen Gorton, made
you wish Mozart had written one of these every month. Shulman has been with the TSO for almost a quarter of a
century, so we are used to her beautiful tone and fine musicianship. Van Hoesen Gorton has been with the orchestra for
just a couple of years this may be the first time we have really heard her play. And what a superb player she is full
of grace, with a wonderful sense of phrasing, balance and musical sense. The second movement solo cadenza featuring
these two was simply some of the most beautiful music-making I have heard in Roy Thomson Hall for some time.
But the evening really belonged to German violinist Augustin Hadelich, who had the audience on its feet for a long
time after his assured yet touchingly subtle reading of Mozarts Fourth Violin Concerto. For a moment, the fiery, crazy-
tilted Mozart of Denk and Debus returned to the stage as Hadelich turned all his youthful passion toward this famous
work. It made you yearn for a Hadelich/Debus teaming. The two Mozarts we heard this week might then have come
full circle.
Philadelphia Inquirer December 20, 2012

Jeremy Denk's piano recital does justice to Bach, Schumann


Like a promising matryoshka doll, Jeremy Denk's Tuesday night recital at the Kimmel Center kept revealing itself. The
program's halves seemed split into the cerebral, Bach's Goldberg Variations, and the deeply personal, Schumann's
Davidsbndlertnze. Each of these pieces released a series of smaller ones (18 movements in the Schumann, 32 in the
Bach) from which sprang smaller and even more complex characterizations.
This was a makeup recital; the pianist's October appearance for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society was washed
out by Sandy, its program of Brahms and Liszt now lost. But for a post-Sandy Hook audience, Bach's orderly universe
and Schumann's private realm were solace, a discrete retreat. The score to the Schumann is annotated with an old
saying: "In each and every age joy and sorrow are mingled: Remain pious in joy, and be ready for sorrow with
Denk is particularly well suited to both works. His Bach is expressive, but not fussy or overthought. Technically
unbothered by the work's more explosive spots and remarkably fluid in its scurrying passage work, he was able to make
connections between and among bits of material that sometimes occur many seconds apart.
The mathematical and spiritual converge in the nocturnal 15th variation. Closely mapping the music and training your
attention on the relationships between notes releases a kind of mystical peace, as if some force has pulled back the
curtains to reveal the clockwork gears of the universe. Denk could have taken the variation more slowly and with notes
more detached, as some others have done, but by moving his ideas in streams and using more dry articulation
selectively, he was able to add a layer of meaning - as if emphasizing certain words in a sentence.
The Bach was mesmerizing, but the qualities Denk brought to Schumann were rarer. He changed tone with the mood -
jumpy, lighthearted, glossy-smooth. In one movement, he wondrously evoked a harp; in another he highlighted the idea
that the more you hear Schumann and Schubert, the more you understand Liszt's origins. The conversational "Mit
Gutem Humor," in which male and female voices seem to argue, was admirable for its fully developed character
sketches. But I doubt there's a pianist alive who, in the last dance, "Nicht schnell," could more convincingly make the
case that sweetness and profundity are so closely related.
The New York Times December 3, 2012

As Concertos Fly by, a Rollicking Bach Time Is Had by All

Jeremy Denk and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

Though performing a substantive program of challenging music is hard work, it should also be fun. But should
performers have quite as much fun as the pianist Jeremy Denk and an ensemble of 11 string players from the Chamber
Music Society of Lincoln Center had on Sunday afternoon, when they performed six of Bachs seven keyboard
concertos at Alice Tully Hall?
Absolutely, if doing so makes for such exhilarating results. Looking as if there were nothing he would rather be doing,
Mr. Denk played these concertos, conceived for harpsichord, on the piano, with the lid removed and his back to the
audience so he could lead the ensemble. He swayed along with the swings in the music, his feet almost dancing when
they were not occupied with the pedals, which he used very lightly.
This program, which opened the societys annual Baroque Festival, was Mr. Denks opportunity to put across his
bracing approach to this music, which favored spontaneity, rhythmic lan and bold character over exacting execution.
Yet the performances had the collegiality and ease of great chamber-music playing. Among the artists in the ensemble
were veterans like the cellist Fred Sherry and the violinist Ani Kavafian, joined by rising younger players like the
violinists Adam Barnett-Hart and Sean Lee. Everyone seemed to be having a terrific time.
It is thought that Bach composed his keyboard concertos for entertainments at his home and for concerts of the
Collegium Musicum, an informal organization founded by the young Telemann in Leipzig in 1704. The collegiums
popular performances sometimes spilled over into after-hours sessions at Leipzig coffee houses.
If only Sundays performances could have taken place at the Lincoln Center equivalent of a Leipzig coffee house, say,
the Kaplan Penthouse. Mr. Denks piano sound was sometimes lost in the Tully Hall space.
But articulating passagework with pristine clarity was not his priority. Capturing the character and sweep of the music
was. In these keyboard concertos Bach recycled and adapted movements from existing pieces, including violin
concertos and vocal works.
The Concerto in A was based on a concerto for oboe damore. In the first movement, taken here at a swift tempo, the
right hand goes on a melodic adventure, with lyrical phrases breaking into elaborations that keep you off guard. Often
the winding melodic line stops on some note that at first seems wrong. But in a flash Bach tucks it into a new harmonic
Mr. Denk relished this quality in the music, spinning out lines like a jazz improviser and teasing out the surprises.
Often for example, in the restless first movement of the Concerto in G minor Mr. Denk seemed so swept away
that he rushed the tempo. But his string-playing colleagues just went with the flow, beaming all the way.
The best-known movements from these concertos the nobly lyrical Largo from the Concerto in F minor, the stormy
first movement of the Concerto in D minor emerged with new immediacy in these inspired performances. The
ardent ovation was no surprise.
The New Republic November 15, 2012

Bachs Music, Back Then and Right Now


THE ONLY TWO things missing in Bachs music are randomness and sex. And yet in our eraso consumed with
bothBach has not lost his appeal. Bachs ongoing star quality and his endless DNA-like capacity for mutation and
adaptation are the subject of Paul Elies passionate and grand book. It is a work with a cast of thousands, circling its
protagonist. I got the feeling as I read along that Bach was coursing through history like a fugal superhero. There really
was no end to his capabilities: repairing organs, dispensing epiphanies, keeping pace with technological transformation,
driving Glenn Gould insane, healing wounds of war, being ignored in the D.C. metro, helping Steve Jobs to release the
iPad. Citizens of Gotham, look to your stereos!
At this point nobody needs to be told that Bach is good. The votes are in. But mass approval is a force to be reckoned
with, and the intensity of humanitys worship of Bach has unforeseen consequences. I propose to reverse-engineer the
usual praise. Rather than using our words to measure his goodness, we can use his music as a standard to measure our
ideas of the good, to assess our prejudices about virtue.
An iconic place to start is the almost-too-famous opening of the forty-eight preludes and fugues known as the Well-
Tempered Clavier. (Beethoven called this collection the Bible.) The first prelude is the foundationlet there be
light!and what you see on the page is a set of arpeggios, nothing more. For the premise of a grand project there is no
grandiosity; there are only three austerities. There is no melody; each measure has the same rhythm; each measure has
the same contour. In this monotonous stream of arpeggios, there is no distraction, no surface noise, and so we hear
clearly when two notes come dissonantly close and are resolved, and we take notice when a voice leaps up, climbs, or
descends in a long line: all these motions, the raw materials of musical meaning, are revealed like stage machinery that
suddenly comes out from behind the scenes. The craft of voice-leading itself becomes the focus of attention, and proves
more riveting than the usual show.
One could go on and on with instances in which Bach, through one stratagem or another, draws our ear straight to the
movement of the pitches. This element of Bachs musicthe compositional gesture directing us to just the notes, as
if music were not just notes anywaygets transferred into the world of Bach interpretation, into the mystique of his
devotees. Here is a typical example, from a profile of the fine pianist Angela Hewitt, a Bach specialist, in The New
York Times: ... the greatest compliment for Ms. Hewitt came from her father, who after listening to one of her
recordings, said: I didnt hear you. I only heard Bach. It is a bit strange for an artist to vanish in her own profilebut
this is the clichd credo of Bach performance. You hear it all the time in Bach lessons and master classes: the student is
told not to add anything of himself, to avoid the personal, to stick with the universal, to dissolve into the composer. The
personal is an impurity and Bach is distilled water. Purity arrives very early in Elies book, on page nine: Bach is the
great exception, a site of purity in our sullied lives. And later Elie writes a poetic passage about vanishing: The
organist is done away with. So is the church building. So are the limits of space and time, of stamina and attention. The
music of Bach is all that is left....
This is Bach as David Copperfield, making everything disappear. It is powerful and very prevalent, this desire for
nothing but Bach pure, this trope of the falling away of all the specific trappings, leaving the universal essence behind.
In this respect, we may compare Bach with the other father figure of classical music: Beethoven is great, but he is not
Jeremy Denk
The New Republic November 15, 2012
page 2 of 6

pure. Beethoven reached toward a tortured purity in the late years, and attained a noble perfection in the middle ones
(the Archduke Trio); but he himself never vanishes. His music seems hewn out of his will, an assertion of the
individual and the artist as hero. Bach, by contrast, self-effaces. He is no hero; it is we who have made an unwilling
hero out of him.
ONE GREAT advantage Bach has over Beethoven is counterpoint. Late in life Beethoven obsessed over Bach, working
at counterpoint and fugue feverishlyas if to purify himself, to escape from the heroic sonata forms that he had
brought to their apex. In a song without words by Mendelssohn or a nocturne by Chopin, you usually have the
opposite of counterpoint: a melody over repeated chords or a texture of arpeggiosthat is, filler, something to make
the chords last some time while the melody melodizes. There is a hierarchical distinction between foreground and
background, between the prominent main voice and the backup band. But in true counterpoint no voice is the lapdog
of a melody; each voice lives independently. For us humble listeners, whose lives are filled with filler, this seems like
an unattainable miracle: everything counts.
Bachs insistence on the integrity of every voice (against history, against fashion) is a second form of purity, to set
beside his humility. But he is not done being pure, not by a long shot: more than any other composer, Bach represents
the triumph of pure logic. He is synonymous with the fuguethe music of proposition, propagation, permutation. And
the fugue was hardly the most math-like of his genres. Elie describes the discovery of the puzzle canons, based on the
Goldberg bass, which musicologists scrambled to solve: music as Sudoku. One of Bachs sons related the story that
his father would hear a musical idea and would instantaneously know all the operations that could be carried out on it.
Think about ita musical idea is not a catchy tune, it is something operable; calculations can be performed on it. Like
a musical-mathematical savant, Bach would then wait for these things to occur: for the idea to be played backward
(retrograde), or upside down (inversion), or twice as slow (augmentation), whatever; and he was gleeful when arcane
combinatorial expectations were met. It is a powerful element of the Bach aura: no matter how much you tell yourself
that its just music, you cannot resist hearing the play of numbers, the cosmic calculus.
As a rule we dont want music to act like Spock. We want it to let go, to make us feel, to express inward states. But
Bach is a multi-tasker: his logic is unassailable but is not tedious. His proofs soar. He captures the deepest feeling while
remaining perfectly logical, thereby demonstrating that those imperatives are not at all opposed. On the strength of this
tremendous logic, Nicolas Slonimsky labeled Bach the supreme arbiter and lawgiver of music, which seems like
hyperbole but isnt. Bach is much more than a logicianhe is Moses, minus Charlton Heston, handing down
commandments. Bachs laws similarly tend to come in convenient even-numbered packages: the thirty-two parts of the
Goldbergs, the forty-eight preludes and fugues, the six cello suites, the six keyboard partitas. They lay down
prescriptions about harmony, about the treatment of dissonance, about design and voice-leadingmusical morals that
most people would never understand but can perceive through Bachs vision.
Bachs examples did not intimidate the whole nineteenth century, the way Beethovens did, but they were never
questioned. We tend to glorify composers who break or stretch the laws: Beethoven, Chopin, Wagner, Stravinsky,
Debussy. Bach is the exception, a composer whom we love for his rules. And having created them, he sets up shop in
them, and takes inspiration from their self-evident goodness. The commandments generate freedom. Owing to this
lawfulness, Bachs choices come to feel permanent, and immune from passing style and taste; they give the illusion of
being facts. All other composers seem to be writing novels, but Bach writes non-fiction.
BACH HAS QUITE a hoard of virtues. The rectitude is almost annoying: selflessness married to reason married to
imagination married to lawfulness married to craft. Bach is a mirror to everything we would like to be; he is almost too
good to be true, to be believed. But we believe in Bach on the evidence of the notes themselves. Having invoked fact,
law, and logic, I think the larger and more precise term, the umbrella term, to sum up Bachs mystique is truth. There is
a lot of talk of truth and truthiness these daysthe death of truth, a post-truth era, and a proliferation of fact checkers
debasing the currency in which they pretend to trade. But in Bachs case we are talking about a certain kind of truth, a
necessary truth, even a divine truth, something unarguable. Bach allows us to deny our suspicion that music may be a
Jeremy Denk
The New Republic November 15, 2012
page 3 of 6

tissue of lies, a sensory decadence. You cannot wander far into Bach discussion without the invocation of the divine,
even in connection with his secular works: cue Beethovens Well-Tempered Bible, Lipattis remark that Bach was
one of the chosen instruments of God himself, and Goethes observation that it is as if the eternal harmony were
communing with itself, as might have happened in Gods bosom shortly before the creation of the world. Combine the
feeling of divinity with the experience of Bachs logic and system and you have an intoxicating combination, as if the
Bible made perfect sense.
Closely following upon the invocation of God is the invocation of virtue: Bach is musics claim to morality. Perhaps
this last step is the most dangerous. It is a lot for music to bear, this conflation with truth, not to mention virtue.
Arguments about Bach become proxy arguments about purity and authenticity. For some reason, people love to tell the
story of Wanda Landowska saying to Pablo Casals, You play Bach your way, and Ill play him his way. A
memorable boast (and insult), but underneath it you can feel Bachs truth getting carved up, subjected to territorial
disputes. The certitude of Bachs command of tones seems, like a virus, to infect some artists who play him.
Consider Glenn Goulds admiring reaction, when he heard Rosalyn Tureck:
It was playing of such uprightness, to put it into the moral sphere. There was such a sense of repose that had nothing to
do with languor, but rather with moral rectitude in the liturgical sense.
This seems to me a bit of a word saladwhat is the liturgical sense of rectitude?but the gist is clear: Bach is to be
played uprightly, ethically, correctly. And then read Rosalyn Tureck in turn: Bach is more than music. It reveals to us,
who will listen and perceive, the world to which the highest ideals of man aspire. Even casting aside the slightly
possessive and cultish us, think about it: Tureck is not making interpretative choices about the relations of musical
tones, she is making choices about the highest ideals of man. Returning to Angela Hewitts Times profile, she says at
one point that in Bach theres no room for fuss or superfluous gestures and at another that her gowns reflect my
playing: not too frilly. Its not hard to read these code words: languor v. rectitude, frilly, fuss, and so on. Out of Bachs
universal appeal, by some compensatory law, there arise insidious tendencies to moralism, severity, even Puritanical
ELIES BOOK is a weave of stories, emulating the play of voices in Bachs music, and he is not shy about the moral
strand: he makes connections between a devotion to Bach and a devotion to causes. The first story we encounter is
Albert Schweitzer, aged and at a quandary, recording the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor in London in 1935:
Thirty years earlier he had renounced a life in music for one in medicine, training to run a clinic for poor people at the
village of Lambarn in the French Congo.... He had wanted to do something small in the spirit of Jesusto make
his life an argument for a way of being.... But his act of renunciation had turned into something else: a double life....
Might it not have been better to do something small the way Bach had done, hunkering down behind the organ in
Leipzig ...?
Right away Elie hits us with music as a moral choice. He reminds us of Schweitzers reputation, and of its decline.
Once dubbed the greatest man in the world by Life, he now appears a problematic, compromised figure: his project
paternalistic, his methods condescending.... But, Elie suggests, the recording will endure, if all his good deeds will
not: ten minutes of great playing outweigh a lifetime of virtue. Eventually Schweitzers story comes into contact with
that of a successor, Pablo Casals:
His experience of war would shape the efforts of his later life into an extramusical role: the artist of conscience, who
gives voice to human ideals in the face of diabolical powers.... [He] was now known for statements, not concerts....
[He] was the very image of moral independenceof the freedom of the individual to judge right from wrong and act
I kept wishing that Elie would dig more deeply into the oddness of the odd couple he has brought together: the divinity
of Bach and all his moral associations, and the super-secular microphone, an amoral, utterly neutral agent if ever there
Jeremy Denk
The New Republic November 15, 2012
page 4 of 6

was one. Just as the art of recording begins to mature, and the story begins to get a bit decadent, leaving Africa
(Schweitzer) and war-torn Europe (Casals) for film studios in Hollywood and Santa Barbara (Stokowski), we come
across the most peculiar and famous of our heroes, an anti-divinity in his own right. I am referring, of course, to Glenn
Gould. He arrives armed and dangerous, a crusader, in the wake of hearing Tureck:
I was fighting a battle in which I was never going to get a surrender flag from my teacher on the way Bach should go,
but her records were the first evidence that one did not fight alone.
From this point on, a huge portion of the book is about Gould, which is, alas, inevitable. Figures such as Yo-Yo Ma and
Daniel Barenboim are relegated to cameos. Goulds story is certainly powerful, and he deserves to be the hero of this
tale: he re-invented Bach more radically than anyone else, with a tremendous impact on the worlds understanding of
one of the worlds most over-understood composers. But it is really shocking to look back at all the Bachian virtues
that we have enumerated, and then contemplate the Gould phenomenon. Against humility, logic, and reason, against
Bachs continuity, his bounded comforting cosmos, we have the fanatically crisp articulation, the humming, the pills,
the social ineptitude, the extreme tempi, the ridiculous chair, the retreat into the studio, the media savvy, the anti-
lyricism, the recordings made out of spite, the hands soaked in boiling waterthis is the madman who became the face
of Bach, the paragon of universal Bach. How could this happen? (As I get outraged about Glenn Gould, I realize that I,
too, am falling into the moralistic trap.)
The easy answer to my question, of course, is Goulds electrifying genius. But there is a second factor in Goulds rise
to domination in the interpretation of Bach: a backlash against an image. After Schweitzer, Casals, Landowska, and all
their ethical seriousness, all their purity and their conscience, the thing that Bach lacked in the public imagination was
the bizarre and the perverse. Gould filled the hole. Sometimes he found perversity in the music and teased it out, but
mostly he just slathered it on; piece after piece, he made brilliant but deeply unintuitive, unnatural choices, and made
them work through sheer force of will, refusing to vanish. He de-coupled logic and virtue.
So we want Bachs music to be universal, transpersonal, a conduit to the divine, but we also want bizarre insane
celebrities to play it. Perhaps we have decided as a civilization that truth is more maniacal, more partial, than it used to
be? Elie claims that Gould, in recording the Goldberg Variations, transcended himself: his isolation and awkwardness,
his phobias and idiosyncrasies. I would argue the opposite: that Gould immortalized his phobias, by grafting them
onto Bach. This is not all bad. Goulds phobias and manias immediately erase the distance of centuries; they dissolve
the varnish that has piled up, and make Bach one with the anxieties of the present.
Elies book, almost by accident, makes you compare the save-the-world mentality of Schweitzer and Casals with the
avoid-the-world mentality of Gould; and gradually the artists seem less like saints than musicians with press releases.
As you read about all these icons of Bach performance, you are reminded of Bachs propensity toward high priests and
priestesses. Beethoven specialists are known as great musicians, great interpreters, whereas Bach specialists tend to be
viewed vatically, as mediums. I found myself connecting Casalss moaning and Goulds hummingfor a composer
who is supposed to be pure, we sure enjoy a lot of extraneous noise!the musical equivalent of speaking in tongues,
channeling, a kind of cultish signal, a sonic signature of being on the right occult frequency to communicate with the
THIS IS a big book, and as someone who struggles with the difficulty of writing about music, this reader felt a lot of
empathy for the writer: how do you write about Bach for hundreds of pages without musical examples? You run across
a fair number of passages such as this:
With those first long strokes of the bow, a line is being drawn, a series of ultimatums issued.... He might be singing a
dirge on the battleground as the smoke clears; the music stays in place as he surveys the damagethe collapsed towers,
the skeletal buildings ...
and this:
Jeremy Denk
The New Republic November 15, 2012
page 5 of 6

[In] this Bach suite he slips in quietly, almost accidentally, pulling the first note out of nowhere with the bow, so that
the note, a low G, goes from soft to loud from the beginning of the stroke to the end. It is a sexual entry, a lovers deft
approach. All of a sudden we are in ...
Yes, he is describing a particular performance, not Bachs music itself, but still these passages feel like erotica written
by someone whose fetishes are different from mine. I found myself in a zone too far away, reading someones ideas
about someone elses ideas about Bachs ideas, and so I sat at the piano to play, with the dubious motive of purifying
myself. I started in on the opening movement of the F Minor Violin and Keyboard Sonata, BWV 1018, because it has
an extraordinary snuck-in entrance, like the one Elie describes, and it is a perfect example of Bachs way with truth,
logic, and musical metaphor.
The piece begins with a keyboard solo. The violin is nowhere to be found, silent for a good while: this silence is a
mystery to be solved. We are in a slow triple time, and the main idea of the piece is exactly three beats long. Each time
that we hear the melody, another bar has gone by, another unit of time, another moment of our lives. The keyboard
plays the main idea once in the top voice, then travels lower into the middle voiceit is measuring out two units of
time, pacing them out. At the same time, however, the harmony is static; we are treading water. (Music is especially
hospitable to nuances and paradoxes of motion and stillness.) Then comes the crucial change-up: three bars where the
harmony is allowed to move. This happens becauseeverything in Bach happens because!the melodic idea
continues its journey downward, and ends up in the lowest voice. Its as if something from the sky moves underground,
and shifts the foundation under your feet. Bach is all about the beauties of consequences.
Now that the melody has moved down to the bass, there is room for something new in the upper voices. But Bach
doesnt have to invent something: why would he? He fills it with the most obvious thing at hand: he extracts the first
two notes of the existing melody, elongates them, enchains them. He fashions a gorgeous long melody line out of them
so that they interact dissonantlyeven a bit painfully, you might saywith the faster melody in the bass. Bach
demonstrates a thing interacting painfully with itself.
Its as simple as A and B: two bars of consonant stasis, then three bars of dissonant flux, in which the possibilities of
the idea presented in stasis are now seen in motion. This is the kind of basic contrast, a glimpse of two kinds of musical
possibility, two temporal states, that Bach is able to wring our hearts with. In fact, at the end of the three moving bars
the keyboard reaches the most pained and disturbing of the dissonances. And here comes the magical elided solution to
the mystery of the silence of the violin: Bach leaves this last dissonance unresolved, and just at that ambiguous
momentat the end of an unsettling motion that has not quite found a resting placethe violin at last enters, playing
an unmoving held note, C. Though not a resolution, this note appears in the guise of one. It doesnt resolve the
unresolved thing; it substitutes a different solution out of nowhere.
Surreptitious, lacking in fanfare, deliberately hidden, the violin holds onto this single note for two measures, like an
unblinking gaze. The sustained note has no relation to time, while the keyboard, on which every note decays, keeps
marking time, seemingly unaffected. After two bars of this haunting dialectic, the violin leaves the held note to play
one unremarkable measure of melody, then immediately, just as unexpectedly as it entered, returns to its earlier silence.
This is Bachs perverse, reverse masterstroke. The stage was beautifully set for nearly nothing. We are left listening to
the keyboard again; time resumes. It was an ephemeral moment of eternity.
I hope it is clear from the preceding analysis how each boringly described parametertwo bars of this, then three bars
of that, dissonance, enchainingsummons tremendous resonances: a resolution that comes from an utterly unexpected
direction; a tension between different senses of time; the power of expectation; the linking of beauty and dissonance, of
beauty and pain. The instruments themselves are imbued with symbolic identities, on two sides of a thought-divide. All
these things are activated immediately, in a way that Mozart and Haydn can hardly dream of. Eight bars into the
Jupiter Symphony, for example, Mozart has barely been able to sketch out a premise, whereas some eight bars into
this humble violin and keyboard sonata Bach has already created a complex philosophical web. This difference is owed
Jeremy Denk
The New Republic November 15, 2012
page 6 of 6

in part to the conventions of the classical style, of course, but also it has something to do with Bachs specialness.
Bachs purity lies in this promiscuous symbolic reach, grabbing onto a million philosophical ladders at once.
ESSAYS IN TRUTH: in pieces such as BWV 1018, arching forms, in which the last perfect logical permutation clicks
into place heartrendingly (one last contribution of the violin, a new counterpoint to the keyboards dissonant sequence),
Bach draws a distinction between truth as compressed into aphorism (the truism, the talking point, the slogan) and truth
as a practice. The sort of musical truths that Bach sketches outunrepeatable, as no other composer ever came close to
replicating these foundational experimentsare the opposite of the inspirational pronouncement. Unfolded over time,
in an uncanny mix of narrative and repose, they are not intended to dazzle. They are intended to be lived in; they are
well-made like a blade or a bell that rings true.
The conversion of this sort of Bachian verity into a slogan, a flag, or a school is unavoidable but unfortunate. Bach has
been used as a weapon with which to attack the Romantic, whatever that word means: the pedal is an evil, rubato is
indulgent, the piano is a monstrous anachronism, and so on. We use him as a litmus test, a way to define genuine or
truthful expression. Elies epic makes some reference to a big battle of Bach performance practice enacted over the
course of the twentieth century: a move from slow to fast. I have absorbed both ends of this partisan spectrum, from the
wonderful gray-haired Blanche Moyse at Marlboro being helped up to the podium to conduct impressively slow
cantatas, with the young singers gasping for air, to frenetic accounts of the Brandenburgs from young German bands
that made me think of whizzing coffee grinders. Truth used to be something ponderous, stately, considered; now truth
is play, lightness, abandon. Truth, too, is subject to fashionwhich is not the same thing as Bachs vision of truth over
I have to confess, this travel back and forth, from truth to slogan to doubt to reconsidered truth, is more interesting to
me than Bachs travel across technologies, and the profusion of Bach recordings. Elie places a lot of faith in recordings,
and writes wonderfully about their power and their atmosphere. He suggests at one point that those who resist these
new technological manifestations are attached to the past, or more precisely, to the pastness of the past. I disagree.
Recordings are certainly here to stay; they are a resource, a vast library of musical thought. If I have qualms about
them, it is not because I am a Luddite, but because I am attached to a ridiculously superior technology: the musical
score, with all its openness, its perpetual present, its implied possibility.
A score has nothing to do with paper, or e-ink; it can appear on an iPad or on parchment. A score is at once a book and
a book waiting to be written. Perhaps a golden age of music was born with the score and died with the recording. If you
are listening to a recording, you are hearing someones truth about Bachs truth, their idea of Bachs truth. The
wonderment is that you may hear truths you never suspected, possibilities you never dreamedbut still you are buying
another persons truth. So I say, in all seriousness, if you dont play an instrument, take one up; take lessons; make the
time. After a while, set some Bach on the music stand and play it yourself. Look at the notes on the page, envision the
relationships between them. Dont just press play. Dont be afraid; we all live too much in fear and awe of the perfectly
edited recordings around us. No matter how halting, how un-transcendent, your technique is, I promise that it may be
the best Bach you will ever hear.
Chicago Tribune June 4, 2012

With multiple chamber partners, pianist Jeremy Denk proves his


So omnivorous is Jeremy Denk's musical appetite, that one can easily imagine how confined this searching American
pianist must sometimes feel when forced to box his wide-ranging sympathies within the narrow bounds of a
conventional piano recital.
Fortunately his colleague Emanuel Ax, as curator of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's "Keys to the City," was all too
happy to indulge Denk's musical wanderlust as part of the piano festival now in progress. The result, heard Sunday at
Orchestra Hall, was "The Collaborative Pianist," a program of piano chamber music in which Denk partnered with
three close musical friends: violinist Stefan Jackiw, CSO cellist Katinka Kleijn and tenor Nicholas Phan.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the concert was how smoothly all the working parts came together. There was
none of the grinding of interpretive gears that can occur when ad hoc ensembles present one-of concerts of this sort.
Denk proved himself a superbly adaptable chamber musician, clearly enjoying his role as primus inter pares a vital
and engaged collaborator who struck sparks off his partners, and they off him.
I missed the Ligeti etudes he offered as part of the previous Sunday's Chicago Piano Day, but his new Nonesuch
recording of these fascinatingly gnarly pieces (coupled with Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 32) made me eager to hear
what he and Jackiw would do with Stravinsky's "Duo Concertant."
Rather than attempt to reconcile the very different natures of the violin and piano, Stravinsky emphasizes their
differences, in his own quirky, neo-classical manner. Both Jackiw and Denk understood this, like skilled orators
arguing their disparate points of view from opposite corners before eventually meeting in the middle. The music's
rhythmic dislocations, perpetual-motion bustle and Apollonian lyricism felt all of a piece.
Robert Schumann's song cycle, "Dichterliebe" ("Poet's Love"), settings of 16 poems by Heinrich Heine, was, of course,
a specialty of the late, lamented German baritoneDietrich Fischer-Dieskau. But the songs can be just as effective when
sung by a tenor, as they were on this occasion, with great depth of feeling, by the compelling Nicholas Phan.
Phan's instrument has sweetness and presence, and, accomplished lieder singer that he is, he varied its coloration to suit
the interior life of Heine's words and Schumann's music. The American tenor is such a probing interpreter that the full
range of emotions from delight to surprise to disillusion to bitterness was conveyed, turning each lied into a
miniature drama. Far more than an accompanist, Denk was similarly alive to musical and poetic nuance; and no singer
could have asked for a more sensitive or evocative handling of the piano postludes.
Following intermission came Dvorak's beautiful and too-seldom-heard Piano Trio in F minor, Opus 65.
The dark, turbulent passions that sweep through its four movements represent a tug-of-war between the composer's
debt to his champion, Johannes Brahms, and his equally powerful debt to the spirit of Czech nationalism. The latter
eventually wins out, but for most of the duration it's a draw.
Occasionally I wished Jackiw could have modulated his bright sound a bit more to match the burnished warmth of
Kleijn's cello, but the close matching of phrases between the two string players and the pianist was so spontaneously
Jeremy Denk
Chicago Tribune June 4, 2012
page 2 of 2

achieved as to silence any objections. All three artists excelled at rhythmically alert give and take, making every
moment register strongly while never losing sight of the big picture. Denk's clear, sunny keyboard textures could hardly
have been better balanced against the larger ensemble.
A lengthy ovation greeted the performers at the end of the afternoon, but no encores were proffered. Jackiw will,
however, return later in the week as one of the soloists in CSO subscription series performances of the Beethoven
"Triple" Concerto, under Trevor Pinnock's direction.
NPR May 23, 2012

Jeremy Denk: Playing Ligeti With A Dash Of Humor

Not many classical pianists maintain blogs where they ruminate on everything from eating a terrible bowl of meatballs
while on tour with Joshua Bell to seeing Twilight: New Moon (twice) and hearing strains of a Schubert song.
But then, not many classical pianists are Jeremy Denk. The 42-year-old concert pianist's playful side is apparent on his
blog Think Denk, as well as in his music, which until recently consisted mainly of solo recordings for smaller labels.
(His album Jeremy Denk Plays Ives, released on his own label, made many critics' Best of the Year lists in 2010.)
Denk's latest album, Ligeti/Beethoven, was recently released on the more mainstream Nonesuch Records label. The
masterful performance features selections from Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 32, along with Gyorgy Ligeti's etudes,
for solo piano.
Ligeti's pieces, including Desordre and Automne a Varsovie, are notoriously difficult, Denk tells Fresh Air's Terry
"The main thing Ligeti is doing is throwing in different chromatic lines all the time in different voices and then,
towards the end, amassing a tremendous amount of sound and making you pound out one more devastating chord after
another," Denk says. "Especially after the four minutes of the etude as a whole, you're pretty wiped out mentally, and
then you have to create this visceral, destructive force."
Ligeti, a Hungarian composer, is perhaps best known today for his music from Stanley Kubrick's films 2001: A Space
Odyssey, The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut. Ligeti's etudes, Denk says, are like explorations of entirely new frontiers
on the keyboard.
"Ligeti took the piano to places it had never been before, and makes demands of the pianist and the mind that had never
been made before," he says. "But all of it is derived from ideas from earlier piano etudes and his love of the great piano
On Automne a Varsovie, for example, Ligeti instructs the pianist to play a note with eight fortes. (Normal piano pieces
have at most, maybe three.) Denk recently wrote on his blog:
How to interpret eight fortes? I think maybe I should hurl my whole body at the piano as violently as possible and hope
for the best. They would find my bloody corpse weeks later amid the moldy coffee cups, odiferous testament to my
devotion to the composer's intent. How would eight be different from seven? Both must be so searingly loud as to be
painful, a distinction between degrees of agony: if seven fortes is like being disemboweled by a wolf, then eight is like
being disemboweled by a bear.
In addition to dynamics, Ligeti also played with math. His music, Denk says, is filled with infinite mathematical
complexities translated into music.
"There are things that begin simply and then with one small branching or one instability, suddenly becomes incredibly
complex and wild," he says.
Learning to play the etudes isn't the easiest endeavor. Denk spent four weeks sitting at his piano for seven hours a day,
drinking pots of coffee and playing the etudes.
Jeremy Denk
NPR May 23, 2012
page 2 of 2

"I did nothing else," he says. "The amount of fingering, the amount of mental focus Ligeti's deliberately written
things that are going to screw with your mind in one way or another. And you have to develop new mental muscles,
because he's really fascinated with simultaneous different rhythmic groupings going on, so in a way, you have to divide
your body and mind into two parts."
Denk's album is also split in two. He moves swiftly between the descending chromatic madness of Ligeti and
Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 32, the last piano sonata Beethoven wrote.
"The last Beethoven sonata seems to me [to be] one of the most profound musical journeys to infinity ever made," he
says. "The whole piece seems to want to bring us from a present moment into this timeless space where everything is
continuous and endless."
Interview Highlights
On Automne a Varsovie
"The idea of the piece is something [Gyorgy] Ligeti was obsessed with late in his life was this lamenting, descending
chromatic idea. Descending chromatic lines like that have been used in music for centuries to designate sadness. And
there's this way in which this idea becomes so obsessive and destructive and takes over and transforms from something
beautiful into something sort of horrible and all-consuming."
On the scores
"The scores, at least some of them, tend to look like undifferentiated streams of data. Like you'd imagine a
programming code might look. And it takes a little bit of practice to pick out the important ones. It's like reading a
matrix or something. You have to know what he's after. Once you discover the principle behind the etude, the score
will look a little more common-sensical, but it takes a little while."
On Ligeti
"He's written music at the edge of the human possibility for performing it. That is, so fast and complex as to be almost
impossible to keep track of; dynamics that are incredibly extremely, incredible nuances of voicing bringing out six
different voices at one time, all in descending chromatic tones."
Washington Post May 20, 2012

Pianist Jeremy Denk, a classicist for the 21st century, at Sixth and I

Theres a whole dance of vulnerability and restraint that goes on when a concert performer walks out in front of an
audience: the formal attire and hush of the hall on the one hand, the emotional revelations of performance on the other.
Audiences are generally hungry for as much of the revelation part as they can get and are thus eager to look behind the
scenes; today, blogs, Twitter and other social media are helping lift the curtain more and more, and making such access
a part of the performers job.
Jeremy Denk, the pianist whom Washington Performing Arts Society presented at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue
on Saturday night, is a quintessential 21st-century performer; his blog, Think Denk, has played a significant role in his
career rise and helped get him published in places such as the New Yorker, where he wrote a typically revealing and
insightful piece this year about what it was like to record Charles Ivess Concord Sonata. Anyone who has read his
blog knows his stories of nervousness, of the vagaries of audience members and presenters, the work and thought that
go into preparing a piece and the annoyance when people fail to listen as carefully as youve worked to play it. This is
all great, but it also starts to inform the performance to such a degree that the recital is almost a kind of performance
art, intensely personal and all about you, all the time.
To be clear, Denk would take a personal approach to performing regardless of whether he blogged. He appears to be a
pianist who puts a personal stamp on everything, as well as one who rises to big challenges; hes at his best when hes
fully engaged, intellectually and emotionally, often in big marathon pieces such as the Concord Sonata or
Beethovens Hammerklavier. But there becomes something slightly facile about the personal touch: Its become
expected of him that he will offer something intimate, give off-the-cuff remarks about the music, change his program
around (something he said to Saturdays audience that hed read about himself on the Internet, before announcing,
predictably, that he was doing it).
Saturdays charming, easy performance started slowly, with a not-quite-gelled reading of Mozarts K. 457 sonata, and
quickly peaked with Book I of Ligetis Etudes for Piano, which happen to be featured on his new recording, his first for
the label Nonesuch. Denk has a way of explicating complicated music by playing it so that it seems self-evident and
absolutely graspable a considerable gift. In his hands, these etudes became lovely pieces, intensity alternating with
languid grace (like the fifths of the second etude, gently swaying like underwater plants). The third etude, he explained
in mercifully un-didactic comments to the audience, was supposed to represent the worst kind of technical exercise you
can imagine, with deliberately out-of-tune octaves; when he played it, he managed to bring out its deliberate clumsiness
while making it sound graceful at the same time.
He also presented an unusual programming conceit breaking up the etudes by playing Liszts prelude on Bachs
Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen between the fifth and sixth ones without making a big deal of it. The Liszt, he
pointed out, focuses on a descending chromatic scale, just like the sixth etude. He adjusted his performance so that the
interpolation made dramatic sense. The Liszt seemed to follow naturally from the dreamy fifth etude and built to an
emotional peak to pave the way for the sixth, which now seemed like a coda, a weird glance into the future, Liszts idea
suddenly seen through 20th-century glasses. But Denk also left room for it to serve as a true climax. It was a rhetorical
Jeremy Denk
Washington Post May 20, 2012
page 2 of 2

conceit rather than a definitive one: That is, you wouldnt want to hear the pieces played like this every time, but it
made for an interesting reading here, and Denk seemed to know the difference.
The programs second half was changed to reflect, as Denk said, heaven and hell, a trite conceit that fortunately
didnt indicate as melodramatic a performance as one might have expected. In lieu of Brahmss six Op. 118 piano
pieces, Denk subbed in another major work from his new recording: Beethovens final sonata, Op. 111, which followed
another Liszt piece, Apres une lecture du Dante, fantasia quasi sonata. The drama of the Liszt piece was followed by
the redemptive tones of the Beethoven, but Denk played it, notably and refreshingly, without exaggerated pathos; even
the boogie-woogie passage of Op. 111, which pianists often give a funky twist in performance (and which, after all,
echoed the jazz overtones in a couple of the Ligeti etudes) was straightforward and down-to-earth. It was a healthy
reading, moving and sensitive without becoming precious. The risk of a personal approach is that you can end up
dissolving in sentiment. Denk is too good a pianist, and artist, to fall into the trap.
The Independent May 12, 2012

Album: Jeremy DenkLigeti/Beethoven (Nonesuch)


4 out of 5 stars
Ligeti's Piano tudes are famously quixotic in pushing the player beyond their usual limits. In "Dsordre", for
instance, the right hand is restricted to just white keys, and the left to just black: taken at pell-mell pace, the frantic rush
of notes is akin to a Nancarrow player-piano study. But amongst the more extreme strategies are moments of great
beauty, as in the Satie-esque progression of "Corde vide" and "Arc-en-ciel", notable here for the way Jeremy Denk
continues playing virtually beyond the point of audibility. He's ingeniously programmed amidst Ligeti's tudes a
reading of Beethoven's final Piano Sonata, in which order and chaos are as precipitously balanced as in Ligeti.
The Guardian May 12, 2012

Ligeti/Beethoven: Piano tudes; Sonata No 32 review


Jeremy Denk
In his label debut recital, the American pianist Jeremy Denk a regular duo partner of violinist Joshua Bell displays
his talent for finding connections between apparent opposites. The result is dazzling. Here Ligeti's Piano tudes, Books
One and Two, short and glittering pieces of immense pianistic variety, are separated by Beethoven's Sonata No 32 in C
Minor Op 111, characterised by what Denk calls "anachronistic boogie-woogie". The Ligeti is crisp, nuanced and
technically flawless, the Beethoven beautifully shaped and flexible. As Denk writes in the CD notes, he is fascinated by
"Beethoven's vast timeless canvas and Ligeti's bite-sized bits of infinity". That fascination is illuminated in every bar he
NPR May 6, 2012

First Listen: Jeremy Denk, 'Ligeti/Beethoven'


By this point, it's probably no secret that Jeremy Denk is a favorite around these parts, both as a brilliant pianist and as
a gifted and funny essayist. He's recently written for The New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review, as well
as for our classical blog, Deceptive Cadence, and his own delightfully demented and erudite blog.
So our hearts collectively leaped at the news that, after superlative solo recordings for small labels (including his own),
Denk would begin making albums with the Nonesuch label and that his first such outing would capture some
signature repertoire: selections from Gyrgy Ligeti's impossibly labyrinthine two books of tudes, or studies, for solo
piano, paired with Beethoven's sublime Piano Sonata No. 32.
There's no gentle warmup or sonic balm here for the listener to settle into as an introduction: As soon as
Ligety/Beethoven begins, you plummet headlong into the Ligeti tude called "Desordre" ("Disorder"). In each tude,
Ligeti hurls you into a tiny new universe, each impossibly deep, dense, mysterious and utterly self-contained. Ligeti
spins ideas to their absolute logical extremes, marching each from its first kernel of existence into splendid and nearly
giddy chaos.
What's more, these Ligeti pieces stand as some of the most technically demanding piano music ever written: Each hand
is written in different key signatures, for example, or at odds with each other mathematically. Or, as Denk himself has
written of the tude from Book Two titled "L'Escalier Du Diable" ("The Devil's Staircase") and its infamous dynamic
marking of ffffffff:
"In case you don't know, three Fs is the loudest dynamic you would 'normally' come across. Ligeti writes eight, which
translates to a wonderfully silly Italian sussuration: Fortissississississississimo... How to interpret eight fortes? I think
maybe I should hurl my whole body at the piano as violently as possible and hope for the best... How would eight be
different from seven? Both must be so searingly loud as to be painful, a distinction between degrees of agony: If seven
fortes is like being disemboweled by a wolf, then eight is like being disemboweled by a bear."
Denk moves swiftly between musical universes by nestling the Beethoven between Ligeti selections, and the effect is
provocative, even unsettling. And yet, in the Denkian universe in which this album lives, it makes perfect sense. In the
Piano Sonata No. 32 the last piano sonata the composer wrote Beethoven is enraptured by infinity, too, though in
an entirely different fashion than Ligeti. Rather than coiling up in more and more twists, as Ligeti does, Beethoven
carries his conception of the ineffable aloft in sublime ecstasies of sound before letting the piece drift off into silence.
Denk's Beethoven also presents further evidence to those who know his work as violinist Joshua Bell's longtime
chamber-music collaborator: He is simply great at the long, singing line.
In order to pull all this off, the artist must have staggeringly good chops which Denk does, in spades. (Of late, Denk
has toured a program of the Ligeti tudes paired with Bach's complete Goldberg Variations, which is a little like
running two marathons back-to-back and winning records in each, with hundreds of people paying rapt attention to
each footstep and then doing that again and again, night after night.) Throughout Ligeti/Beethoven, Denk plays
masterfully, opening up each puzzle box in turn with vitality, wit and absolute assurance. He cares deeply and
passionately about these pieces, however impenetrable they may seem at first listen and, through him, so do we.
21C Media Group March 29, 2012

Jeremy Denk Makes Nonesuch Label Debut with Ligeti / Beethoven

Album on May 15
Highlighting Busy Spring for Acclaimed Pianist / Writer / Blogger
So many recitalists these days mix old and modern music, but few have Denks gift for stacking both halves of the
deck with works of such iconic grandeur, and then pulling off the mammoth recital as if its all in a days work.
Boston Globe
On May 15, Jeremy Denk makes his Nonesuch label debut with Ligeti/Beethoven, a solo recording featuring selections
from the first and second books of Ligetis Piano tudes, plus Beethovens Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111. Denk
played the Ligeti works in a series of recitals last year to stunning effect, with the New York Times reporting that the
performances left audiences grasping for superlatives at intermission. The sets of etudes, six from Book 1 and seven
from Book 2, bookend Denks recording of Beethovens final piano sonata. Denks performance of Beethovens Opus
111 at the 2010 Mostly Mozart Festival brought this enthusiastic response from the Times: This account, alive to
every suggestion and nuance in the score, was an absolute joy to witness. Mr. Denk, clearly, is a pianist you want to
hear no matter what he performs, in whatever combinationboth for his penetrating intellectual engagement with the
music and for the generosity of his playing. Ligeti/Beethoven is available for preorder at
About recording his new CD for the prestigious label, Denk remarked: So many of my favorite artists have been
affiliated with Nonesuch; it is a slightly out-of-body thrill to release an album for them. It goes without saying Im
nuts about the labels aesthetic, the creativity, the unusual mixture of styles and disciplines And so we came up with
the unusual combination of Ligeti and Beethoven music that I love, wild music of great integrity. Im honored to
add it to their incredible catalogue.
In his liner notes for the Ligeti/Beethoven album, Denk explains further his reasons for recording these works together:
One curious connectionis the way both Ligeti and Beethoven relate themselves to jazz (and to syncopation,
rhythmic dislocation generally). Many people get disturbed, or confused, by Beethovens anachronistic boogie-woogie;
but I cant help thinking that however unlikely, this is an outgrowth, too, of ecstasies latent in the holy theme. There is
a sense of ecstasy, too, in the discombobulations of Ligeti
But the most significant connection for me is between Beethovens vast timeless canvas and Ligetis bite-sized bits of
infinity. Almost every tude visits the infinite; Ligeti uses it almost as a kind of cadence, a reference point. From
simplicity, he ranges into unimaginable complexity; he wanders to the quietest and loudest extremes; he veers off the
top and bottom of the keyboard. Always the infinite is lurking around, reminding you that its not impossible, that it
exists. I think of the way, among other things, Beethoven drifts off at the end of the Arietta, the way he indicates ending
without ending, implies an infinite space of silence surrounding the work.
Other spring and summer highlights
Denk will play Ligeti tudes on the first of two programs in St. Paul (April 1922) before heading to Europe for a
recital tour with Joshua Bell. Denks recent album with Bell, French Impressions, was widely acclaimed and topped the
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group March 29, 2012
page 2 of 2

Billboard classical chart. Later this spring, Denk gives a solo recital in Washington, DC (May 19) and presents The
Collaborative Pianist in Chicago (June 3). Presented by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the wide-ranging program
features Denk paired with tenor Nicholas Phan in Schumanns song cycle Dichterliebe, Op. 48, and the Joffrey Ballet
dancing George Balanchines choreography for Stravinskys Duo Concertantewith violinist Stefan Jackiwas well a
performance of Dvorks Piano Trio in F minor with cellist Katinka Kleijn. Denk returns to the San Francisco
Symphony for a second time this season for Liszts Piano Concerto No. 1, led by Michael Tilson Thomas (June 2123);
he performs with members of the orchestra in New York at Carnegies Zankel Hall on March 30 as part of the San
Francisco Symphonys American Mavericks US tour.
In recent months, Denks prodigious achievements as a pianist, writer and blogger have come with dizzying speed. In
February, the New Yorker published his Flight of the Concord essay chronicling his experience recording the music
of Charles Ives. That album, released on his own label Think Denk Media, made many Best of 2010 lists, including
those of the New York Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, and New York magazine. This month he has been a
fixture on NPR, providing lively written and spoken commentary on NPR Musics Deceptive Cadence blog during its
Goldberg Week. In New York this week (March 2630), Denk is pianist-in-residence on Q2 Musics Hammered! radio
show, where he offers listeners insight into his distinctive take on experimental, cutting-edge works for piano.
(Hammered! airs weekdays at 11am and repeats each evening at 11pm on WQXRs Q2 Music.)
Along the way, Denk continues to share his trademark wit, self-deprecating humor and penetrating intellect with posts
at his widely read blog, Think Denk. New Yorker critic Alex Ross has called Denk one of the most interesting writers
I know.
A list of Denks upcoming engagements follows, and additional information is available at his website,
The New York Times February 20, 2012

Typical Program, Atypical Approaches


The Orchestra of St. Lukes at Carnegie Hall

On the surface, there seems nothing unusual about a program opening with a Haydn symphony and Beethovens oft-
played Piano Concerto No. 1. But with the conductor Roger Norrington in charge, there were plenty of unconventional
touches during the Orchestra of St. Lukes concert on Thursday evening at Carnegie Hall.
For Mr. Norrington, who has a long relationship with this excellent ensemble (he served as its music director from
1990 to 1994), vibrato is the trans fat of music: an unhealthy ingredient to be eliminated. Its an aesthetic that has
ruffled feathers over the years, particularly when applied to works outside the Classical and Baroque canon, like those
of Elgar.
But while vibrato-free Romantic works can sound bizarre, especially on first hearing, Mr. Norringtons pure-tone
approach rendered the outer movements of Haydns Symphony No. 39 in G minor fleet and buoyant. Haydn often used
silence as a musical device to heighten suspense and humor, as in the opening Allegro assai of this work, his earliest
minor-key symphony and one of many works he wrote at the Esterhazy court. Mr. Norrington elicited vividly etched
phrasing in the first movement and a bright, clean sound throughout. The strings played the racing scales in the finale
with nimble flair.
But even genius composers produce some uninspired music, like this symphonys dutiful Andante and Menuet, which
sounded rather severe. The brasses and winds stood while performing, here and in the Beethoven concerto, which came
Mr. Norrington chose an unusual stage configuration for that work; the pianist, Jeremy Denk, played with his back to
the audience, and Mr. Norrington (who conducted without score or baton throughout the evening) stood behind the
pianist, facing the auditorium. The strings sat with their chairs partly turned away from the audience.
Nor was there anything routine about this exciting interpretation. Mr. Norrington clearly wanted to surprise listeners;
the striking harmonic emphasis in two cadences in the first movement was so unexpected that it sounded jarring.
On previous visits to Carnegie Hall, Mr. Norringtons vision has sounded at odds with the soloists, but here he had a
willing collaborator in Mr. Denk, whose idiosyncratic, colorful rendition matched the ensembles distinctive approach.
Mr. Norrington encouraged applause after Mr. Denk stormed with aplomb through Beethovens long, wild cadenza.
Another highlight of the evening was the spirited, straightforward interpretation of Mozarts Symphony No. 39 in E
flat. There were no surprises here, just gracious and elegant playing.
21C Media Group February 6, 2012

Jeremy Denk Plays Beethoven and Cowell at Carnegie Hall, as His

Album with Joshua Bell Tops Charts
Denks piano playing mingles urbanity with unabashed beauty. Washington Post
Jeremy Denks new French Impressions album with violinist Joshua Bell recently topped the Billboard classical chart,
and on February 16 the pianist looks forward to performing one of his signature works, Beethovens Piano Concerto
No. 1, with the Orchestra of St. Lukes under Sir Roger Norrington at Carnegie Hall. It was with Beethovens First
Piano Concerto that Denk made his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut last March, stepping in at the eleventh hour to
replace Martha Argerich. The Los Angeles Times found his performance riveting, while the Huffington Post reported
that the audience erupted in applause and wouldnt let Denk go. The pianist returns to New Yorks 92nd Street Y on
March 4 to help present The Prodigy and the Ponytail: The Life and Music of Mozart, before heading back to
Carnegie Hall on March 30, for an American Mavericks program with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael
Tilson Thomas. Also in the American Mavericks series, Denk is set to perform Henry Cowells rarely-heard Piano
Concerto with these same forces in San Francisco and Ann Arbor, as well as on an upcoming release on the orchestras
hit SFS Media label.
A witty, illuminating writer as well as a virtuosic and penetrating pianist, Denk keeps a blog Think Denk that has
proved one of the most talked-about in the classical music world. New Yorker critic Alex Ross has even called Denk
one of the most interesting writers I know. Now, Denk has his own piece in the New Yorker, with the February 6
issue featuring Flight of the Concord, a reflection on his experience of recording the Concord Sonata by Charles
Ives. Denk writes:
Every year, classical musicians record themselves for posterity. Its a way to be visible, to escape the fleetingness of
performance, and to reach people who will never hear you in concert. But its a perverse purchase: in exchange for a
considerable financial investment these days, few recordings are made purely on a record companys dime you
receive many hours of narcissistic suffering.
Along with a Think Denk entry that dubs his New Yorker piece an obsessive, neurotic account of making a
recording, Denks recent blogging includes a lighter rumination on his life on tour with Bell.
Denk and Bell are fellow alums of Indiana University, and the two have played more than 80 recitals together over the
past few years. Released by Sony Classical, their French Impressions album featuring sonatas by Saint-Sans, Franck,
and Ravel debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard classical chart in mid-January. Denk wrote the engaging liner notes for
the album; they include an evocative summary of what makes French music French: sounds that float, hover, harmony
like a scent, a perfume evaporating into air. About his partnership with Denk, Joshua Bell explains:
I love rehearsing with him, arguing with him and thinking about what we are going to do. I will defend my ideas, and
he will defend his. Thats how you get to the truth of the matter. So, its a good partnership, and every piece on the
recording represents piano and violin equally.
Reporting on Denks way with Beethovens First Piano Concerto, the Detroit Free Press found his performance to be
the most viscerally exciting, emotionally absorbing, and intellectually rich account that the reviewer had ever heard
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group February 6, 2012
page 2 of 2

in concert. On February 16 at Carnegie Hall, Denk will appear with the Orchestra of St. Lukes and Roger Norrington,
the renowned scholar-conductor of Classical-era repertoire, on a program that also includes Haydn and Mozart.
Mozart will be the focus of Denks latest collaboration with Steven Isserlis for the British cellists Family Music series
at the 92nd Street Y. Denk has previously collaborated with Isserlis on many of the Upper East Side venues family
chamber concerts, each of which offers an introduction to the life and music of one of the great composers; in last
Decembers Hardboiled Genius, he served as guest artistic director to introduce the life and work of Stravinsky. On
March 4, supported by violinists Daniel Phillips and Pamela Frank, and with narration by Judy Kuhn, Denk and Isserlis
join forces to present The Prodigy and the Ponytail: The Life and Music of Mozart.
Denk joins the San Francisco Symphony and Tilson Thomas for the orchestras centennial season American
Mavericks tour, performing Henry Cowells Piano Concerto in San Francisco (March 10 and 14, plus solo Cowell
pieces on March 11) and in Ann Arbor, MI (March 22). Denk also features prominently in another American
Mavericks program at Carnegies Zankel Hall (March 30). His San Francisco performances of Cowells Piano
Concerto will be recorded for release by the orchestras SFS Media label.
A list of Denks upcoming engagements follows, and much additional information is available at his web site:
Chicago Tribune December 9, 2011

Thomas, CSO bring ebullient spirit to Austro-German novelties


This is the season when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony get cozy.
The latter ensemble has invited Riccardo Muti and the CSO to perform two concerts in the City by the Bay in February
as part of the Chicagoans' first West Coast tour in more than 20 years. In return, Muti's counterpart in San Francisco,
Michael Tilson Thomas, will bring his orchestra to Chicago in March for one of his adventuresome "American
Mavericks Festival" programs, part of a national tour undertaken in honor of the San Francisco orchestra's 100th
Thomas returned to Orchestra Hall on Thursday night to unofficially launch this much-anticipated musical exchange.
The former wunderkind turned senior American maestro has been one of the CSO's most valued guest conductors over
a period of more than 40 years. This owes as much to Thomas' stimulating programs as to the skill with which he
realizes them. His weekend appearances, continuing the Chicago Symphony's season-long commemoration of the
centenary of Gustav Mahler's death, are no exception.
He opened with a Mahler rarity, the long-lost "Blumine" movement that began life as the original second movement of
the composer's Symphony No. 1. Mahler eventually decided to revert from a five-movement design to the four-
movement First Symphony we know today, and "Blumine" disappeared. The manuscript did not resurface until 1966
when Mahler scholar Donald Mitchell came across it at the Yale University Library.
Mahler was right to excise "Blumine": It is out of character with the rest of the symphony and only interrupts its
narrative continuity. That said, it works perfectly well as a standalone piece, particularly when it is performed, as here,
as a pendant to the First Symphony, which Jaap van Zweden had directed with the CSO only the week before.
Thomas, who has recorded all the completed Mahler symphonies (though not "Blumine") with his San Francisco
Symphony, drew a loving account from the CSO without loving this simple, lyrical vignette to death. The rapt
sensitivity with which principal trumpet Christopher Martin wove the main tune through Mahler's delicate orchestration
fairly took one's breath away.
Fast-forward 53 years to another composer dear to Thomas' heart, Johannes Brahms albeit filtered through the
sensibility of Brahms' self-proclaimed spiritual heir, Arnold Schoenberg.
The latter's 1937 orchestration of Brahms' 1859 Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor is hardly authentic Brahms not with
scoring that includes tambourine and xylophone but it is prime tonal Schoenberg, a wonderfully effective homage
across generations of German-Austrian music.
Like Christoph Eschenbach before him, Thomas is an interventionist interpreter of this piece. He molded the rhythms
with generous rubato, speeding up and slowing down over a wide dynamic range, in keeping with Schoenberg's
detailed markings. The wonder of it was that it all felt spontaneous.
How many other orchestras can play this piece with such full-blooded character or virtuosity? How many conductors
can bring out the airy grace of the Intermezzo, or the caf-music schmaltz of the Gypsy-rondo finale, so well? How
Jeremy Denk
Chicago Tribune December 9, 2011
page 2 of 2

many orchestral players can rise to the occasion like clarinetist Stephen Williamson and percussionist Cynthia Yeh
(among other CSO principals) did?
Between the Mahler and the Brahms-Schoenberg, Thomas and the orchestra proved to be alert, incisive partners to
soloist Jeremy Denk in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3. The American pianist's CSO debut was unaccountably long
in coming, but for many of us it was worth waiting for. His recent recording of Charles Ives piano sonatas (Think Denk
Media) displays a formidable technique and a fine combination of intellectual rigor and emotional depth.
His Beethoven on Thursday displayed much the same fusion of head and heart, particularly in the big first cadenza,
which he built in a commanding arc of lucid articulation and musical probity. The concerto occupies the cusp between
early and middle Beethoven, and Denk, with his expansive treatment of the slow movement, emphasized the music's
hymn-like, Haydnesque qualities. He was warmly applauded.
I look forward to hearing more from Denk in June when he is scheduled to perform in a chamber music program
presented as part of the CSO's "Keys to the City" piano festival.
The New York Times December 6, 2011

Fleet Fingers Illustrating Eclectic Influences on Composers From

Bach to Ligeti

The choice of encores reveals much about a musicians programming aesthetic. Instead of a popular bonbon, the pianist
Jeremy Denk rewarded the audience at his recital at the 92nd Street Y on Saturday evening with a thoughtful
interpretation of The Alcotts, the third movement of Ivess Concord Sonata.
Musicians often focus on one or several composers at different stages in their careers, but Bach, Beethoven, Ligeti and
Ives the backbone of Mr. Denks recent recitals are a more unusual combination. Mr. Denk has also recorded
Ives, offering the first and second sonatas for his excellent debut album last year.
Ives quoted from eclectic sources in his sonatas, including Beethoven and American hymns. Ligeti also incorporated
multiple influences in his tudes, including jazz; the complex polyphony of sub-Saharan African music; Chopin, Liszt
and Debussy; and Nancarrows Studies for Player Piano. In addition, Ligetis tudes, virtuosic character pieces, were
inspired by the composers inadequate keyboard technique.
Mr. Denk offered fleet-fingered renditions of the Book 1 tudes after intermission, conveying the idiosyncratic
character of each, including the jazz-hued Debussyian Arc-en-Ciel (Rainbow) and the haunting, toccatalike
Automne Varsovie (Warsaw Autumn).
The program opened with Bachs Toccata in D (BWV 912) and Toccata in F sharp minor (BWV 910). I overheard
audience members complaining during intermission that Mr. Denks rendition was too self-indulgent, but while he
certainly maximized the pianos capabilities in terms of dynamic contrast, he never sacrificed good taste. He played
with clean articulation, warmth and power in both toccatas, his improvisatory flair illuminating their grandeur and
dramatic scope.
In a recent post about program notes on his blog (, Mr. Denk wrote: Ive never been a big fan of
the Imagine how revolutionary this piece was when it was written school of inspiration. For my money, it should be
revolutionary now. (And it is.)
Beethovens mystical Piano Sonata No. 32 (Op. 111), his last work in the genre, certainly still sounded revolutionary
when Mr. Denk played it at the end of his program, surveying its profound and crazed moods with an apt blend of
fierce attack and emotional potency. (The boogie-woogie rhythms of the final movement must have sounded downright
bizarre to early-19th-century listeners.)
Mr. Denk also offered Beethovens infrequently performed Opus 35 Eroica Variations, one of his more than 20 sets
of piano variations and a piece the composer considered one of his greatest musical works. Beethoven based this set on
his theme for the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus, which he later recycled in the finale of his Eroica Symphony.
Given their fugal element, it made programmatic sense to play Beethovens Opus 35 after the Bach. As with the Ives,
Mr. Denk found plenty of humor in his imaginative traversal of the 15 variations.
21C Media Group December 5, 2011

Jeremy Denk Makes Chicago Symphony Debut, Dec 8

Denk, clearly, is a pianist you want to hear no matter what he performs, in whatever combination both for his
penetrating intellectual engagement with the music and for the generosity of his playing. New York Times

On December 8, American pianist Jeremy Denk makes his hotly-anticipated debut with the Chicago Symphony
Orchestra. For three performances from December 8-10, under the direction of guest conductor Michael Tilson
Thomas, Denk plays Beethovens Third Piano Concerto the composers first in a minor key, and the one that marked
his break with the Classical style. It was with Beethovens First Piano Concerto that Denk made his Los Angeles
Philharmonic debut this past March, stepping in at the eleventh hour to replace Martha Argerich (under conductor
Gustavo Dudamel). The Los Angeles Times found his performance riveting; afterwards, the audience erupted in
applause and wouldnt let Denk go (Huffington Post). Likewise, the Detroit Free Press found his to be the most
viscerally exciting, emotionally absorbing, and intellectually rich account of Beethovens First Piano Concerto that [the
reviewer had] ever heard in concert. The pianist reprises the work for his return to Carnegie Halls main stage with the
Orchestra of St. Lukes on February 16, 2012, led by famed British conductor Sir Roger Norrington.

In addition to his work as recital and orchestral soloist, Denk looks forward to resuming two of his long-term chamber
partnerships. First he joins violinist Joshua Bell for duo recitals in Boston and on a European tour; he then returns to the
92nd Street Y for a sixth season of Family Music with Steven Isserlis. Denk has previously collaborated with the
British cellist on many family chamber concerts, each of which offers an introduction to the life and music of one of the
great composers; in last Decembers Hardboiled Genius, he served as guest artistic director to introduce the life and
work of Stravinsky. On March 4, supported by violinists Daniel Philips and Pamela Frank, and with narration by Judy
Kuhn, Denk and Isserlis join forces to present The Prodigy and the Ponytail: The Life and Music of Mozart a
family-friendly introduction to the astonishing child prodigy who is among the most beloved composers of all time.

A list of Denks upcoming engagements follows below, and much additional information is available at his web site: The site includes the versatile pianists blog, Think Denk, which has earned plaudits among the
cognoscenti; the New Yorkers Alex Ross calls Denk one of the most interesting writers I know.
21C Media Group November 1, 2011

Jeremy Denk Headlines Ives Project, Makes Chicago Symphony

Debut, Returns to Carnegie Hall, and More
Denk, clearly, is a pianist you want to hear no matter what he performs, in whatever combination both for his
penetrating intellectual engagement with the music and for the generosity of his playing. New York Times
When Jeremy Denk paired Charles Ivess Concord Sonata with Beethovens Hammerklavier Sonata for a sold-out
recital at Carnegies Zankel Hall, Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times was awed to find that he played these
daunting scores, each about 45 minutes, from memory, bringing a rare combination of command and spontaneity to his
dynamic performances. Now the pianist reprises this same formidable pairing for the Ives Project at the Music
Center at Strathmore (MD) on a program that incorporates readings from the iconic New England literary figures
Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, and the Alcotts to whom the four movements of Ivess monumental sonata are
dedicated (Nov 4). Beethoven also features in Denks next major solo recital of the season, when he couples the Op.
111 C-minor Sonata and the Eroica Variations with music by Brahms and Ligeti at New Yorks 92nd Street Y (Dec
3). Denk showcases Beethoven again in two key orchestral appearances, playing the Third Concerto in his Chicago
Symphony Orchestra debut with Michael Tilson Thomas (Dec 810) and the First Concerto at Carnegie Hall with the
Orchestra of St Lukes under Sir Roger Norrington (Feb 16). Upcoming season highlights also find the versatile pianist
returning to the 92nd Street Y to resume his ongoing collaboration with cellist Steven Isserlis for the latest in a series of
family concerts, introducing the life and music of Mozart (March 4).
If there is one composer in whose works Denk has inspired universal and heartfelt praise, it is thorny American
experimentalist Charles Ives, and it is with the notorious Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840-1860 (c.1915),
comprising philosophical portraits of Ivess four famous New England transcendentalist friends, that Denk established
himself as a leading exponent of the composers work. Released last fall on his own Think Denk Media label, Denks
debut solo album Jeremy Denk Plays Ives was afforded a rapturously warm welcome. The pioneering composers
music has traditionally been considered challenging by all but the most die-hard of new-music lovers. Yet in Denks
hands, Ivess two piano sonatas were rendered downright seductive (Washington Post), winning a place on end-of-
year top-ten lists and holiday gift guides from the nations most trusted and influential media, including the New
Yorker, New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post. According to New York magazine, in which the disc
was the only recording to make the Year in Classical Music top-ten list, Denks balance of passion and precision
makes [the Concord Sonatas] strange beauty come suddenly clear, without losing any of its improvisational
In tribute to Ivess lifelong admiration for Beethoven whose symphonies he called perfect truths and whose Fifth
Symphony is quoted in the Concord Sonata the Music Center at Strathmore program concludes with Beethovens
Hammerklavier Sonata. Also featuring readings by William Sharp, this November 4 concert serves as the centerpiece
of the Ives Project, a three-day exploration and celebration of the composer, to which Denk also contributes an
already sold-out master class on November 3, before participating in a chamber concert that evening.
This engagement is the first of numerous solo recitals in the pianists current lineup, which includes a December 3
appearance at the prestigious 92nd Street Y, with a program boasting two signature works for which he has consistently
won praise. His account of Beethovens mystical final C-minor Sonata at Lincoln Centers Mostly Mozart Festival was
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group November 1, 2011
page 2 of 2

alive to every suggestion and nuance in the scorean absolute joy to witness, while after his rendition of Ligetis
tudes at Zankel Hall, MusicWeb International observed: This was a monumental performance. Mr. Denk clearly set
a benchmark for the Ligeti. For his December 3 recital, these works will follow two sets of variations: Brahmss
Variations on a Theme by Schumann and Beethovens Eroica Variations, which take as their basis the same theme
from the famous Third Symphony.
Beethoven also features in Denks orchestral programming this season. For his hotly-anticipated debut with the
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Denk undertakes Beethovens Third Piano Concerto the composers first in a minor
key and the one that marked his break with the Classical style for three performances on December 810, under the
direction of guest conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. It was with Beethovens First Piano Concerto that Denk made his
Los Angeles Philharmonic debut this past March, stepping in at the eleventh hour to replace Martha Argerich, under
conductor Gustavo Dudamel. The Los Angeles Times found his performance riveting; afterwards, the audience
erupted in applause and wouldnt let Denk go (Huffington Post). Likewise, the Detroit Free Press found his to be the
most viscerally exciting, emotionally absorbing, and intellectually rich account of Beethovens First Piano Concerto
that [the reviewer had] ever heard in concert. The pianist reprises the work for his return to Carnegie Halls main stage
with the Orchestra of St. Lukes on February 16, 2012, led by famed British conductor Sir Roger Norrington.
In addition to his work as recital and orchestral soloist, Denk looks forward to resuming two of his long-term chamber
partnerships. First he joins violinist Joshua Bell for duo recitals in Boston and on a European tour; he then returns to the
92nd Street Y for a sixth season of Family Music with Steven Isserlis. Denk has previously collaborated with the
British cellist on many family chamber concerts, each of which offers an introduction to the life and music of one of the
great composers; in last Decembers Hardboiled Genius, he served as guest artistic director to introduce the life and
work of Stravinsky. On March 4, supported by violinists Daniel Philips and Pamela Frank and narration by Judy Kuhn,
Denk and Isserlis join forces to present The Prodigy and the Ponytail: The Life and Music of Mozart: a family-
friendly introduction to the astonishing child prodigy who is among the most beloved composers of all time.
A list of Denks upcoming engagements follows below, and much additional information is available at his web site: The site includes the versatile pianists blog, Think Denk, which has earned plaudits among the
cognoscenti; the New Yorkers Alex Ross calls Denk one of the most interesting writers I know.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch October 7, 2011

SLSO pairs conductor, Mozart to thrilling effect


There are many reasons why listening to recordings can never really replace going to live performances: the
spontaneity, the surprise in innovative programming that puts different works together in unexpected and enlightening
ways, the chance of catching musical lightning on an otherwise ordinary evening.
This weekend at Powell Symphony Hall, we can add the pleasure of conductor Nicholas McGegan's company on the
podium for (alas) the only time this season. Amazingly energetic and entirely engaged in the music, given to balletic
movements and gestures that convey worlds of musical meaning, McGegan's presence onstage is virtually a guarantee
that a good time will be had by all.
On Friday morning, McGegan was well-matched with the music in an all-Mozart program that opened and closed with
a pair of familiar, spirited symphonies and used a pair of concertos as centerpieces.
He was well-matched with his musicians, too, as members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra led by acting associate
concertmaster Ellen dePasquale responded with near perfect playing.
The Mozart effect began with the first piece on the program, the Symphony No. 32 in G major, K. 318. Short and
sparkling, it was performed with exciting energy and made a brilliant curtain-raiser.
The first of the morning's two concertos brought the welcome return of pianist Jeremy Denk. Denk is supremely self-
confident in his approach, and with good reason: He's got the musical goods to justify the attitude.
His vehicle this weekend is the Piano Concerto No. 13 in C major, K. 425. It's one of those quintessentially Mozartean
works in which inventions spill out too quickly for the composer to explore them all; he simply plays with each for a
few measures before moving on to the next.
It was performed with elan by both Denk and McGegan, who seemed to be entirely in tune with one another in every
sense: spirited in the first and last movements, with thoughtful solo passages complemented by the lilting, lovely
playing of the orchestra in the middle.
The concert's second half opened with another concerto, the Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat major, K. 447. This one was
performed by an in-house soloist, SLSO principal horn Roger Kaza.
Kaza's attitude was as modest as Denk's was assured, but his confident, near-flawless playing said it all. The horn is a
notoriously tricky instrument that tends to keep its performers humble; Kaza demonstrated with seeming effortlessness
how he earned the principal's seat here, and gave listeners a tour of the horn's range in his cadenza.
The final work on the program was the familiar Symphony No. 38 in D major, K. 504, "Prague." From the brilliant
opening to the second Andante movement through the final Presto movement, the orchestra followed McGegan
effortlessly in every measure, like a well-tuned Porsche in practiced hands, zipping along a curving mountain road. You
may hear comparable performances on certain recordings, but adding the visual aspects of watching McGegan put this
orchestra through their paces is a special treat.
Los Angeles Times August 19, 2011

Music review: Fruhbeck's Beethoven Ninth at the Hollywood Bowl


Rafael Frhbeck de Burgos returned to the Hollywood Bowl Thursday night. The imposing crowd of nearly 12,000 was
double the size of that for the Spanish conductors Tuesday night concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonic of music
by Manuel da Falla and Berlioz. It could be that word got out about what a fine concert Tuesdays was. But the real
draw was Beethovens Ninth Symphony.
The Ninth is a symphony of rebirth. It serves well for occasions of hellos and goodbyes. Two years ago, Gustavo
Dudamel chose it for his free concert at the Bowl, turning his first appearance as the L.A. Philharmonic music director
into a civic event. Later this month, Lorin Maazel will close the Boston Symphonys Tanglewood season with the
Ninth. On Sept. 7, Kent Nagano will inaugurate a long-awaited new concert hall in Montreal with this 70-minute choral
symphony. Ninths on Dec. 31 have become a traditional Japanese way to meet the new year.
No special occasion marked a midsummer Thursday in Hollywood. But we find ourselves ever fretting about our
uncertain world, and spiritual renewal, the kind for which Beethoven had an incomparable gift, is more need than
luxury. The Ninth is, at the Bowl, a communion (at least for those willing to part for an hour with their smart phones).
The symphony begins in the void and builds into a celebrated call for brotherhood. If the performance is at all worthy,
it leaves you with a palpable sense of promise. Frhbecks performance, which included four soaring young vocal
soloists and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, was most worthy.
First, though, there was Beethovens Choral Fantasy as an opener. It seems an obvious way to begin. Like the Ninth it
requires a chorus and vocal soloists (six, instead of four) and it even presages the Ninths famous Ode to Joy tune.
Like the Ninth there is a text (though a more cornball one) calling forth a vision of peace and love and joy and bliss and
the springtime sun.
But unlike the Ninth, this is not the representation of the evolution of the spirit. Instead the score was tossed off by
Beethoven as a kind of merry taming of chaos. At the premiere in 1808 - a famous concert that also included the
premieres of Beethovens Fourth and Fifth symphonies and his Piano Concerto No. 4 -- Beethoven sat at his pianoforte
and improvised an introduction to the Choral Fantasy. He also composed a piano part that turns this Fantasy into a kind
of 17-minute piano concerto with chorus.
Few pianists dare attempt such an improvisation now - the standard score opens with what is essentially one of
Beethovens improvisations -- and that is what Jeremy Denk played with tremendous verve and contagious brilliance
on Thursday. Frhbeck conducted at a crisp clip. Excitement was in the air.
Frhbeck played the Ninth relatively straight. He may not have attempted to create a mystical or monumental
atmosphere at the beginning or finesse inner details, but he maintained order and momentum, the first priority at the
Bowl. And he splendidly captured that spiritual sense of evolution from Beethovenian building blocks.
The opening movement had a stern strength, an order to listeners of intent. The Scherzo was tight, tense, vivacious. If
the symphony was the world in microcosm, as Mahler suggested, this was the adolescent life force. The Adagio
displayed a radiant glow, Frhbeck ever sweetening and deepening lyrical melodies on their return.
Jeremy Denk
Los Angeles Times August 19, 2011
page 2 of 2

In the Finale, Frhbeck seemed, as we watched him on the video screen, to become increasingly possessed. He has a
genial manner, but big drama suits him and so, apparently, does a large body of singers.
Bass baritone Iain Patersons clear diction and forceful expression set the vocal tone. Soprano Leah Crocetto, mezzo-
soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano and tenor Brandon Jovanovich were the other soloists. The Master Chorale is a
collective old hand at this symphony, and its fervor was something in which Frhbeck gloried.
Frhbeck is known mainly for his colorful, insightful, illuminating conducting of French and Spanish music. But he has
Beethovens number as well. This was a colorful, insightful Ninth, but one illumined by logic and set aloft through a
tremendous spirit.
The New York Times August 14, 2011

Finding Beethovens Moods Hidden Between the Lines


Just as you can put on a brave face to conceal your suffering, composers sometimes write works whose cheeriness
belies a tortured state of mind. Beethoven began composing his vivacious Eighth Symphony in the summer of 1812,
when he was enduring a painful affair of the heart with the woman he called "Immortal Beloved."
But there is barely a hint of heartache in this jovial symphony, which the musicologist Charles Rosen has described as
one of the last 19th-century works to convey "the civilized gaiety of the Classical period." Louis Langre, as part of
Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival, conducted the festival orchestra in an ebullient reading on Friday evening at
Avery Fisher Hall, concluding a Beethoven program that balanced the composer's lighthearted Classicism with stormier
Echoes of the civilized realms of Mozart and Haydn can also be heard in Beethoven's youthful Piano Concerto No. 2
(actually written before what is called No. 1). Mr. Langre conducted a taut, vividly etched rendition with the pianist
Jeremy Denk as soloist. Mr. Denk's characterful, vibrant playing, warm touch and fluid articulation were heard to fine
effect throughout and particularly impressive in the first movement cadenza.
Beethoven broke ties with the Classical period with his final piano sonata, the mystical Opus 111. Mr. Denk offered an
intensely committed interpretation in a preconcert recital on Friday. He had been scheduled to play John Adams's
"Phrygian Gates" but said from the stage that a hectic schedule had prevented him from preparing it adequately, and
that he had decided to substitute the Beethoven to fit with the evening's theme.
Two works in the main concert explored the heroic side of Beethoven. Mr. Langre opened with Beethoven's
"Leonore" Overture No. 2, one of four overtures he composed for prospective new productions of this opera, eventually
retitled "Fidelio." Mr. Langre elicited sharply etched phrasing and plenty of tension in the strings in a convincingly
dramatic interpretation of this moody piece, which is punctuated by a trumpet call rendered here by a player high in the
The drama continued with "Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin?" ("Abominable one! Where are you going?") from
"Fidelio." Leonore, the heroine, has disguised herself as a young man to rescue her husband, a political prisoner, from
jail. She voices her despair in this anguished aria decrying his fate and declaring her love. The dramatic soprano
Christine Brewer wielded her huge, rich voice to potent effect, although her steely high notes veered toward stridency.
The New York Times March 28, 2011

Fill-In Delivers a Muscular Pairing of Ives and Bachs Goldberg


If the pianist Jeremy Denk has a fitness regimen, he should share it with musician colleagues. He has always been an
accomplished and adventurous pianist with boundless enthusiasm and stamina. In recent weeks he has also been the go-to
choice for institutions in need of a replacement artist.
This month Mr. Denk, substituting on short notice for Martha Argerich, who was ill, made his debut with the Los Angeles
Philharmonic in Beethovens First Piano Concerto, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. And on Sunday afternoon, on even
shorter notice, Mr. Denk played his first solo recital at Carnegie Hall, substituting for Maurizio Pollini, who has canceled an
American tour because of illness. (Murray Perahia will be the substitute for the other recital Mr. Pollini was scheduled to
play at Carnegie Hall, on Monday.)
Mr. Denk has played often at Carnegies more informal, much smaller Zankel Hall, where he has tried out some of his
boundary-pushing programs, which he spoke of in a New York Times profile last year. On Sunday he brought such a
program to the main hall, playing Ivess visionary Concord Sonata, a 45-minute work of unrelenting difficulty, in the first
half and Bachs Goldberg Variations, a work not uncommonly offered as the only piece on a pianists recital, after
Naturally some ticketholders, disappointed that Mr. Pollini, who was to play the first book of Bachs Well-Tempered
Clavier, was ill, chose not to attend or to obtain a refund. So there were quite a few empty seats. Looking eager and
informal in a loose black shirt, Mr. Denk embraced the moment, played splendidly and won a standing ovation, and probably
some new admirers, from the audience.
He performed the Concord Sonata arrestingly at Zankel Hall in 2008. (Another Denkian program, that one paired the piece
with a trifle by Beethoven, the Hammerklavier Sonata.) His recording of the Concord on his own label, Think Denk
Media, coupled with Ivess Sonata No. 1, has been widely and rightly praised.
But on this occasion his balancing of elements in the Concord control and freedom, wildness and repose, ferocity and
tenderness, clattering power and melting sonorities was something special. The sonatas four teeming, volatile movements
are musical portraits of towering figures in American transcendentalism: Emerson, Hawthorne, the Alcotts and Thoreau. Mr.
Denk conveyed the dense, dissonant power of the musics convoluted outbursts. Then, shifting in an instant, he played the
echoes of hymn tunes, marches and brass bands with wistful beauty. Somehow, through all the fractured frenzy of the piece,
he found a connective thread, the musical equivalent of a narrative line. For this performance Tara Helen OConnor played
the dreamy offstage flute part that appears toward the end of the final movement but is often omitted in concert.
Just last month Mr. Denk played Bachs Goldberg Variations on a Zankel Hall program that began with Ligetis two books
of challenging tudes. On Sunday he played this touchstone Bach score with crisp articulation, verve and a keen feeling for
the character of each variation. Taking some of the sectional repeats and not others (as performers commonly do), he brought
the work in at just under an hour.
After such a demanding program, an encore could hardly be expected. But in the true sense of the word encore, Mr. Denk
repeated the wistful yet restless slow movement of the Ives sonata, The Alcotts.
Wall Street Journal March 25, 2011

How to Get to Carnegie Hall? Blogging (and Practice)


Classical music fans who follow the blog of pianist Jeremy Denk havent had much to read lately the last post was
on Think Denk was published on Dec. 29. But those following his career have had a lot to listen to.
After playing an intense schedule in January and February, Denk accepted two major - and unscheduled
engagements in March when other artists fell ill. From March 17 to 20, he joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic as a
replacement for Martha Argerich. Denk had one week and two rehearsals to prepare for his debut with the orchestra.
And this Sunday, Denk makes his solo recital debut at Carnegie Halls Stern Auditorium, replacing Maurizio Pollini.
I thought I was going to be on vacation, said Denk. Instead hell be onstage playing Charles Ivess Piano Sonata No.
2, Concord, and Bachs Goldberg Variations.
With all the extra work, who could think of blogging?
Ive been practicing a lot and chilling out, he said. I just got through the thing last week. Ive been trying to see if I
can make this work. Then Ive wondering where I could check myself into.
Carnegie Halls director of artistic planning, Jeremy Geffen, turned to Denk as a replacement because he was already at
the top of the list as someone to showcase. The pianist had hit a high mark in his February recital at Zankel Hall, the
599-seat venue within Carnegie Hall. (Stern Auditorium, by contrast, has 2,804 seats.)
The follow up to a success like that can often wait several seasons because we schedule so far in advance, said
Geffen. This was a great opportunity for an artist that we feel very strongly about, and we could use the momentum of
his more recent success.
Naturally, it was Denks playing that has made him a go-to artist in a pinch: There arent many people, said Geffen,
who have the Goldberg Variations ready to go at the drop of a hat.
But Denks online persona has also been an asset. One thing that the blogging did emphasize was that, in addition
being a pianist of the highest order, he has become a great spokesperson of the art form, Geffen said. He is not only
witty and insightful, but he approaches people on a level they can identify with.
Although the pianist is a less frequent blogger these days, he could be a model for other artists. The blog was a very
important part of peoples introduction to him, said Geffen. With more engagements and success comes less time to
express yourself in words.
Los Angeles Times March 18, 2011

Jeremy Denk makes his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut with

Gustavo Dudamel

Jeremy Denk is all over town these days and New York audiences are spoiled, the New Yorker magazine gloats this
week in its listing for a program with the pianist (searching style and formidable technique) and Juilliard students on
Sunday. Well, New Yorkers can now sulk. Denk pulled out of that concert so that he might make his long-awaited
Los Angeles Philharmonic debut at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Martha Argerich canceled last week because of back
"Long-awaited" is Denks own not-inaccurate quote (from his website). Still, much of the audience Thursday night, it
is safe to say, had been eagerly awaiting the volatile and electrifying Argerichs first appearance here with Gustavo
Dudamel. Sparks, in Beethovens First Piano Concerto, had been expected to fly.
Denk is a highly versatile pianist if not always a setter-off of sparks. His previous appearance in Disney was a year ago
as Joshua Bells accompanist. But at the 2009 Ojai festival, he gave a revelatory account of Ives neglected First Piano
Sonata (which he has now superbly recorded) that revealed a pianist with, besides that searching style and formidable
technique, an intriguing intellect.
And a wicked sense of humor. During the last presidential campaign, he posted a satirical blog in which he interviewed
Sarah Palin about playing Beethoven --- trill, baby, trill. That is advice he took Thursday in his illuminating account
of Beethovens exuberant early concerto.
Spirits were high. Dudamels Beethoven is brawny and physical. Denk unravels mysteries. He commands an
impressive clarity of tone and thought. He brings out delicious details. In many passages his fingers catch the sparkle in
his eye.
But Dudamel appeared to accommodate Denk more than connect with his soloist. The riveting moment was in a big
cadenza Beethoven wrote for the first movement (there are several and this was the weirdest), which Denk made sound
intriguingly hallucinatory.
The rest of the program was Mozart. For a short second half, Dudamel programmed Mozarts brashly brilliant
Haffner Symphony, so it didnt at first seem to make sense that an evening devoted to youthful high spirits would
open on the somber note of Masonic Funeral Music.
Sadly, events in Asia made that choice presciently suitable. Dudamel announced at the start that the concert would be
dedicated to our brothers and sisters in Japan.
Dudamels Mozart is personal and, it seems for him a limitless fount of pleasure and compassion. The winds in the
Masonic music created a mellow beauty that was properly pensive but never brooding.
The Haffner entered the realm of rapture. Maybe the fact that Dudamel is an expectant father (any day now) had
something to do with his mood, which was here one of dancing for joy one second, awestruck wonder the next. What
Jeremy Denk
Los Angeles Times March 18, 2011
page 2 of 2

made this special, however, was the flow, the way that wonder and joy were ever present but never stopped the rush
The Menuetto, in the middle, is not weighty. Its a remnant of the symphonys mundane serenade roots. But Dudamel
danced it so that it was less lightweight music than music lighter than air, a graceful zero-gravity floating in space.
The metaphor for this Haffner, as Dudamel conducted it, then might be the symphony as spaceship. The first
movement was the thrilling takeoff, the launch. The slow movement was the first chance to catch your breath, the first
look out the window, and gasp. Then that Menuetto spacewalk. The Finale was taken at such a heart-in-your-throat
tempo that it became the fall back to Earth. The orchestra played as if on high alert.
For all the adventure, the Haffner at a little more than 20 minutes is too brief a flight for a full second half of a
program. Dudamel compensated with an unannounced Mozart encore: the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro. He
took it practically in a single breath. Sparks flew.
The New York Times March 16, 2011

Dvoraks Folk Music You Can Dance To


The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center enlisted the pianist Jeremy Denk to preside over two concerts this
season, each built around works that draw on Eastern European folk songs and popular dance rhythms. The first, in
October, inclined toward modernity, with works by Zemlinsky, Ligeti and Kurtag offsetting Dvoraks Romanticism,
with the mostly Romantic Dohnanyi as a bridge.
On the second program, at Alice Tully Hall on Tuesday evening, Romanticism had the ensembles full attention, but if
it was an evening of the tried and true all Dvorak but for a couple of Czech Dances by Smetana Mr. Denks
interpretive acuity and the energy and polish of the societys string players yielded considerable dividends.
Mr. Denk and Wu Han opened the program with three of Dvoraks Slavonic Dances, in their original piano duet
versions. If you are used to Dvoraks later orchestrations, some of these have a quaint, salonlike quality. But they were
hardly monochromatic in Mr. Denks and Ms. Wus hands, and the C major furiant (Op. 46, No. 1) that opens the
collection, an eruption of energy in any scoring, benefitted from a supercharged reading.
The rest of the first half was devoted to Dvoraks luxurious String Sextet in A (Op. 48), a work that earned its berth
here by using dance rhythms a dumka in the second movement and a furiant in the third as structural elements.
That said, the dance rhythms are secondary to the scores sheer, seductive opulence, a quality that the players Ani
Kavafian, Kristin Lee and Joseph Silverstein, violinists; Mark Holloway and Paul Neubauer, violists; and Fred Sherry
and Andreas Brantelid, cellists exploited as an end in itself and as a means of magnifying the works emotional core.
Smetanas Czech Dances are not quite as dazzling as Dvoraks Slavonic Dances, written about the same time, but
Mr. Denk played two of them a polka from Book I and a furiant from Book II with a fluid rubato that gave his
readings an individual, characterful touch.
He used that same technique to wonderful effect in Dvoraks Quintet in A (Op. 81). In the fast movements Mr. Denk
lingered over the scores solo turns, shaping them as thoughtful interludes between full-throttle ensemble passages. His
rendering of the bittersweet theme in the slow movement (another dumka) had an almost vocal inflection, and
throughout the work Ms. Kavafian and Mr. Brantelid matched Mr. Denks flexibility, often giving their solo moments a
lugubrious character that contrasted affectingly with the electricity of the hard-driven full ensemble playing.
21C Media Group March 14, 2011

Jeremy Denk Makes Los Angeles Philharmonic Debut, Replacing

Martha Argerich (March 17-20)
This week, Jeremy Denk makes his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut, when he steps in on March 17-20 to replace
Martha Argerich, who was scheduled to perform Beethovens First Piano Concerto under Gustavo Dudamel. Denks
Beethoven is already justly celebrated; after his rendition of the C-minor Sonata at the 2010 Mostly Mozart Festival,
the New York Times reported: This account, alive to every suggestion and nuance in the score, was an absolute joy to
witness. Mr. Denk, clearly, is a pianist you want to hear no matter what he performs, in whatever combination both
for his penetrating intellectual engagement with the music and for the generosity of his playing.
This eleventh-hour engagement at the Los Angeles Philharmonic tops off the pianists already very full schedule. Denk
has just released a new recording an album of Bach partitas and given, among other high-profile engagements, a
solo recital at Carnegies Zankel Hall, where he ingeniously paired Bachs iconic Goldberg Variations with a modern
classic, Ligetis tudes. Guest appearances this week with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center once again
allow the pianist to showcase his versatility as well as his gift for collaborative give-and-take, performing works for
solo, duet, and quintet by Dvork and Smetana.
Denks new album of Bach, released in January by the boutique Azica label, presents three of the composers six
keyboard Partitas: Nos. 3 in A minor, 4 in D, and 6 in E minor. For many of todays pianists, Bachs Partitas are the
most compelling of all the composers many suites, being technically demanding and ambitious in scale.
Jeremy Denk Plays Ives, the album the pianist released in October 2010 on his own Think Denk Media label,
dominated the year-end top-ten lists of many of the countrys foremost music critics. Choosing Denks Ives disc as one
of the 10 best classical albums of 2010, Washington Post critic Anne Midgette marveled: Denks piano playing
mingles urbanity with unabashed beauty. Downright seductive.
21C Media Group March 11, 2011

Pianist Jeremy Denk Joins Chamber Music Society of Lincoln

Center in New Jersey (March 14) and New York (March 15)
Denks piano playing mingles urbanity with unabashed beauty." -Washington Post
The year is already proving to be a busy one for pianist Jeremy Denk, who has just released a new recording an
album of Bach partitas and given, among other high-profile engagements, a solo recital at Carnegies Zankel Hall,
where he ingeniously paired Bachs iconic Goldberg Variations with a modern classic, Ligetis tudes. In guest
appearances with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (March 14 and 15), Denk will once again showcase his
versatility as well as his gift for collaborative give-and-take, performing works for solo, duet, and quintet by Dvork
and Smetana.
On March 14 at Drew University in Madison, NJ, and on March 15 at Lincoln Centers Alice Tully Hall, Denk will
play selections from Dvorks Slavonic Dances as piano duets, the form in which they were originally written, with Wu
Han, co-artistic director of the Chamber Music Society. He will join a quartet of CMS string players for Dvorks
Piano Quintet No. 2 in A, and will go solo in two Smetana piano pieces.
About the program, Denk says: The Dvork Slavonic Dances have always been special to me, in the same way that
certain Schubert pieces for four-hands are. I was delighted when Wu Han asked if I would like to play some of
them with her.
The pianist continues:
Of course, a thread of Eastern European folk music runs through the program. Theres something special about the
color of these extremely folk-suffused pieces: Dvorks Slavonic Dances, his Piano Quintet, and the little Smetana
piano pieces, a polka and the Furiant. They pass through all the extremes of emotion, from melancholy to joy; in fact,
they make a point of constantly, almost schizophrenically, changing from major to minor, this kaleidoscopic emotion.
In the folk style, you get the feeling that major and minor are just two sides of the same coin, that happiness and
sadness are both a reflection of an underlying life force, a zest for life. Plus, most everything is danceable, the kind of
dancing you tend to do after an excellent drink.
About Denks adventurous attitude to repertoire and his insights into the music that he plays, the New York Times
pointed out: Mr. Denk, clearly, is a pianist you want to hear no matter what he performs, in whatever combination
both for his penetrating intellectual engagement with the music and for the generosity of his playing.

Denks new Bach Partitas recording

Denks new album of Bach, released in January by the boutique Azica label, presents three of the composers six
keyboard Partitas: Nos. 3 in A minor, 4 in D, and 6 in E minor. For many of todays pianists, Bachs Partitas are the
most compelling of all the composers many suites, being technically demanding and ambitious in scale.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Denk explained his belief that Bachs music is often interpreted with too
much melancholy or idiosyncrasy: Bach for me is a lot more humane a smiling, generous composer. He wrote
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group March 11, 2011
page 2 of 2

music to be performed not by hermetic weird geniuses, but every day in the coffee house. It breathes. And the music is
shared it irradiates this tremendous warmth!
Jeremy Denk Plays Ives, the album the pianist released in October 2010 on his own Think Denk Media label, earned a
spot on the year-end top-ten lists of many of the countrys foremost music critics. Choosing Denks Ives disc as one of
his favorites of the year, Boston Globe critic Jeremy Eichler singled out the way Denk conveys both the teeming
surface details and the quiet inner beauty within this dense, craggy, majestically sprawling music. The recording
features Ivess Piano Sonata No. 2 Concord, as well as his less familiar Sonata No. 1.
Mercury News February 3, 2011

Marek Janowski leads thrilling performance of Beethoven's Triple


SAN FRANCISCO -- Beethoven's Triple Concerto gets knocked for not being enough of a virtuoso flag waver. Or
sometimes it's overlooked, standing as it does amid the basic fabulousness of other works composed by the master
around the same time: the "Eroica" Symphony, the "Appassionata" piano sonata, the "Razumovsky" string quartets.
But sometimes we hear a performance of the Triple Concerto in C Major for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op. 56, and go
whoa, this is sort of amazing. Wednesday at Davies Symphony Hall there was just such a performance, with Marek
Janowkski conducting the San Francisco Symphony and three soloists who complemented and conjoined one another
like classical elements.
Lots of earth, water, air and fire in this one, with the orchestra building a spacious and suspenseful launching pad for
cellist Alisa Weilerstein's entrance, which seemed to breathe its notes to life. Violinist Chee-Yun, clear and sinewy,
bound and braided with the cellist's lines. Pianist Jeremy Denk launched his initial volleys, exuberant and pearly-toned,
landing in unison with the horns. And off it went.
Warsaw-born and musically educated in Germany, Janowski -- who repeats this program through Saturday -- is in love
with inner voices and the subtleties of timbre and proportion. In the opening movement, there were passages where
even a player as extravagantly expressive as Weilerstein were swallowed up. But Janowski soon corrected this. Across
its three movements, the concerto was continually clarifying, achieving balance, with the orchestra as celebrant, letting
the three soloists interweave with umbilical closeness.
Some might say Weilerstein's brimming, note-bending and reverently song-filled approach verges on too much; I
wouldn't. Her dynamic range was stunning, from wrenching fortes down to disappearing pianissimos. Still in her late
20s, she has emerged as one of the most potently expressive players on the international circuit.
Denk is a technical wonder, with a jazz musician's in-the-moment poetry and responsiveness. He maximized many of
the score's small gestures, accelerating a left-handed ascent for a second or two, then pulling back, giving it added
spring, or ending a phrase with a barber's clip, giving it fresh definition. And enthused he was, knees bouncing,
whipping from one page of the score to the next.
Balancing these two was Chee-Yun, pure-toned and swiftly sure-footed -- and what a great listener. She was the glue in
the most translucent Largo passages, as well as in the muscular, wind-driven Gypsy tune of the finale.
It was a thrilling performance by all the musicians. Amid the applause, Denk was singing to himself as he left the stage.
This was Janowski's second all-Beethoven program with the orchestra since the New Year.
It began with Symphony No. 1 in C Major, given a quietly startling performance from its opening measures, which are
slow and quizzical and still surprising to hear.
Measuring and fortifying effects -- with just the right dosage of trumpets in the Allegro, or of flute-song in the second
movement -- Janowski fashioned a sound that was unusually rich, balanced and complete, while maintaining a
Jeremy Denk
Mercury News February 3, 2011
page 2 of 2

necessary formality. It was as if he were sculpting a fine classical bust -- with brilliant decorations, as in the crisply
etched, slashing rhythms of the scherzo.
Closing the concert less successfully was Symphony No. 2 in D Major, its first half characterized here by a generic
Beethovenian gravitas. Even so, the final two movements emerged with super-clarity. With winds just barely poking
through the strings in the finale, like children pulling faces, one could hear Herr Ludwig laughing.
21C Media Group February 2, 2011

Pianist Jeremy Denk Performs Bachs Goldberg Variations and

Ligetis tudes at Carnegies Zankel Hall on February 16
Jeremy Denk continues a stellar seasonhe released a new album of Bach on January 25, released a landmark
recording of Charles Ivess piano sonatas in October, and toured the U.S. as a soloist with the Moscow State Symphony
Orchestrareturning to Carnegies Zankel Hall on February 16 with a program of keyboard masterpieces. The
American pianist will perform J.S. Bachs iconic, ever-enthralling Goldberg Variations alongside a modernist totem:
Gyrgy Ligetis edgy, virtuoso tudes, Books I and II. Alex Ross wrote in the New Yorker of Denks 2008 Zankel
Hall recital of Beethoven and Ives that this thoughtful interpreter has the chops, the brains and the heart to pull it off.
Denk will also perform the Ligeti/Bach program in Durham, NC, on February 12 at the Reynolds Theater. Calling
attention to Denks venturesome attitude to repertoire, as well as his insight into the music he chooses, the New York
Times asserts he is a pianist you want to hear no matter what he performs, in whatever combinationboth for his
penetrating intellectual engagement with the music and for the generosity of his playing. [His playing is] effortlessly
virtuosic and utterly joyous.
In the Los Angeles Times, Denk discussed how hes attracted to strange and difficult pieces from all periods, from
Beethovens Hammerklavier Sonata, to Bachs Goldberg Variations, to Charles Ivess Sonata No. 2, to Ligetis
tudes. These are what Denk calls really arcane and far-out pieces. Im drawn to these pieces that are on the edge of
playability, of sanity, on the edge of proportion.
Denk is the author of a widely-read blog, Think Denk, on his web site ( He recently discussed the
technical demands of Ligetis tudes and the idea of infinity, riffing on the composers outlandish need for eight fortes:
How to interpret eight fortes? I think maybe I should hurl my whole body at the piano as violently as possible and
hope for the best. They would find my bloody corpse weeks later amid moldy coffee cups, odiferous testament to my
devotion to the composers intent. How would eight be different from seven? If seven fortes is like being
disemboweled by a wolf, then eight is like being disemboweled by a bear. Ridiculously, staggeringly loud is one
brute brand of infinity, but the best infinities in Ligeti are infinities of thought.
A good example of such infinity is the sixth tude, Automne Varsovie. The principle is descending chromatic lines.
At first there is only the one line, falling, falling, but gradually other chromatic lines come in, at various other speeds.
In this middlegame, the effect is just like that of many familiar Western musical masterpieces: a meditation on the
beauty of various chromatic lines, intersecting, falling at different rates. These beauties are always elusive, because the
lines are always passing on, but then new temporary beauties also always keep coming. However, the urge of the piece
is not beauty, but an ever-denser thicket of lines, crowding beauty out. Accumulation keeps threatening pleasure. The
lines become insanely intertwined, and the tude follows this logic or urge to its desperate, natural conclusion: The
pianist rushes off the bottom edge of the keyboard, chromatically, as loud as possiblethen breaks off, as short as
possible. The idea of the piece (the descending line) has fused into a white-hot singularity, something that can no
longer be discretely played or thought, something infinitely forceful.
Denks New Bach Record
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group February 2, 2011
page 2 of 2

Denks new album of Bach, released on January 25 by the boutique Azica label, presents three of the composers six
keyboard partitas: No. 3 in A minor, No. 4 in D major, and No. 6 in E minor. For many contemporary pianists, Bachs
partitas are the most alluring of all his suites, being more technically demanding and ambitious in scale. Denks
recording joins the august company of recent partitas recordings of Murray Perahia, Richard Goode, Angela Hewitt,
and Andrs Schiff.
Denk described to the Los Angeles Times how he thinks Bachs music is often interpreted with too much melancholy
or idiosyncrasy (as, for instance, by Glenn Gould): Bach for me is a lot more humanea smiling, generous composer.
He wrote music to be performed not by hermetic weird geniuses, but every day in the coffee house. It breathes. And
the music is sharedit radiates tremendous warmth!
Jeremy Denk Plays Ives, released in October via his own Think Denk Media label, earned a spot on the year-end top-
ten lists of many of the countrys most respected music critics. Boston Globe critic Jeremy Eichler singled out the way
Denk conveys both the teeming surface details and the quiet inner beauty within this dense, craggy, majestically
sprawling music. The recording contains Ivess Piano Sonata No. 2 Concord, Mass, 1840-60, and his lesser-known
Sonata No. 1. In Denks own extensive liner noteswhich a Washington Post critic praised as the most interesting
and well-written program notes [she had] ever readthe pianist writes of his attraction to this quintessentially
American art: Its because the music is brilliant, inventive, tender, edgy, wild, original, witty, haunting. Ives was
raised in a world of hymns, marches, and balladsmostly quite conventional musicand yet he was attracted to the
wildest kinds of musical experimentation. He brought them together. Ives wants to re-create the raw experience of
music making, something unfiltered, and beyond all your piano lessons. While driving me crazy, he reminds me
why I play the piano at all.
Boston Globe January 25, 2011

From disorder to order, in search of wild beauties


The fast-rising American pianist Jeremy Denk returned to Boston on Sunday, once again with a sprawling keyboard
masterpiece in each pocket. His last recital at the Gardner Museum paired Ivess Concord Sonata with Beethovens
magisterial Hammerklavier (Op. 106). This time it was Ligetis fierce Etudes paired with Bachs sublimely virtuosic
Goldberg Variations.
So many recitalists these days mix old and modern music, but few have Denks gift for stacking both halves of the deck
with works of such iconic grandeur, and then pulling off the mammoth recital as if its all in a days work. Sundays
performance at MassArts Pozen Center the Gardner Museums temporary concert space was a tour de force.
Describing the diverse influences behind his two daunting books of Etudes, Ligeti once cited fractal geometry, the
rhythmic asymmetries of African music, the player-piano studies of Conlon Nancarrow, and even jazz (specifically
Thelonius Monk and Bill Evans). Listening to the Etudes, the various inspirations are audible to a degree but more
often they are consumed by the blazing individuality of these short pieces, each of which explores a discreet set of
pianistic or compositional ideas with ferocious concentration and intensity.
Before sitting down to play on Sunday, Denk spoke briefly to the audience of his reasons for pairing these two works.
He was drawn, he said, to the contrast between the pristine order of Bachs music and the pristine disorder of Ligetis
(mathematics after chaos theory, he called it). Despite this contrast, both Bach and Ligeti had attempted to push
keyboard virtuosity to its outer limits. They also shared, in Denks words, an outrageous naughtiness and occasional
perversity in their approach, as well as an intuitive feel for the wild beauties that were possible at the piano.
Opening with the Ligeti, Denk showed himself deft at summoning those wild beauties, teasing out the mysterious
shapes and alluring colors in this strange and wonderful keyboard menagerie. From the hectically scurrying etude,
appropriately titled Dsordre (Disorder), to the notorious Lescalier du diable, in which the composer calls for
a thundering volume marked by eight fortes ffffffff Denk proved he had the technique and courage to plunge
into the heart of the Ligetian storm.
But beyond the musics howling extremes, Denk also seemed determined to show just how coolly detailed and vividly
imagined Ligetis miniatures could be. Automne Varsovie gathered its force in precisely calibrated waves, the air
gradually thickening with downward-swooping chromatic lines. And an impish wit flickered in the corners of Touches
bloques, in which Ligeti calls for one hand to strike keys already being depressed by the other, as well as in Fm,
whose stutter-stepping rhythms I had never heard played quite so jauntily.
In Cordes Vide and the jazzy Arc-en-ciel, Denk floated a kind of soft-edged, vaporous piano sound limned at
times with a surprising tenderness. It called to mind the tone he brings to the rare moments of repose in his recent
recording of Ivess Concord Sonata. You could almost picture the sharp and severe Ligeti, dropping by for a calm
lunch at the Alcotts.
On the second half of Sundays program, after all the unpredictability and violent force in Ligetis music, the opening
Aria of Bachs Goldberg Variations, with its measured gait and wise lyricism, arrived like a balm. Even on its own
terms, the pristine architecture of Bachs music holds a mysterious power to ground a listener in the faith and
Jeremy Denk
Boston Globe January 25, 2011
page 2 of 2

teleological certainties of an earlier era. This proved all the more true after an hour spent touring Ligetis modern
landscape of fractured forms and aural quicksand.
Denks own reading of the Goldbergs was full of personal flourishes and pleasing details all within an organically
flowing sense of the whole. Playing on a modern Steinway grand he made no conflicted nods to the musics earlier
harpsichordal incarnations, instead seeming to relish the instruments ample resources for coloration, legato lines, and
tonal variety. Certain moments seemed to evoke later keyboard worlds of Chopin or Schubert, not as willfully
anachronistic touches but as if Denk were pointing out the ways in which Bach was in fact the father of them all.
The rich inner life of this reading also came through in the rapt intensity of Denks delivery from the stage. He gave the
impression of conducting an extended private dialogue with Bach, by turns joyful and melancholic, exalted and
mischievous. You were invited to listen in.
21C Media Group January 3, 2011

Jeremy Denk Plays Ives Dominates Best of 2010 Lists

Easily One of the Best Recordings of Ivess Piano Music Ever Recorded*
This fall, pianist Jeremy Denk released his debut solo CD - Jeremy Denk Plays Ives, a landmark recording that
underscores the pianists special way with the music of Americas pioneering musical maverick, Charles Ives. The
composers music has traditionally been considered challenging by all but the most die-hard of new-music lovers, yet
in Denks hands, Ivess two piano sonatas are rendered downright seductive (Washington Post), and have been
afforded a rapturously warm welcome, winning a place on end-of-year top-ten lists and holiday gift guides from the
nations most trusted and influential media, including the New Yorker, New York Times, Boston Globe, and
Washington Post.
Jeremy Denk Plays Ives was released on his own Think Denk Media label. With Grammy Award-winning producer
Adam Abeshouse at the helm, it features Ivess monumental Piano Sonata No. 2 Concord, and the less familiar but
equally intriguing Sonata No. 1. While recognized as an important American original who anticipated many musical
innovations to come, Charles Ives (1874-1954) is best known for the dissonance and seeming chaos of his sound world,
in which disparate elements are not so much juxtaposed as superimposed, seemingly jostling for space. It is a
sensational achievement for Denk to have made this formidable terrain so inviting, to which the albums inclusion on
so many Best of 2010 lists pays tribute. As Vivien Schweitzer explains in the New York Timess Holiday Gift
An Ives disc might seem an unlikely choice of repertory for a debut solo album, but then, there is nothing predictable
about Jeremy Denk, whose intellect is manifest in both his playing and his lively blog, Think Denk. Here he vividly
conveys the humor, mania, invention, and tenderness of Ivess fascinating sonatas.
Jeremy Denk Plays Ives was the only recording to make New York magazines The Year in Classical Music Top 10
list. Justin Davidson noted, Charles Ivess Piano Sonata No. 2 bears the subtitle Concord, which refers to the
Massachusetts town but also upends the alternative: Discord. Even the works champions have had difficulty
navigating the thickets of harmony, allusion, and eccentricity. Denks balance of passion and precision makes its
strange beauty come suddenly clear, without losing any of its improvisational radicalism.
Selecting the disc as one of Jeremy Eichlers top 10 classical CDs of 2010, the Boston Globe singles out the way
Denk conveys both the teeming surface details as well as the quiet inner beauty within this dense, craggy, majestically
sprawling music. Similarly, in the Washington Post, which lists the recording among the 10 best classical albums of
2010, Anne Midgette marvels:
Denks piano playing mingles urbanity with unabashed beauty. The combination, coupled with an engaging
intelligence, has brought him into the limelight in the past couple of years, and it sheds plenty of light on Charles Ives,
who has become something of a calling card on this self-produced CD, which illuminates through thoughtful liner notes
and playing that removes the spines from this usually thorny composer, making him less off-putting than downright
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group January 3, 2011
page 2 of 2

Jeremy Denk Plays Ives was chosen by Alex Ross as one of the New Yorkers notable recordings of 2010, and it
appeared on numerous additional top-ten lists and gift guides across the country. As Gramophone magazines Jed
Distler observes, Denks new recording is a major addition to the Ives discography.
*Sacramento Bee, Top Ten Gift Guide by Edward Ortiz
Jeremy Denk Plays Ives
Think Denk Media label
Charles Ives: Piano Sonata No. 1 (1909)
Charles Ives: Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840-60 (c. 1915)
Washington Post December 17, 2010

The 10 best classical albums of 2010


The major record labels are struggling notably, and sales are sinking. But this has opened up a path for so many small labels
and self-produced discs there's no way to listen to them all. The result might not be making a lot of money, but it's a boon for
listeners: There were dozens of worthy contenders for the year's-best title. The following 10 CDs would ease a sojourn on
any desert island.
"Jeremy Denk Plays Ives" [Think Denk Media]. Denk's piano playing mingles urbanity with unabashed beauty. The
combination, coupled with an engaging intelligence, has brought him into the limelight in the past couple of years, and it
sheds plenty of light on Charles Ives, who's become something of a calling card, on this self-produced CD, which illuminates
through thoughtful liner notes and playing that removes the spines from this usually thorny composer, making him less off-
putting than downright seductive.
"Die Zauberflote" [Harmonia Mundi, three CDs]. In this much-awaited continuation of his Mozart cycle, Rene Jacobs
approaches the famous singspiel "The Magic Flute" as if it were a radio play, including all the spoken dialogue, often with
musical commentary from the keyboard, and sound effects from a veritable battery of percussion. It certainly shakes the
piece out of the quasi-pantomime territory it so often inhabits (though it's even better if you know German); the young cast
offers light, conversational, capable singing; and the orchestra (the Akademie fuer Alte Musik Berlin) is terrific.
Benjamin Britten, "Songs & Proverbs of William Blake." Gerald Finley and Julius Drake [Hyperion]. The superb baritone
Finley's recital at Vocal Arts DC in March made me want to hear a lot more of him. Happily, he gave me plenty of
opportunity by releasing two solo CDs this year: a compilation of opera arias and this insightful recording of Britten works
early and late, enhanced by his frequent accompanist Drake.
"Hilary Hahn Plays Higdon and Tchaikovsky Violin Concertos" [Deutsche Grammophon]. This year's Pulitzer Prize-winning
composition was documented in a fine recording by the violinist for whom it was written. Jennifer Higdon's music is
energetic and attractive, with undeniable crowd appeal and finger-twisting virtuosity; and it's paired with a probing reading
of the Tchaikovsky concerto that's enhanced by the conducting of up-and-comer Vasily Petrenko.
Tchaikovsky, "The Three Piano Concertos." Stephen Hough; Osmo Vanska, Minnesota Orchestra [Hyperion]. More
Tchaikovsky. Hyperion's marvelous "Romantic Piano Concerto" series, which offers excellent performances of scholarly
editions of more- and less-known works, marked its 50th release with a bang: the biggest romantic concerto in the repertory,
paired with its less-known siblings, played by an artist who mines the nuance (yes, nuance) of the scores, supported by one of
America's best orchestra-conductor teams.
"Katrina Ballads" [New Amsterdam Records]. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the young composer Ted Hearne
began writing a musical response, a compilation of news accounts, eyewitness quotes and editorials that mingles American
musical vernaculars from jazz to rock to the avant-garde in an impassioned oratorio, a kind of operatic journalism, uneven
but exciting, that appeared on CD for the fifth anniversary of the disaster.
Mahler, Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection." Klaus Tennstedt, London Philharmonic Orchestra [LPO]. A live recording
(startlingly good in quality) of a 1989 concert shows the idiosyncratic intensity this late, great conductor brought to Mahler.
Tennstedt leaves lots of room around his phrases and delivers each with a slightly different inflection, tugging at tempos in a
distinctly un-contemporary fashion, holding out silences so your hair stands on end when the music resumes, and offering
each passage as if it were being torn, with effort, from his heart.
Jeremy Denk
Washington Post December 17, 2010
page 2 of 2

Brooklyn Rider, "Dominant Curve" [In a Circle Records]. Call it alt-classical or simply progressive: This recording
illustrates how musicians today move through many stylistic worlds on a single, sensible trip. This crack quartet is composed
of alums of the Silk Road Ensemble; their crisp vital reading of the Debussy quartet is at the heart of a recording exploring
Eastern influences in music by everyone from the Japan-born Kojiro Umezaki to John Cage.
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, "Ravel, Debussy, Massenet." Yan Pascal Tortelier, BBC Symphony Orchestra [Chandos]. Not
everyone appreciates Debussy's early piano-concerto-like "Fantasie," but Bavouzet does, and he and Tortelier make an
eminently convincing case for it on this strong and very French disk, which traces a jazz influence from Debussy through
swinging performances of both Ravel concertos. Boulez and Aimard offered another fine (and French) recording of them this
year, but this SACD has more bang (and verve) for the buck.
James Levine, "Celebrating 40 Years at the Met." DVD box set: 12 operas, 21 DVDs; CD box set: 11 operas, 32 CDs
[PolyGram]. It's not a single release; it's a chapter of opera history, documenting the longest-tenured director of the
Metropolitan Opera in a generous cornucopia of his performances starting in 1978 and including some of his great signature
works (like Berg's "Lulu" and "Wozzeck," contrasted in 1980 and 2001). The DVD set, in particular, not only captures some
memorable performances ("Bartered Bride" with Stratas, Gedda and Vickers?) but serves as a reminder that there were
brilliant singing actors at the Met long before the current crop: Renata Scotto can work a camera close-up (in "Don Carlo") as
well as anyone singing today.
The New York Times December 12, 2010

Straying From the Canon With Unfamiliar Fare


By no means has the vital English cellist Steven Isserlis excluded the standard repertory for his instrument from his
purview, on record or onstage. But bringing to light unfamiliar and worthy works by second-tier Romantics as well as
contemporary composers seems to give Mr. Isserlis special delight. That his interests can draw sizable numbers of
palpably engaged listeners is a credit to his estimable skills, enlightened advocacy and communicative powers.
The latest example of this knack came on Thursday night, when Mr. Isserlis drew a healthy audience for a program of
unfamiliar pieces old and new at the 92nd Street Y, a space not as closely associated with musical adventure as it often
deserves. That he regularly plays there presumably had something to do with the turnout. But Mr. Isserlis also had a
noteworthy partner in Jeremy Denk, a pianist whose broad tastes and personable virtuosity make him a kindred spirit.
The closest the program came to canonical fare were Saint-Sanss Cello Sonata No. 1, which opened the concerts first
half, and Faurs Cello Sonata No. 2, which closed it. Each is an example of pristine craftsmanship, with exuberant
outer movements flanking a soulful central Andante. Neither suggested a masterpiece unduly neglected, but both were
worth encountering in performances this polished and assured.
Two piano works by Liszt were originally planned to separate the sonatas. Instead Mr. Denk played three of Gyorgy
Ligetis tudes, offering precisely the mix of extravagant technique and potent imagination these dazzling works
demand. Mr. Denk is due to play Ligetis first two books of tudes at Zankel Hall in February. To judge from the
jazzily careening Fanfares, the achingly poignant Arc-en-Ciel and the obsessively rumbling Automne Varsovie
here, tickets for the Zankel event are a shrewd investment.
Mr. Isserlis opened the programs second half with four unaccompanied selections from Gyorgy Kurtags Signs,
Games and Messages. Each was an economical miracle of portraiture, with the sparest of means yielding characterful
results. Banking on his listeners trust Mr. Isserlis earned their approval with his precise, heartfelt performances. He
elegantly assumed vocal lines in his own arrangement of Ravels Deux Mlodies Hbraques the incantatory
Kaddisch and the quizzical nigme ternelle with gracious support from Mr. Denk.
In March at Zankel Hall Mr. Isserlis presented the American premiere of Lieux Retrouvs, written for him by the
English composer Thomas Ads, who played piano for that occasion. An arrestingly inventive four-part evocation of
natural and urban vistas, the piece is full to bursting with raucous, scintillating and zany effects. Mr. Denk joined Mr.
Isserlis in a persuasive account, warmly received by the audience. After so much exertion, it was no surprise that they
favored a tender encore, Faurs Berceuse (Op. 16).
Denver Post December 2, 2010

Pianist excels in reshaping classical music


Pianist Jeremy Denk epitomizes a 21st-century classical musician at the top of his game.
He understands that just playing isn't enough anymore. Performers have to be willing to promote and help reshape
classical music as it slips ever further from the cultural mainstream.
Denk is intelligent, inquisitive and tech-savvy, writing one of the liveliest and best-read classical blogs, and he has a
keen understanding of the need to inject newness into this sometimes moribund field.
But, of course, none of that would matter if he didn't have the artistry to back it up. And, make no mistake, he does.
In his Denver recital debut Wednesday evening in DU's Gates Concert Hall, under the auspices of Friends of Chamber
Music, he demonstrated extraordinary technical mastery, playing with an unusual sense of engagement, even relish.
It's not surprising that Denk, who received an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1998, has become so much in demand. He
is, quite simply, one of the best pianists of his generation.
He was scheduled to play Book 1 and 2 of the tudes by Gyorgy Ligeti, who died in 2006 and is increasingly being
recognized as one of the great composers of the later half of the 20th century.
But for reasons that were not explained, he chose to play just five of the six etudes in Book 1, still more than enough to
get a sense of these intense, disoriently chromatic 1980s works, each based on a different experimental starting point.
Quirky, unruly, even almost alien at times, they often spin out of control, with manic runs that seem to chase infinity, as
Denk suggested in his insightful program notes. Yet at the same time, they are oddly meaningful and touching.
Denk captured their full sprawling complexity and handily overcame their daunting technical demands. It was a
tremendous performance in every way.
These etudes, as well as the other works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Liszt and Ludwig van Beethoven, all pushed
the bounds of the keyboard, and hearing them together raised intriguing questions about what is avant garde and what is
21C Media Group December 1, 2010

Jeremy Denk Leads Family Concert at New Yorks 92nd Street Y

and Collaborates with Steven Isserlis
Celebrated American pianist Jeremy Denk continues his stellar season, performing recitals with star English cellist
Steven Isserlis at the Eastman School of Music (Dec 7) and New Yorks 92nd Street Y (Dec 9), before collaborating
with Isserlis on two family concerts at the same venue: a Stravinsky-themed event led by the pianist himself (Dec 12)
and an introduction to the life and music of Brahms (Jan 2, 2011). Denk just completed a six-state U.S. tour as featured
soloist with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, performing Prokofiev and Grieg concertos under conductor Pavel
Kogan. This fall also saw the release of Jeremy Denk Plays Ives, a landmark recording that underscores the pianists
special way with the music of Americas pioneering musical maverick, Charles Ives; the Washington Post describes
Denks authoritative Ives interpretations as combining explosive power and sublime poetry.
On December 7, Denk and Isserlis perform a recital at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. The program,
presented in Kilbourn Hall as part of The New Eastman Evolution festival week, comprises Saint-Sanss Cello
Sonata No. 1 in C minor; Faurs Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor; and Isserliss arrangement of Ravels Deux mlodies
hbraques, plus the second U.S. performance of Thomas Adss Lieux Retrouvs. Denk will also perform two Liszt
solo works: Sonetto 123 del Petrarca (from Annes de plerinage) and the Grand galop chromatique. On December 9,
the duo will repeat this program for their recital at the 92nd Street Y.
Back at the 92nd Street Y on December 12, Denk will serve as guest artistic director for a concert in the Family Music
(Ages 6+) Series, to which he is a regular contributor. He will be joined by special guest performers in a program titled
The Hardboiled Genius: The Life and Music of Igor Stravinsky. On January 2, Denk reunites with Isserlis, now
artistic director, for another 92Y Family Music concert, titled Beauty and the Beard: The Life and Music of Johannes
Denks acclaimed Ives album
In October, Denk released Jeremy Denk Plays Ives on his own Think Denk Media label. The recording, helmed by
Grammy Award-winning producer Adam Abeshouse, features Charles Ivess iconic Piano Sonata No. 2 Concord, as
well as the composers less familiar Sonata No. 1. The New York Times praises Denks Ives as thrilling, while the
Washington Post affirms that this is repertoire in which the pianist offers an entire world. In his own extensive
booklet notes which another Washington Post critic praised as the most interesting and well-written program notes
[she had] ever read Denk writes of his attraction to this quintessentially American art: Its because the music is
brilliant, inventive, tender, edgy, wild, original, witty, haunting . Ives was raised in a world of hymns, marches, and
ballads mostly quite conventional music and yet he was attracted to the wildest kinds of musical experimentation.
He brought them together. ... Ives wants to re-create the raw experience of music-making, something unfiltered, and
beyond all your piano lessons. While driving me crazy, he reminds me why I play the piano at all.
Jeremy Denk: engagements, winter 2010-11
December 7
Rochester, NY
Recital with Steven Isserlis (cello)
Kilbourn Hall, Eastman School of Music
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group December 1, 2010
page 2 of 3

December 9
New York, NY
Recital with Steven Isserlis (cello)
92nd Street Y

December 12
New York, NY
The Hardboiled Genius: The Life and Music of Igor Stravinsky
92nd Street Y

January 2, 2011
New York, NY
Beauty and the Beard: The Life and Music of Johannes Brahms
92nd Street Y

January 12-14
Hanover, NH
Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College: residency
(Solo recital Jan 14: Ligeti: Etudes, Books 1 and 2; Bach: Goldberg Variations)

January 23
Boston, MA
Gardner Museum Concerts
Gardner Concert Hall

January 27
Miami Beach, FL
New World Symphony

February 2, 3, 4, & 5
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Symphony
Davies Symphony Hall

February 12
Durham, NC
Reynolds Theater
Duke Performances
Ligeti: Etudes, Books 1 and 2; Bach: Goldberg Variations

February 14
Gettysburg, PA
Gettysburg College
Majestic Theater

February 16
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group December 1, 2010
page 3 of 3

New York, NY
Ligeti: Etudes, Books 1 and 2; Bach: Goldberg Variations
Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall

March 14
Madison, NJ
Drew University
Dvork: Selected Slavonic Dances; Dvork: Sextet in A;?Smetana: Selected Piano Works; Dvork: Quintet in A?(with
Wu Han, piano)
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

March 15
New York, NY
Alice Tully Hall
Dvork: Selected Slavonic Dances; Dvork: Sextet in A;?Smetana: Selected Piano Works; Dvork: Quintet in A?(with
Wu Han, piano)
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

March 25 & 26
Annapolis, MD
Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts
Annapolis Symphony Orchestra
Bartk: Two Portraits, Op. 5; Mozart: Concerto for Piano No. 21 in C, K. 467; Schubert: Symphony No. 8 in C The
Great, D. 944

March 29
Houston, TX
Da Camera of Houston
Ives: Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840-60
Menil Collection
21C Media Group November 3, 2010

Jeremy Denk plays Prokofiev & Grieg on Moscow State Symphony

Jeremy Denk kicked off the new season with the release of his long-anticipated first solo album, Jeremy Denk plays
Ives, and successful concerts at both Carnegie and Alice Tully Halls. Next he embarks on a six-city US tour with the
Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, one of Russias most esteemed ensembles, under its music director and chief
conductor Pavel Kogan, winner of the National Prize of the Russian Federation (and son of violinist Leonid).
Appearing in La Crosse, WI (Nov 5), Naperville, IL (Nov 6), Notre Dame, IN (Nov 7), Morgantown, WV (Nov 10),
Louisville, KY (Nov 13), and West Palm Beach, FL (Nov 17), Denk performs Prokofievs Second Piano Concerto, one
of the most technically formidable examples of the genre, and Griegs Piano Concerto, to which, with the Philadelphia
Orchestra, he recently brought the right dose of suavenesswhile keeping a keen emphasis on clarity and rhythmic
exactitude and not trying to oversell it (Denver Post).
Denks most recent orchestral engagement was also with the Philadelphia Orchestra, when he played Liszts First Piano
Concerto with Charles Dutoit at Carnegie Hall (Oct 12), showcasing his trademark combination of pianistic chops and
intelligent musicianship:
Mr. Dutoit set the tone with an opening passage that leaned on Liszts dramatic dissonances and demanded an
assertive pianistic response. Mr. Denk supplied that, along with a sparkling, powerhouse sound. But, typically for Mr.
Denk, his reading never threatened to be matter over mind. Every phrase was fluid, shapely, and thoughtfully etched.
He made Liszt seem, at least in passing, as if he were as deep and revolutionary a thinker as Beethoven.
Allan Kozinn, New York Times
A week later, it was Denks talent as a chamber musician that New Yorkers could enjoy, at the first of two Folk
Traditions Concerts with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at Alice Tully Hall. Inspired by his passion
for the music of Central Europe, Denk was behind the planning and programming, as well as performing in Dohnnyis
Piano Sextet and Dvorks Piano Quartet in D. The New York Timess Vivien Schweitzer praised Denks thoughtful
music-making and finely crafted phrasing, noting that throughout the evening the standard of playing was
impressive. The second concert is scheduled for March 15.
After the iTunes launch of Denks first solo recording, Gathering Note observed, There isnt a pianist today who
understands [Charles] Ivess music like Denk. His recital programs have long featured not only the great American
iconoclasts famous and monumental Concord Sonata but also the far less familiar Sonata No. 1, impressing critics
with thrilling performances (Anthony Tommasini, New York Times) that offer an entire world (Anne Midgette,
Washington Post). Now his celebrated Ives interpretations have finally been committed to disc; on October 12, Jeremy
Denk plays Ives was issued on CD by the pianists own Think Denk Media label. The new album has also inspired
much media interest, with features appearing in both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal; the latter
offered a survey of reviewers attempts to describe Denks artistry, singling out intelligence, lyricism, attention to
detail, chops, and breadth of color [as] just some of the words they have used.
Further details of the pianists upcoming tour with the Moscow State Symphony follow below.
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group November 3, 2010
page 2 of 2

Jeremy Denk and Moscow State Symphony Orchestra: US tour 2010

November 5 17
Tour: Moscow State Symphony Orchestra / Pavel Kogan
PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16
GRIEG: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16
Nov 5: La Crosse, WI, Viterbo University PAC
Nov 6: Naperville, IL, North Central College
Nov 7: Notre Dame, IN, Debartolo Center for the Arts
Nov 10: Morgantown, WV, West Virginia University
Nov 13: Louisville, KY, Kentucky Center for the Arts
Nov 17: West Palm Beach, FL, Kravis Center
San Francisco Chronicle October 21, 2010

Jeremy Denk to mine Bach and Ligeti in Berkeley

When it comes to paying equal attention to contemporary works and the old standbys of the repertoire, plenty of
performing musicians talk a good game. But not all of them put that talk into action.
The pianist Jeremy Denk, who appears in recital in Berkeley on Sunday afternoon under the auspices of Cal
Performances, is one of the true all-rounders. A performer who blends intellectual depth with sonic grace, he has been
heard with the San Francisco Symphony playing Mozart, and his latest recording is a superb self-produced disc of
Charles Ives' two piano sonatas.
Sunday's recital program features Bach's "Goldberg" Variations alongside the first two books of Gyrgy Ligeti's Piano
Etudes. Denk, 39, spoke with The Chronicle by phone from his home in New York.
Q: Your most recent activities have focused on Ligeti and Ives, and you've quoted the Hungarian composer Gyrgy
Kurtg as comparing them. What's the connection between the two?
A: Actually, I think Ligeti and Ives are completely different, although I was secretly pleased and delighted that Kurtg
brought them together. Some of those very meticulous European composers, who we think of as the real purists of the
tradition, aren't as snobby about Ives as some people can be.
Q: The Ligeti Etudes seem to be showing up on recital programs more and more often. What is it about these pieces
that appeals to performers and audiences?
A: On a very simple level, the Etudes are some of the most striking and instantly memorable music of the last several
decades. They're wonderfully infuriating, in that they explore technical and mental hurdles that hadn't been explored
They take some of the basic piano techniques and explode them in ways that make them fiendishly difficult, right at the
edge of playability. But still, as a listener, you can follow the thread of what's going on.
Q: Is there a connection with the "Goldberg" Variations?
A: Maybe I'm overstating the case, but the Bach is one of the first accepted keyboard masterpieces, and I think Ligeti's
music is on that level. They're both tremendously involved with counterpoint, and with this playful sense of polyphony.
Many of the Ligeti pieces have a sense of humor, and that's part of the appeal of the "Goldbergs" for me as well. It's
this playful genius having a great time at the keyboard.
Q: There's also a shared interest in mathematics.
A: Both pieces have an obsession with infinity - Bach, through his interest in proportions, and Ligeti, who in nearly
every etude takes an idea and stretches into an infinite level. They're two representations of infinity, very different from
each other but I hope complementary.
Q: What struck me about your Ives recording was its lack of pomposity. So many musicians take an overly reverential
attitude to this music, the way serious Germans treat Beethoven.
Jeremy Denk
San Francisco Chronicle October 21, 2010
page 2 of 2

A: Even though Ives was a great idealist, one of his great accomplishments was to try to take classical music down off
its pedestal. Not that he doesn't want to take things seriously, but he mixes the serious with the not-serious
There's this improvisatory strain in his music. You can imagine Ives hanging out in New York bars and monkeying
around with the hymns in church.
Q: You have such a learned and humanist approach to music. Were you one of these musicians who knew early on that
this was what you wanted to do?
A: Not at all. I grew up in Las Cruces, N.M., and I went to Oberlin at 16 to do a double degree in music and chemistry.
I also took a lot of English classes.
But then I wound up at Indiana University, pursuing this Hungarian piano guru, Gyrgy Sebk. I learned an amazing
amount from him, although a lot of it was slow-percolating.
He brought in a wide range of metaphors, and at the same time he was very practical about the physical process of
playing the piano, about thinking about the ballet of your movements and how they reflect what you mean to say. He
was a very inspiring and magical teacher.
Q: In addition to your performances, you maintain a blog at your website,, which is widely read for its
humor and its analytic approach.
A: That's a tremendously important outlet for me. I have all these thoughts that wouldn't fit in any other category. They
don't go in a program note or a pre-concert lecture, but they are nonetheless integral to your thinking about the piece.
I've always been dually obsessed with music and literature, so it's something I enjoy. I think it's really hard to make an
intelligent and readable connection between words and music. Any time you have to put something in writing it forces
a certain clarity of thinking - you find out whether there's any there there.
The New York Times October 20, 2010

The Folkways That Led to Dvorak and Bartok

Folk traditions heavily influenced 19th-century Central European composers like Dvorak and some of their 20th-
century successors, most notably Bartok. This folk heritage was explored at Alice Tully Hall on Tuesday evening in the
first of two Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center programs organized by the pianist Jeremy Denk.
The 21st-century cellphone tradition was irritatingly alive during the first half of the program, which began with
Zemlinskys Humoreske for Wind Quintet (1939), a harmonically conventional rondo based on a jaunty theme. This
season the society is centering its theme of musical inheritance around Brahms, of whom Zemlinsky was a protg.
The influence of Brahms could also be discerned in Dohnanyis lushly romantic and lyrical Sextet in C for Clarinet,
Horn, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano (1935), given a full-blooded performance here. The Allegro con Sentimento
incorporates a series of variations on a folk-inflected melody, and a witty waltz is woven through the Finale, whose
spry conclusion evoked chuckles from the audience.
Here and throughout the evening the standard of playing was impressive, with Mr. Denks thoughtful music making
complemented by the fine performances of his young colleagues, who included the violinist Erin Keefe, the violist
Richard ONeill and the clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester. In Ligetis Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet (1953), an
arrangement of selections from his Musica Ricercata for Piano, he was strongly influenced by Bartok who
meticulously researched and incorporated the folk music of his native Hungary in his scores. Echoes of Bartok abound
in Ligetis Bagatelles, like in the bristling rhythms of the fourth movement and the brisk dissonances of the Finale. The
musicians vividly revealed the works intricacies, including the flute melody that unfolds over snappily descending
ostinato patterns in the other winds.
Bartok also influenced Kurtags early works, although after 1959, the year Kurtag wrote his Quintet for Flute, Oboe,
Clarinet, Bassoon and Horn, he adopted a sparser aesthetic. This quintet illustrates that new ideal, with spare and brief
movements that are both acerbic and expressive.
The program concluded with a vibrant interpretation of the Piano Quartet in D by Dvorak, another composer inspired
by native traditions. Dvorak was initially inspired by the folk music of Moravia and Bohemia and later, when he lived
in the United States, by American Indian and African-American idioms. Folk-like melodies permeate the first
movement, enhanced by the finely crafted phrasing of Mr. Denk and his colleagues.
The Wall Street Journal October 19, 2010

Denk and Ives, Partners in Pianism

We Americans prize independence, innovation and in-your-face moxie. No one better exemplifies these qualities than
Charles Ives, a rugged New Englander who, in the early years of the 20th century, practically invented the modern life-
insurance industry; wrote sassy essays about politics, morality and art; and composed music of stunning originality.
When, in 1920, he published his great piano work, the "Concord Sonata," and sent it to reviewers with a note that said
"Complimentary: copies are not to be sold," the venerable magazine Musical America commented, "At last a composer
who realizes the unsalable quality of his music."
It was indeed a hard sell. This work sounds like no one else'sfilled with the composer's trademark collage technique
(quoting everything from hymns and patriotic songs to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony); unexpected, thoroughly unique
harmonic collisions; and equal doses of biting sarcasm and heart-on-your-sleeve sentimentality. As pianist Jeremy
Denk puts it in the liner notes for his new CD, "Jeremy Denk Plays Ives," released last week, this music is "brilliant,
inventive, tender, edgy, wild, original, witty, haunting . . . so many adjectives." Reviewers have had similar difficulty in
finding adjectives adequate to Mr. Denk's artistry: "intelligence," "lyricism," "attention to detail," "chops" and "breadth
of color" are just some of the words they have used. The new recording includes both of Ives's sonatas (the "Concord,"
with its four movements dedicated to New England literary figuresEmerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau and the Alcotts
is No. 2).
The pianist, who performs Tuesday night at Alice Tully Hall with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in a
program of folk-influenced works from Europe, has a wide repertoire. Why did he decide to record Ives? "For me, it's
his tenderness, the affection, the sense of memory he has," Mr. Denk said recently over a cup of coffee. "He reaches
back to his childhood and re-creates moments of magic, capturing an essence of music making that is more important
than what happens in a formal concert. There is," he reveals, "a strong Ives-Proust connection for meit has to do with
the time period, and the intense rethinking of what the listening experience is supposed to be."
Listening to music by Ives is like wandering through a memory box filled with old photos, sing-along songbooks,
political pamphlets, yellowed poems, the bass drum of a big brass band, remnants of an old watering hole, and perhaps
a pair of boxing gloves. "So much music of the time was conservative," Mr. Denk explains. "Think of William Grant
Still or Amy Beach. They were mostly writing 'in the style of. . . .' That is, they were busy redecorating the same
rooms. Beethoven didn't do thathe tore things apart. Ives created his persona out of Beethoven and Emersonmen
who were intensely self-reliant. He takes things that are commonplaceas Beethoven didand infuses them with a
new vision.
"The first movement of the First Sonata, for example, uses a sentimental tune, 'Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?'
and which gets tangled up in the hymn 'Lebanon.' The result can seem funny, but by the end of the movement you
realize that there is a great melancholy and nostalgia there. He experiments all the time, and, just as in experiments in a
lab, things sometimes explode. But Ives seems to value even the misfires. And ultimately, we do too."
One wonders if the music presents special pianistic challenges. "He was a pianist, too," Mr. Denk reminds us. "So when
he takes honky-tonk style, for example, he pushes its virtuosity to the highest degree. You end up playing syncopated
figures against yourself, and have to be able to keep two ideas in your head at oncethat's something that is especially
Jeremy Denk
The Wall Street Journal October 19, 2010
page 2 of 2

Ivesian. And this music is especially dependent on voicing [bringing certain lines to the forefront], because things are
multilayered: You must be sure you know what the important melody is, what the appropriate color should be, how to
make the beautiful parts truly beautiful."
Most significantly, the pianist says, there are always deep philosophical roots hidden in the score. "There is a moment
in Thoreau that is enchanting. A descending five-note figure that had been lingering in our subconscious throughout the
pieceactually they are the first notes to appear in the left hand in Emersonsuddenly crystallizes into the Stephen
Foster song 'Down in the Cornfield.' Below it, a three-note 'nature' theme rings out as a recurring bass pattern. The
joining of these melodies brings to mind a line from "Walden": 'I grew in those seasons like corn in the night. . . .' Ives
loved such instances of retrospective unificationmoments of epiphany.
"Similarly, in Emerson, he scatters seeds of thoughts at the beginning of the movementhe throws everything at you
in the first pagethen spends 16 minutes separating the ideas into little episodes. In the end we see them marching
away, one by one. He was going after Emerson's idea of finding meaning by implication or metaphor."
Mr. Denk's career includes a musical partnership with violinist Joshua Bell, and numerous solo and concerto
appearances. Has focusing on Ives affected his performance of other repertoire? "Actually, it is the other way around. I
think my playing of Liszt, Beethoven and Debussy has fed into my understanding of what Ives was after," Mr. Denk
replies. "In Ives you always have to be able to turn on a dime from one type of sound to anotherbecause his music
lives on the edge of anarchy." Nevertheless, as Jeremy Denk has ably demonstrated, a great interpreter can keep the
threat of entropy at bay.
Mr. Isacoff is on the faculty of the Purchase College Conservatory of Music (SUNY), and author of the book
"Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization" (Knopf/Vintage).
The New York Times October 13, 2010

A Romeo Who Struts, A Juliet Who Glitters

Charles Dutoits position as chief conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra was always meant to be an interim job, a
way for both the ensemble and Mr. Dutoit to capitalize on their longstanding relationship while the management
searched for a music director to succeed Christoph Eschenbach.
Last spring Philadelphia found its man in the Canadian hot property Yannick Nzet-Sguin. But Mr. Nzet-Sguin does
not take over until 2012. And if the colorful, high-energy program Mr. Dutoit conducted at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday is
any indication, he plans to keep the orchestra sounding sharp and vital until Mr. Nzet-Sguin turns up.
Mr. Dutoit has always been partial to the lavishly scored, rhythmically vibrant works of 20th-century Russian and
French composers, but colorful scoring is only a starting point for him. His practice most evident in the selections
from Prokofievs Romeo and Juliet, with which he closed the program is to magnify contrasts. Bright hues take on
an almost blinding gleam, softer ones have a velvety glow, and dynamics are expanded similarly.
I cannot recall hearing a performance of the Montagues and Capulets or Death of Tybalt scenes that matched Mr.
Dutoits reading for swagger, let alone deep, pounding basses and percussion, and growling brasses. And Mr. Dutoit
was no less vivid at the other end of the spectrum. The Young Juliet was painted in crystalline textures, with the
orchestras woodwinds at their best, and both Madrigal and the minuet had an evocative dreaminess and irresistible
Romantic sweep.
The trouble with this approach is that the line between the vivid and the garish can be thin, depending on how forgiving
(or how addicted to sheer sonic thrills) a listener is. At the very least Mr. Dutoit put a toe over that line on occasion;
several times he unquestionably darted past it and reveled in the excess before heading back to the realm of less
debatable interpretive taste.
Mr. Dutoit opened his program with Henri Dutilleuxs harmonically bracing Timbres, Espace, Mouvement, ou la Nuit
toile (1978, revised 1990), a three-movement exploration of texture, inspired by van Goghs Starry Night. The
woodwinds played with an alluring gracefulness that embraced the works mystery and exoticism, and the cellos (there
are no upper strings here) and percussion provided power and heft.
Between the Dutilleux and the Prokofiev the pianist Jeremy Denk joined Mr. Dutoit and company for a performance of
Liszts Piano Concerto No. 1. Mr. Dutoit set the tone with an opening passage that leaned on Liszts dramatic
dissonances and demanded an assertive pianistic response. Mr. Denk supplied that, along with a sparkling, powerhouse
sound. But typically for Mr. Denk, his reading never threatened to be matter over mind. Every phrase was fluid,
shapely and thoughtfully etched. He made Liszt seem, at least in passing, as if he were as deep and revolutionary a
thinker as Beethoven.
21C Media Group October 12, 2010

Versatile Virtuoso* Jeremy Denks Hotly-Anticipated New Album

Jeremy Denk Plays Ives Is Released Today
Ives wants to recreate the raw experience of music-making, something unfiltered, and beyond all your piano lessons
. While driving me crazy, he reminds me why I play the piano at all. Jeremy Denk
If there is one composer in whose works Jeremy Denk has inspired nothing but frank and heartfelt praise, it is thorny
American experimentalist Charles Ives. Denks recital programs have long featured not only Ivess famous and
monumental Concord Sonata but also the far less familiar Sonata No. 1, impressing critics with thrilling
performances (Anthony Tommasini, New York Times) that offer an entire world (Anne Midgette, Washington
Post). Now the pianists celebrated Ives interpretations have finally been committed to disc; released today, October
12, Jeremy Denk plays Ives is available in wide release.
In accompanying booklet notes that remind us why the Washington Posts Joan Reinthaler found Denks the most
interesting and well-written program notes [she had] ever read, the pianist asks: Why Ives? After all, while
recognized as an important and influential American original who anticipated many musical innovations to come,
Charles Ives (1874-1954) is best known for the dissonance and seeming chaos of his sound world, in which disparate
elements are not so much juxtaposed as superimposed, apparently jostling for space. And yet, as Denk explains,
Its not [the] so-called historical importance that makes me love the music. There is a terrific tenderness emanating
from this dissonant, difficult music: a tenderness for experiences of childhood, for the uneducated, fervid hymn-
singing of camp meetings, for the silliness of ragtime, for the quaint wistful corners of ballads, and on and on. There is
a correspondingly enormous wit: the love of crazy musical mishap, a love of syncopation, disjunction, mash-up; the
merger of opposites. He recreates, almost like Proust, a whole world for us: the musical world of America in the last
part of the 19th century. He evokes a tremendous nostalgia for that world, while making it alive again.
It is Denks ability to synthesize this emotional connection to the music with more intellectual analysis not to mention
full technical mastery of the material that sets his interpretations apart.
While Ivess second piano sonata has achieved so much greater fame than the first, taken together, Denk realizes, The
two piano sonatas are wonderful representations of the two productive decades of his composing life. The first, with its
hymn-improvisations and its ragtime dances, represents an earlier, more variegated Ives, while the famous Concord
Sonata represents the summit of Ives maturity, an attempt to consolidate his musical (and extramusical) thinkingin a
huge statement. When Denk revived the five-movement First Sonata (1909) at last seasons Ojai Music Festival, the
Los Angeles Timess Mark Swed dubbed him a hero of the Festival, adding: If he had done nothing more than
rescue Ives First Piano Sonata from obscurity, which he did in his glorious Saturday morning recital, I would say the
weekend would have been worthwhile. Rita Moran, reporting for the Ventura County Star, shared Sweds
enthusiasm, concluding that the idiosyncratic Ives rarely seemed so relevantand [Denks] joy in playing was
Yet it is with the notorious Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840-1860 (c.1915), comprising philosophical portraits of
Ivess four famous New England transcendentalist friends, that Denk established himself as a leading exponent of the
composers work. Tommasini, writing for the New York Times, recognized his special feel for it:
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group October 12, 2010
page 2 of 2

Many pianists emphasize the volatile craziness of Emerson. Mr. Denk conveyed the musics teeming energy, while
also projecting the thematic thread, however fractured, that runs through this movement. He somehow made the mood
swings seem inevitable, from the dissonant, contrapuntally convoluted outbursts to the pensive passages with hints of
hymn tunes. During the raucous Hawthorne, the homebound tenderness of The Alcotts, and the metaphysical
musings of Thoreau, Mr. Denk brought out both the sonatas radicalism and nostalgia, yet never let the music seem
simply eccentric. Ives emerged here as a cagey master.
As Reinthaler observed in the Washington Post, the pianists ability to draw both explosive power and sublime
poetry from the work becomes all the more remarkable when one considers that the sonata must score way up there
on the notes-per-page scale; yet Denk has the chops to muscle his way through [it] without breaking a sweat. She
What made his performance so compelling, however, were the intelligence, lyricism, and transparency that
illuminated everything he touched. His attention to detail only heightened the unfolding drama one unexpected
staccato in the midst of a cascade of notes, a lyrical melody able to assert itself within a welter of hyperactivity .
Denk has the kind of touch on the keys that seems to draw the sound from the piano.
Fellow Washington Post writer Midgette was likewise awed by his performance:
Its notable that he projects such quiet assurance, given his ability to tear into the keyboard in repeated wild assaults
before returning to serenity, grasping the frail sweet echo of a melody at the end of the first movement like a photo of
childhood snatched from a tangle of dark sound. In Iveshe offered an entire world.
Committing such passion to disc is no mean feat requiring Denk, like the composer himself, to bring off that classic
Ivesian thing: to bring beauty out of chaos, and vice versa. And yet the pianist inspires our confidence; as Alex Ross
remarked in the New Yorker before Denks Carnegie Hall Concord performance, Prior concerts have suggested that
Denk has the chops, the brains, and the heart to pull it off.
* Denver Post
Available at itunes and Amazon
Jeremy Denk plays Ives
Charles Ives: Piano Sonata No. 1 (1909)
Charles Ives: Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840-60 (c. 1915)
CD release: October 12
The New York Times October 1, 2010

Taming Ives With Head, Heart and Humor


THE more you dig into a piece of Ives, the more pleasure you get from it, the pianist Jeremy Denk said recently,
sitting at a piano in a rehearsal space at the Juilliard School. Its like solving a puzzle.
Then he enthusiastically deconstructed Ivess Concord Sonata, untangling and explaining the themes and motifs
embedded in the complex textures of this fascinating score.
Mr. Denk is about to release a disc, Jeremy Denk Plays Ives (Think Denk Media), featuring two piano sonatas, an
esoteric choice of repertory for a debut solo album. But then, there is nothing generic about this adventurous musician.
His vivacious intellect is manifest both in his playing and on his blog, Think Denk, an outlet for astute musical
observations and witty musings, whether a lament about inedible meatballs or a spoof interview with Sarah Palin.
Mr. Denk will demonstrate his more mainstream credentials when he performs Liszts Piano Concerto No. 1 with
Charles Dutoit and the Philadelphia Orchestra beginning on Thursday at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia and on Oct.
12 at Carnegie Hall.
Mr. Denk argues that the Ives sonatas, composed early in the 20th century, are mistakenly categorized as avant-garde
works rather than epic Romantic sonatas with Lisztian thematic transformations. To the casual listener, the music that
Mr. Denk describes in the CD booklet as brilliant, inventive, tender, edgy, wild, original, witty, haunting can
certainly sound avant-garde. Ives, who made his living in the insurance business, incorporated jazz, riffs on Beethoven
and American hymns, marches and folk songs into his daringly experimental piano sonatas, rich in polytonality,
thematic layering and rhythmic complexity.
Its so wonderfully in-your-face, Mr. Denk said, demonstrating a particularly maniacal passage in the Concord
Sonata. Its also pretty amazingly ugly. There is something maddening about his sense of humor. Ives is continuously
thumbing his nose at you in a way.
But Mr. Denk suggests that Ivess tenderness, which he illuminates beautifully in this recording, is underappreciated.
Ives is often about things recalled, he said, or memories or visions fetched out of some difficult place.
He played the harmonically misty passages in the second movement of the Concord, where Ives directs that a piece
of wood be pressed on the upper keys to produce a cluster chord. It doesnt feel gimmicky at all to me, Mr. Denk
said. Its all blues in the bottom. Ives knew how to use those little clichd bits of Americana in a way that suddenly
gets your gut. You cant believe how touching it is.
Mr. Denk, 40, has been passionate about Ives since his undergraduate days at Oberlin in Ohio, where he carried a
double major in piano performance and chemistry. My entire double degree experience was somewhat of a continuous
freakout of one kind of another, he said.
He had been a really nerdy high school student with a limited social life, he said. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to
go to Oberlin and wanted the liberal arts. Obviously I really get intense pleasure out of drawing connections between
pieces and poems and literature and ideas.
Jeremy Denk
The New York Times October 1, 2010
page 2 of 3

Mr. Denk described himself as a practice maniac, but his horizons have extended far beyond the practice room since
Oberlin. While nibbling an enormous piece of chocolate cream pie at an Upper West Side diner near the apartment he
has rented since around 1999, Mr. Denk referred to his blog, calling it an amazingly good outlet to release tensions of
one kind or another. He said it had drawn new listeners to his concerts. An avid reader of liberal political blogs, Mr.
Denk dreams of writing a classical music version of Wonkette, he said, but that would be hard to do without offending
people. And he tries to avoid offending people, he added, though he did recently post a rant about program notes.
Mr. Denk, who calls himself a real Francophile, is soft-spoken but intense, his conversation peppered with references
to various obsessions: coffee, Ives, Bach, Proust, Baudelaire and Emerson.
He went off on a Balzac mania a few years ago, he said.
That was a dangerous time, and everything in life seemed drawn out of a Balzac novel, he added. I lost about three
years of my life to Proust. Im sure it changed everything, including my playing.
One day my manager was like, Dude, you have to focus on your career and getting your stuff together. At that
point, Mr. Denk said, I was bringing Proust to meetings. He added: Im not sure I really had a career route. I was
just doing my weird thing, which probably seemed like a disastrous nonroute to many of the people who were watching
over me. I remember some exasperated meetings with my management, but they were very patient and faithful, which
Im insanely grateful for.
Mr. Denk grew up in Las Cruces, N.M., one of two brothers, a son of music-loving nonmusician parents. His father,
who has a doctorate in chemistry, has been (at different times) a Roman Catholic monk and a director of computer
science at New Mexico State University.
Mr. Denk remains addicted to the chili peppers of Las Cruces, he said, seemingly only half joking: The red and the
green and the whole spirituality of chili peppers. Its still a huge part of my life. When I go home I go to this real dive
and obsess over their green meat burrito.
When not on tour, Mr. Denk spends time with his boyfriend, Patrick Posey, a saxophonist and the director of orchestral
activities and planning at Juilliard, where Mr. Denk received his doctorate, studying with Herbert Stessin. Mr. Stessin
recalls having been impressed by the maturity and intensity of Mr. Denks playing and remembers him as an
extraordinary student who absorbed things very rapidly.
Mr. Denk said he was in school forever until at some point I decided to trust my own instincts. Now he teaches
double-degree undergraduates at the Bard College Conservatory of Music. The pianist Allegra Chapman, who studied
with him, said he was concerned with a lot more than the notes on the page, always bringing up literary and historical
Now I try to approach music within a more holistic perspective, she added. He is very passionate. He used to jump
around the room and bounce about and wave his arms. It was really fun. He tried to get me to look at the music with a
sense of humor.
This blend of passion, humor and intellect, so vibrant in both Mr. Denks playing and his writing, is what distinguishes
him, according to the violinist Joshua Bell. The two have been regular duo partners since 2004, when they performed at
the Spoleto Festival USA.
You get the intellectual musicians or those who wear their heart on their sleeve without a lot of musical thought, Mr.
Bell said, but Jeremy manages to do both, and thats ideal. We have plenty of arguments in rehearsal, which is the fun
part as well. The fact we dont always see eye to eye keeps things fresh and makes me question everything I do.
Mr. Bell, whose choices of repertory tend to be more conventional than those of his more adventurous colleague, said
he wasnt always an Ives fan: With a lot of modern music Im a little wary. Even with Ives, until I heard Jeremy. He
just brings it alive. He has such a great imagination, and nothing is done randomly.
Jeremy Denk
The New York Times October 1, 2010
page 3 of 3

Ivess piano sonatas, Mr. Denk said, are in a way like animals that dont want to be tamed.
Each performance should be so different, he added, one reason he was initially hesitant to record them. Like Bach, he
said, Ives leaves a lot to the performers imagination.
A marvelous interpretation of the Goldberg Variations at Symphony Space in 2008 revealed Mr. Denks profound
affinity with Bach. Mr. Denk will perform the work and Books 1 and 2 of Ligetis tudes at Zankel Hall on Feb. 16.
To keep the Goldberg Variations fresh, Mr. Denk is incorporating new fingerings, he said, to reactivate the
connection between my brain and my fingers when Im playing it.
I think its a real magical place when you have the muscle memory, he added, but the brain is ahead of the fingers.
Changing the fingerings is one way to avoid routine, he said. I get real pleasure out of writing in a really good
fingering. It is like relearning the piece, and it makes you not take any note for granted.
The musical philosophy Mr. Denk applies to Bach, Ives and other repertory is perhaps best summed up in that blog post
on program notes: Ive never been a big fan of the Imagine how revolutionary this piece was when it was written
school of inspiration. For my money, it should be revolutionary now. (And it is.) Whatever else the composer might
have intended, he or she didnt want you to think, Boy, that must have been cool back then. The most basic
compositional intent, the absolute ur-intent, is that you play it now, you make it happen now.
The New York Times August 23, 2010

Mozart as Appetizer, Schumann as a Main Course


Hearing music by Mozart among the offerings presented by the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center on Tuesday
night took a bit of extra effort, since neither of the two concerts scheduled for that evening featured anything he wrote.
The festivals resident orchestra, playing in Avery Fisher Hall, offered Weber, Mendelssohn and Schumann, the last in
a nod to his 200th birthday this year. Another 200th birthday, that of Chopin, was recognized in an after-hours recital
by the Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski at the Kaplan Penthouse.
To hear Mozart you had to turn up an hour before the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestras appearance for the preconcert
recital. That hundreds did so probably was less because of the music than because of the performers: the violinist
Joshua Bell and the pianist Jeremy Denk, who were also the featured soloists in the orchestras program.
The presence of Mr. Bell, one of the worlds most popular classical musicians and a virtuoso refreshingly traditional in
his preference for a sweet, singing tone and tasteful vibrato in Mozart, surely accounted for the boisterous crowd that
attended the sold-out evening concert. Mr. Denk, one of Mr. Bells most frequent collaborators, is rightly commanding
his own growing share of the spotlight for his profundity and puckish temperament. In a lissome account of Mozarts
Sonata in B flat (K. 454), you heard the admirable cohesion these players have forged.
Presumably their performance also warmed them up for the main event: Mendelssohns Concerto for Violin, Piano and
Strings in D minor, the centerpiece of a concert by the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. A youthful work that doesnt
quite amount to top-shelf Mendelssohn, the concerto nonetheless offered soaring melodies and ample opportunities for
Mr. Bell and Mr. Denk to engage in racing solo lines and breathtaking duo passages.
If the orchestra generally seemed like an afterthought in the concerto, the players nonetheless seemed invigorated by
the occasion. Louis Langre, the music director, shaped phrases and shaded dynamics meticulously in the taut, dramatic
account of Webers Overture to Der Freischtz, which opened the program, and elicited warmth, finesse and edge-of-
the-seat excitement during a concluding rendition of Schumanns Symphony No. 4.
Later, in another sold-out event, part of the Little Night Music series, the Kaplan Penthouse served as an appropriately
intimate forum for Mr. Trpceskis intense, highly personal approach to Chopins music. Opening with the four Op. 24
Mazurkas, he demonstrated a technique well suited to Chopin: muscular, clear and unfussy, with a firm grasp of
chiaroscuro and an abundant capacity for invention.
As important, Mr. Trpceski left no doubt as to his temperamental affinity for Chopins music. Within the wistful Op. 24
pieces, and even more in the Mazurka in A minor (Op. 17, No. 4) that followed, Mr. Trpceski offered sighing
elongations, giggly tumbles and temperamental flashes, admirably serving Chopins mix of the earthy and the ethereal.
Brighter and more affirmative, the three Op. 70 Waltzes brought out a more easeful elegance in Mr. Trpceskis playing.
Intensity returned, redoubled, in a concluding group featuring the paired Nocturnes of Op. 32 and Op. 48. Mr. Trpceski
proved himself a master of Chopins subtle shock tactics, those sudden hollows and unsignaled sharp turns that leave
you momentarily disoriented within Chopins dreamy terrain.
Jeremy Denk
The New York Times August 23, 2010
page 2 of 2

Now and then you might have wished for just a shade more momentum; still, it was impossible to remain unswayed by
Mr. Trpceskis careful consideration and thoroughness, which extended to his reversal of the order of the Op. 48
Nocturnes to give his recital a more heroic ending.
For his encore he offered Chopins Waltz in A minor (Op. posth.), reveling once more in the composers incomparable
intermingling of sun and shade.
The New York Times August 20, 2010

One Night, Two Shows, Four Masters


Despite the thorough dissimilarity between the two concerts that the Mostly Mozart Festival presented on Thursday
night, you could tease out common threads if you tried hard. Both the performance by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
at Alice Tully Hall and the after-hours recital by the pianist Jeremy Denk at the Kaplan Penthouse hung on a central
duality. The Freiburg ensemble offered works by Haydn and Mozart for side-by-side comparison; Mr. Denk performed
what appeared to be disparate works by Liszt and Beethoven, proving in the process that the pairing was far from
The first half of the program offered by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, a trim, distinguished German period-
instrument ensemble, featured works more of peppy utility than of striking originality and inspiration. Mozarts
Symphony No. 16 in C (K. 128) came during his 16th year, a time of feverish compositional activity. Slight and
precocious, the symphony was notable mainly for its passing instances of subtly contrasted dynamics, keenly
represented here with precise, lively playing.
Haydn wrote his Concerto for Fortepiano and Violin in F (Hob.XVIII:6) as a 24-year-old freelance composer tasked
with the unhappy duty of writing music to celebrate a would-be lovers taking the veil. The soloists, the violinist
Kathrin Trger and the fortepianist Christine Schornsheim (playing on an unidentified period-model instrument),
performed with elegant efficiency in the perky outer movements, and brought out a plaintive melancholy in the flowing
lines of the Largo.
In the works of the second half, Mozart and Haydn emerged more recognizably as the masters we know. Mozarts
Bassoon Concerto in B flat (K. 191), composed just two years after the Symphony No. 16, revealed in nascent form the
Italian opera-inspired dramaturgy of his mature concertos. Javier Zafra was a vibrant soloist, performing on a period
bassoon woodier and mellower in tone than its modern descendant.
With Haydns Symphony No. 52 in C minor (Hob.I:52), composed in the same year as the Mozart symphony heard
earlier, came an altogether higher level of complexity and accomplishment. A late example of Haydns so-called Sturm
und Drang (storm and stress) symphonies, the work included its share of appropriately tempestuous themes. As often,
though, the music was frolicsome or tender.
Again and again the ear captured crafty details that underscored Haydns originality: deceptive harmonic progressions,
off-kilter rhythms, a luminous passage during the Andante in which a pedal tone on French horns purred under silken
strings. One or two wayward squawks from the excellent horn players aside, the Freiburg musicians offered
consistently secure, uplifting work.
Later, in the Kaplan Penthouse, Mr. Denk prefaced his recital by claiming that he was assigned to write program notes
but missed the deadline. Given the grueling schedule he maintains, you could hardly blame him. A charming and
insightful writer, as his well-known blog demonstrates, he described to the audience the affinities he perceived between
Liszts flamboyant Aprs une Lecture du Dante and Beethovens enigmatic Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor (Op.
Jeremy Denk
The New York Times August 20, 2010
page 2 of 2

Both have a dark night of the soul quality, as Mr. Denk described it, and evoke a sense of heaven and hell
contemplated. Given Liszts source and subject, the evocation was explicit. Liszt was never shy about being overt,
Mr. Denk said.
His playing supported that view, showing an explosive ferocity and a fragile delicacy that were thrilling to witness in so
intimate a setting. Here and there Mr. Denks animation fleetingly outpaced his rock-solid technique, a small price to
pay for such intensity and commitment.
Mr. Denks playing in the first movement of the Beethoven sonata progressed from crabby and benumbed to demonic
and compulsive. More than once I saw an audience member involuntarily flinch at some of the sharper attacks.
In describing the piece beforehand, Mr. Denk explained how, in the second movement, Beethoven wrings increasingly
elaborate variations from a three-note theme: the kind of musical germ that the composer somehow manages to pack
with an emotional wallop seemingly beyond its capacity. In Mr. Denks hands the music progressed through lissome
swing, pious exuberance and chaste interiority, climaxing in a valedictory swell that seemed to anticipate every Wagner
triumphal chorus yet to come. At the end, Beethoven once again reveals the three-note theme, then folds his hands in
prayerful repose.
This account, alive to every suggestion and nuance in the score, was an absolute joy to witness. Mr. Denk, clearly, is a
pianist you want to hear no matter what he performs, in whatever combination both for his penetrating intellectual
engagement with the music and for the generosity of his playing.
Boston Globe August 20, 2010

For him, Ives has it


The pianist Jeremy Denk was one of the first classical musicians to make a substantive art of blogging. His blog, Think
Denk, remains the site of some of the most brilliantly off-kilter writing about music, art, and the relation of various
food items to both.
His literary skills are also in evidence in the extensive program notes to his new recording of Ivess two piano sonatas,
released last week on iTunes. Denk writes that he is often asked by audience members why hes drawn to Ives, in
whose music they hear little more than discord. To the contrary, he submits, there is a terrific tenderness emanating
from this dissonant, difficult music: a tenderness for experiences of childhood, for the uneducated, fervid hymn-
singing of camp meetings, for the silliness of ragtime, for the quaint wistful corners of ballads, and on and on.
He expands on this theme while discussing a particularly wild passage in the First Sonata, in which Ives unleashes
some truly unhinged variations on Bringing in the Sheaves, a popular hymn tune. [I]t is true to life: you can almost
smell the beer, and the sawdust on the floor. . . . Ives wants to re-create the raw experience of music-making, something
unfiltered, and beyond all your piano lessons; though writing fiendishly difficult piano music, he wants you to
remember there is something more important than just playing well; while driving me crazy, he reminds me why I
play the piano at all.
And the playing is indeed wonderful. Denks powerful rendering of the famous Concord Sonata will bring back
happy memories for those who heard him play the piece in 2008 at the Gardner Museum. Almost more impressive,
though, is his recording of the rarely played First Sonata, in which Ivess creativity repeatedly bubbles over into the
near-anarchy that puts him so close to the pianists heart. The above mentioned variations sound just as rowdy as
Denks description makes them seem. After all, as the pianist writes, Ives was always good at depicting the moment
when the party goes over the cliff.
The CD version of Jeremy Denk Plays Ives will be released in October. Denk plays Mendelssohns Double Concerto
for violin, piano, and strings tomorrow at Tanglewood with his frequent recital partner Joshua Bell, and the Boston
Symphony Orchestra.
21C Media Group June 24, 2010

Jeremy Denk Appears at Three Top U.S. Festivals Bard, Mostly Mozart,
and Tanglewood Over Just Eight Days (Aug 13-21)
With a supreme command of the piano allowing endlessly varied color, touch, and chord voicing, all
possibilities are seemingly open to him. And all possibilities are imaginable, thanks to a fine intellect.
David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer

Jeremy Denks summer reaches its acme in mid-August, when he appears at three of the seasons most prestigious U.S.
festivals Bard (Aug 13-15), Mostly Mozart (Aug 17-19), and Tanglewood (Aug 21) to give six prominent
performances in little over a week. In repertoire ranging from solo and chamber to orchestral, and from composers of
the First Viennese School to those of the Second, the versatile pianist collaborates with leading artists including Joshua
Bell and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The first of these appearances is at Annandale-on-Hudsons Bard Music Festival, which has won international acclaim
for its unrivaled, in-depth exploration of the life and works of a single composer and his contemporaries, offering, in
the words of the New York Times, a rich web of context for a full appreciation of that composers inspirations and
significance. A veteran of the festival, last season Denk impressed the New York Timess Steve Smith with playing
that juxtaposed tenderness personified with his more athletic side. At this years celebration of Berg and His
World, the pianist performs two important chamber works by the groundbreaking Austrian composer: the Piano
Sonata, Op. 1, for Bards opening-night concert on August 13, and with Paganini Competition-winner Soovin Kim
and members of the resident American Symphony Orchestra the Kammerkonzert for piano, violin, and 13 wind
instruments, Op. 8, for the close of the festivals first weekend on August 15.
As Denk once confided on his humorous and engaging blog, Think Denk, despite knowing Bergs Kammerkonzert to
be one amazing piece, he fears that others will hear in it only disturbed waltz-tunes. When he performed the work
with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, however, he need not have worried. In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Peter
Dobrin declared that if audience size were commensurate with artistic value, Bergs Chamber Concertowould have
been enough to fill the house all by itself. In fact, its a work so overcrowded with genius, it should have been played
twice. Dobrin went on to applaud Denks heroism, skill as a fastidious detail worker, and ability to make
manipulation of tone as emotional a variant as the pitch of an actors voice.
After taking his Berg interpretations to Bard, Denk returns for to New York Citys Mostly Mozart Festival, where he
joins Joshua Bell and the Festival Orchestra under Louis Langre for two performances of Mendelssohns Double
Concerto in Lincoln Centers Avery Fisher Hall. Written for violin, piano, and strings in 1823, the work reveals its
youthful composers delight in lyrical invention and virtuosity, lending itself perfectly to the winning partnership of
Denk and Bell, themselves dubbed young, gifted, and energetic by the New York Times. As Vivien Schweitzer
remarked in the same paper, These two musicians are an ideally matched duo, with Mr. Denks fiery playing
complementing Mr. Bells luxuriant singing tone.
Mostly Mozart audiences also have the opportunity to hear Denk and Bell together in pre-concert recital; both
orchestral concerts on August 17 and 18 will be preceded by performances of Mozarts Violin Sonata in B-flat
major, K.454. It was Denks distinguished Mozart interpretations that inspired the San Jose Mercury Newss Richard
Scheinin to style him a sensational musician."
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group June 24, 2010
page 2 of 3

One of Mostly Mozarts specialties is A Little Night Music: a series of late-night candle-lit concerts in the Stanley H.
Kaplan Penthouse. The intimate setting brings solo performances into sharp and unforgiving focus, yet when Denk
made one such appearance two years ago, he proved himself more than equal to the challenge, making a deep
impression on the New York Timess Allan Kozinn with his nuanced, finely detailed performance.
For his contribution to the series this season, on August 19, Denk has selected Liszts Dante Sonata, considered one of
the most difficult works in the repertoire, and Beethovens Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111, the composers
last in the genre, which, like his other late period sonatas, features fugal elements and is technically very demanding.
Yet Denk has a way with both composers that brings out not just challenges and depths, but their lighter side too; the
New York Timess Anthony Tommasini observed that:
There was no trace of Germanic, granitic monumentality in Mr. Denks performance of Beethovens Hammerklavier.
From his bracing account of the opening Allegro, taking a fleet tempo, through the insanely complex final fugue, its
subject thick with finger-twisting trills, Mr. Denks playing was wonderfully light-textured, articulate and restless.
Beethoven never wrote a thornier piece. Yet hints of Beethoven the daring improviser also came through in Mr.
Denks fresh, risky and, when called for, boldly humorous performance.
For the close of his intensive eight-day run, Denk rejoins Joshua Bell at the Tanglewood Music Festival on August 21,
when the pair reprise Mendelssohns concerto, now with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Susanna Mlkki, a
young Finnish conductor who, like Denk, is making her Tanglewood debut. If Denks previous collaborations in
Boston are anything to go by, he seems likely to make quite an impression:
Jeremy Denk was the pyrogenic force in every piece he played. He commands a huge range of colors and dynamics.
He has an unerring sense of the musics dramatic structure and a great actors intuition for timing He was the
provocateur who urged his colleagues to dare all, to unleash every calorie of emotional heat. Ellen Pfeifer, Boston
Jeremy Denk: festival engagements, August 2010

Friday, August 13 at 8pm; Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

Bard Music Festival (Program One)
Sosnoff Theater
(with Daedalus Quartet; Danny Driver, piano; Alexander Fiterstein, clarinet; Lisa Saffer, soprano; Pei-Yao Wang,
piano; Bard Festival Chamber Players)
Alban Berg
Seven Early Songs (190508)
Piano Sonata, Op. 1 (190708)
Four Pieces, for clarinet and piano (1913)
Lyric Suite (192526)
Johann Strauss II: Wein, Weib, und Gesang, Op. 333 (1869, arr. Berg, 1921)

Sunday, August 15 at 5:30pm; Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

Bard Music Festival (Program Six)
Sosnoff Theater
(with Soovin Kim, violin and members of the American Symphony Orchestra / Leon Botstein)
Alban Berg: Kammerkonzert (192325)
Ferruccio Busoni: Berceuse lgiaque, Op. 42 (1909; arr. Stein, 1920)
Arnold Schoenberg: Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 9 (190506)
Paul Hindemith: Kammermusik No. 1, Op. 24/1 (1921)
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group June 24, 2010
page 3 of 3

Tuesday, August 17 at 7pm; New York City

Mostly Mozart Festival
Avery Fisher Hall
(with Joshua Bell, violin)
Mozart: Violin Sonata in B-flat major, K.454

Tuesday, August 17 at 8pm; New York City

Mostly Mozart Festival
Avery Fisher Hall
(with Joshua Bell, violin and Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra / Louis Langre)
Weber: Overture to Der Freischtz
Mendelssohn: Concerto for violin, piano, and strings
Schumann: Symphony No.4

Wednesday, August 18 at 7pm; New York City

Mostly Mozart Festival
Avery Fisher Hall
(with Joshua Bell, violin)
Mozart: Violin Sonata in B-flat major, K.454

Wednesday, August 18 at 8pm; New York City

Mostly Mozart Festival
Avery Fisher Hall
(with Joshua Bell, violin and Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra / Louis Langre)
Weber: Overture to Der Freischtz
Mendelssohn: Concerto for violin, piano, and strings
Schumann: Symphony No.4

Thursday, August 19 at 10:30pm; New York City

Mostly Mozart Festival (A Little Night Music)
Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse
Liszt: Dante Sonata
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 32, Op. 111

Saturday, August 21 at 8:30pm; Lenox, MA

Tanglewood Music Festival
Koussevitzky Music Shed
(with Joshua Bell, violin and Boston Symphony Orchestra / Susanna Mlkki)
Mendelssohn: Overture to A Midsummer Nights Dream
Mendelssohn: Double Concerto in D minor for violin, piano, and strings

Beethoven: Romance No. 2 in F, for violin and orchestra

Beethoven: Symphony No. 4
Jeremy Denk
New York Times May 11, 2010

A Composer Arguing With Plato


The composer Louis Andriessens pugnacious and exhilarating piece De Staat has a reputation as a milestone of
avant-garde music in the later decades of the 20th century. Yet you hear about the work, composed in 1976, more than
you actually hear it. For whatever reasons, it does not turn up often in concert.

So it was a thrill to hear the adventurous players of Ensemble ACJW perform De Staat, scored for a large ensemble
thick with brass and four amplified female voices, at Zankel Hall on Monday night. The performance concluded a
bracing concert, deftly conducted by the composer John Adams, that also offered Mr. Adamss vibrant, impish Son of
Chamber Symphony and Stravinskys tart, arresting Concerto for Piano and Winds, with the dynamic pianist
Jeremy Denk in a fluid, articulate and utterly dazzling account of the intricate piano part.

Born in 1939, Mr. Andriessen was an anti-establishment agitator in the Dutch musical scene of the 1960s and 70s.
With De Staat, commissioned by the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, Mr. Andriessen took his campaign into the
concert hall.

For his texts Mr. Andriessen chose passages from Platos Republic (performed in Greek) that warn against the
dangers musical innovation bring to the state and advocate the banning of certain scales and instruments. What
especially provoked Mr. Andriessen was the idea in Platos philosophical tract that any alteration in the modes of music
is always followed by alteration in the most fundamental laws of the state, to quote a translation of the last line of
De Staat.

Mr. Andriessen alternately evokes and combats Platos text. De Staat is also an unabashed attempt to do what Plato
deems dangerous: use music to alter the state, in a sense, by shaking up the emotions of listeners.
The overall sound of De Staat is bright and steely. Yet there is something weirdly celestial about the instrumental
colors. There are four violas, instead of violins, and no cellos or basses. Low tones are mostly supplied by a bass guitar,
a bass trombone and two pianos.

Elements of jazz, rock and Minimalism permeate the score, although the musical subtleties that grab you are the
product of Mr. Andriessens acute and distinctive ear. The work begins with a nasal, almost medieval burst of
intertwining lines and pleading chords from the oboes, to set the mood for the first excerpt from the text, which extols
the virtues of unchanging rhythms and harmonies. This, naturally, leads to a span of repetitive melodic riffs and
rhythmic patterns.

As the piece evolves, there are brassy blasts, pummeling pianos, every-which-way counterpoint, entangled bits of text
among the four hard-working singers, overall craziness and, at times, a relentless din. The musicians seemed swept
away yet fully in control throughout the mesmerizing performance. Unfortunately, Mr. Andriessen, who had been in
residence at Carnegie Hall as the holder of a composers chair, had commitments in the Netherlands. Mr. Adams, who
spoke of his enormous regard for Mr. Andriessen, was an inspired advocate.
Jeremy Denk
New York Times May 11, 2010
page 2 of 2

During comments to the audience, one player, the oboist James Austin Smith, referred to this concert, which began at 6
p.m., as a musical happy hour, courtesy of Ensemble ACJW. The large ensemble here included current and former
participants in the academy, the training program for select musicians run jointly by Carnegie Hall, the Weill Music
Institute and the Juilliard School.

Soon about 20 of the players who were onstage on Monday will graduate from the program. This was the last major
collective performance of the Ensemble ACJW season. What a way to end it.
Jeremy Denk
The Philadelphia Inquirer May 11, 2010

John Adams conducts for chamber group


After keeping polite company with Beethoven, Schubert and Debussy all season, the Philadelphia Chamber Music
Society turned edgier Sunday afternoon, hosting composer John Adams conducting a group assembled under the
moniker Ensemble ACJW.
Adams led three breathtakingly original works in the Perelman Theater - his own Son of Chamber Symphony from
2007, Stravinsky's 1924 Concerto for Piano and Winds, and Louis Andriessen's De Staat, premiered in 1976.

The Adams work is the least confrontational of the three - the one whose basic sound is so familiar it seems to have
been distilled from contemporary ambient noise. It's a busy, sometimes jazzy score, challenging every available ounce
of concentration from the young musicians (fellows from a collaborative project called simply the Academy - a
program of Carnegie Hall, the Juilliard School and the New York City Department of Education).

Adams often asks a player to be a pointillist, counting rests carefully until contributing one note in a continuing line.
The second movement is music that worries a bit, if prettily, with an oboe solo over a celesta-pizzicato string texture.
The third rolls on with the inevitability of a speeding train.

You're struck by the possibility that Adams writes with the neat, precise packaging of electronic instruments in his
head; the fact that he scores for acoustic instruments heightens the sense of daring. These musicians had no trouble
keeping up the illusion.

Pianist Jeremy Denk was the stylish soloist in the Stravinsky. You could imagine a pianist of lesser rhythmic
acuity being so preoccupied with the basics as to miss this piece's expressive possibilities. Denk missed nothing,
shaping the Bach-influenced passages and setting off Poulenc-sweet neo-classicism against more acerbic music.
He was unusually sensitive to the orchestra, playing into the sound of instruments he doubled.

What was so astonishing about Andriessen's De Staat (The Republic) wasn't its mass of sound - overwhelming as it was
in the Perelman - but that it seems, after 35 years, so completely up to date. The influences are Reich, Stravinsky,
Indian raga, and of course, Plato, whose text is incanted by four female vocalists. Patterns restate and evolve - and
rather than becoming rote, the slow sense of shifting becomes the source of a pleasurable, consuming hypnotism.
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group April 26, 2010

Jeremy Denk Performs Stravinskys Concerto for Piano and Winds under John Adams
at New Yorks Carnegie Hall on May 10

Versatile Pianist Also Joins Steven Isserlis for Family Concert

at NYCs 92nd Street Y (May 23)

Doing the Stravinsky with Jeremy Denk was pure pleasure. He seems to be able to play
anything, making it feel effortless and finding the essence of what the composer imagines.
John Adams

Jeremy Denk has enjoyed a high-profile spring, collaborating with composer/conductor John Adams to perform
Stravinskys Concerto for Piano and Winds on both sides of the Atlantic. After their account of the work with the
London Symphony Orchestra, numerous critics singled Denks performance out for praise, the Daily Telegraph noting
his Chopinesque grace, and the Arts Desk admiring his astounding sense of fantasy. Now, as a grand finale, Denk
and Adams reunite to reprise the concerto, this time with Ensemble ACJW, at New Yorks Carnegie Hall (May 10).
Before the month is out, the versatile pianist also makes a second, more intimate New York appearance, joining cellist
Steven Isserlis and friends for a family concert Songs and Spectacles: The Life and Music of Schubert at the
92nd Street Y (May 23).

The Concerto for Piano and Winds (1923-24, rev. 1950) is one of the mainstays of Stravinskys neoclassical output.
Having composed the concerto for his own use, he performed it more than 40 times in the five years after its premiere
under Serge Koussevitzky. Of the innovative scoring, Stravinsky wrote: The short, crisp dance character of the [first
movement], engendered by the percussion of the piano, led to the idea that a wind ensemble would suit the piano better
than any other combination. In contrast to the percussiveness of the piano, the winds prolong the pianos sound as well
as providing the human element of respiration. The concerto influenced many later works, notably Bartks Second
Piano Concerto, in a performance of which the New York Timess Anthony Tommasini considered Denk a brilliant
soloist, commenting:

Hearing Mr. Denks bracing, effortlessly virtuosic and utterly joyous performance, one would never guess how
phenomenally difficult the piano part is.

Like Stravinsky before him, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams is also a skilled and dynamic conductor
(New York Times). As performers, both Adams and Denk consistently win praise for their facility with a broad range of
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group April 26, 2010
page 2 of 3

repertoire; the New York Times admired Adamss versatility on the podium, while the Philadelphia Inquirers David
Patrick Stearns wrote of Denk:

With a supreme command of the piano allowing endlessly varied color, touch, and chord voicing, all
possibilities are seemingly open to him. And all possibilities are imaginable, thanks to a fine intellect.

This assessment of Denks abilities is one with which Adams himself would concur; following their appearances
together in March, the composer/conductor reported:

Doing the Stravinsky with Jeremy Denk was pure pleasure. He seems to be able to play anything, making it feel
effortless and finding the essence of what the composer imagines. In his hands the piece felt urbane, cheeky,
mixing the wit and stylishness of the outer movements with the elevated lyricism of the Bach-inspired cantilenas
of the slow movement.

For Denks debut with the London Symphony, the two presented the concerto in both Paris and London, where the
Daily Telegraph declared that the best of the three [opening works] in terms of performance was Stravinskys
Concerto for Piano and Winds, a grandly Handelian example of neo-classical motoric energy that can easily sound
ponderous, but here was full of light and dancing energy and also a surprising Chopinesque grace, thanks to soloist
Jeremy Denk. The Independent observed how the pianist led by example, lending a distinct touch of the Oscar
Petersons to the central diversion of Stravinskys exquisitely Bachian Largo.

Now, as spring draws to a close, Denk and Adams reunite to bring their Stravinsky interpretation home to the States.
This time they are supported by Ensemble ACJW, which has been praised by the New York Times for its polished
performance and consistently beautiful playing, and comprises young professionals under the joint auspices of
Carnegie Hall, the Juilliard School, and the Weill Music Institute. After a Philadelphia engagement on May 9, Denk
and Adams make their Carnegie Hall appearance on May 10, reprising for the last time this season the concerto with
which they serenaded the two European capitals. The program also features Andriessens De Staat and Adamss own
contemporary classic Son of Chamber Symphony.

Denk has previously joined Steven Isserlis, author of Why Beethoven Threw the Stew and Why Handel Waggled His
Wig, for many of the British cellists family chamber concerts. Held at New York Citys 92nd Street Y, each
presentation offers an introduction to the life and music of one of the great composers; most recently, in Januarys
Melodious Master, Denk helped introduce the life and work of Gabriel Faur. On Sunday, May 23, for the last of the
current series, it is the turn of Schubert, about whom Denk recently posted on his humorous blog, Think Denk, Hes
full-blooded and alive, hes home for me, hes the emotional trailer park where I live! With Jennifer Frautschi on
violin and Judy Kuhns narration not to mention their own habitual charm and exceptional performances Denk and
Isserlis join forces to present Songs and Spectacles: The Life and Music of Schubert: a family-friendly
introduction to the man who couldn't see without his glasses but whose songs could see into your soul.
Jeremy Denk
21C Media Group April 26, 2010
page 3 of 3

Jeremy Denk: May engagements

May 9 at 3pm, Philadelphia, PA

Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts (Perelman Theater)
Ensemble ACJW / John Adams
Stravinsky: Concerto for Piano and Winds
Adams: Son of Chamber Symphony
Andriessen: De Staat

May 10 at 6:00pm, New York, NY

Carnegie Hall (Zankel)
Ensemble ACJW / John Adams
Stravinsky: Concerto for Piano and Winds
Adams: Son of Chamber Symphony
Andriessen: De Staat

May 23 at 3pm, New York, NY

92nd Street Y (Tisch Center)
Steven Isserlis, artistic director and cello; Jennifer Frautschi, violin; Judy Kuhn, narrator
(Additional artists to be announced)
Songs and Spectacles: The Life and Music of Schubert
Jeremy Denk
Time Out New York April 22, 2010

Jeremy Denk, incompetent pianist

With a variety of interests and corresponding talents, Denk will do everything. Except
play by the rules.

Spend enough time with Jeremy Denkor browsing his menagerie of a blog, Think Denkand its hard to not think of
him as the Tina Fey of classical pianists. There are odes to Cheetos, Pop-Tarts and nachos, and a notorious mock-
interview with Sarah Palin. And theres Denk himself, who, like Fey, possesses a multitude of talents across manifold

I was a kid with a lot of different, strange interestskind of crazy, the pianist says of his fast-track childhood in New
Jersey and New Mexico. Over prosciutto and bresaola at Nizza, the conversation encompassed everything from iPads
and Moleskines to James Joyce and the 5 Browns. Liberal arts always appealed to me, obviously, for the same reason
that I was always into everything. Similarly, Denk, who double-majored in music and chemistry at Oberlin, cant
commit to one specific musical epoch.

For proof of that, look no further than his upcoming New York appearances: He teams up with the Lark Quartet on
Thursday 22 for the world premiere of Paul Moravecs Piano Quintet at Merkin Concert Hall. In May he joins John
Adams and Ensemble ACJW at Carnegie Hall for Stravinskys Concerto for Piano and Winds. And in August he
performs works by Liszt, Beethoven and Mendelssohnthe latter with violinist Joshua Bell, a regular collaborator
during the Mostly Mozart Festival. [I] specialize in a kid in a candy store, he laughs.

Yet Denks catholic tastes go hand-in-hand with his disregard of norms and expectations. Im one of those pianists
who tends to ignore every existing recording and lots of traditions about playing pieces when I start, he says. That
tends to piss people off sometimes, but thats not really my intention. The classical piano repertoire is very well
trodden, and I dont like to feel like its been well trodden. I know Im deluding myself, but somehow thats a little bit
how I live life. For all its entertainment value, Think Denk ( has been a valuable tool for the
pianist: a means of allowing his views on music to coexist with his listeners perceptions.

As for blazing new trails, Moravecs neo-Romantic quintet will definitely prove to be virgin territory for Denk (who
also joins the Larks for Schumanns Piano Quintet on the same program). Its a little bit like wandering into a forest,
he explains of the rehearsal process. And thats kind of fun, because you make up your own rules and clues. But it
takes time. Its tiring. And were trying to figure it all out together.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Denk feels more drawn to solo performances as he exits his thirties (he turns 40 next month).
Ive learned a lot from being a chameleon, sort of adopting the musical personalities of who I was playing with, he
says. And I feel like through my thirties, Ive done a little bit more of defining my own [ideas] instead of listening to
everybody elses.
Jeremy Denk
Time Out New York April 22, 2010
page 2 of 2

Playing Stravinsky next month as a soloist with ACJW should provide a thoughtful contrast to the Merkin performance.
Working with Adams also offers the opportunity for two musicians perennially fascinated by everything to forge a
compelling collaboration. He recalls Adamss orchestral piece Harmonielehre as one of the first striking contemporary
pieces in his music-history classes. I was sitting in the music history lab listening to it, thinking, Oh! I want to do that!
Thats unbelievable! Denk says of his colleague, whose Son of Chamber Symphony appears on the same ACJW
program (completed by Louis Andriessens De Staat).

Clearly, Denk could further expand on the Glenn Gouldian state of wonder he reaches when performing. Its also
fairly obvious that hed rather do that than handle the rest of the days tasks laid out for him. Its long been my dream
to have myself declared incompetent, he admits, so I could just practice all day, and blog, and not have to take care of
any normal life things.

Jeremy Denk plays with the Lark Quartet at Merkin Concert Hall Thursday 22.
Jeremy Denk
The Los Angeles Times April 18, 2010

Music review: Kahane, Denk and the Los Angeles Chamber


Jeremy Denk in Santa Monica in March. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

In March the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra offered an imaginative and riveting program of music by Erwin
Schulhoff and Kurt Weill. Mendelssohns sure-fire Violin Concerto promised not to scare off audiences, but even that
was presented in its original 1844 version, or as violin soloist Daniel Hope described it, the composers thoughts off
the tip of his pen. Conductor Jeffrey Kahane gave a stunning account of Weills masterly Symphony No. 2, a powerful
reminder of just how good LACO can be.

On Saturday, LACO offered a safer program of two works each by Stravinsky and Mozart. In the opening Concerto in
D major for String Orchestra by Stravinsky, the ensemble deftly handled the composers characteristic harmonic
pungency and bracing rhythms. Kahane took a Romantic approach to this late (1947) Neo-Classical piece, offset by the
Alex Theatres slightly dry acoustic, which brought a fitting degree of astringency to the string sound. (The program
repeats -- with a bonus prelude -- Sunday night at UCLA's Royce Hall.)

Before pianist Jeremy Denk appeared for Stravinskys Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, Kahane explained the
scores jarring moments by noting that the concerto, written in 1924, partly reflected the composers reaction to
World War I. Stravinsky wanted no expressive softening, so he omitted a string section, except for a few double basses.
Denk proved a first-rate soloist, alive to every staccato attack.

The concertos jazzy and Bach-like inspirations, or as Kahane put it, Bach through a prism, were comfortably
balanced. Denk, who sometimes played with eyes closed and head tilted upward, conveyed the lovely cantabile
passages and cadenzas in the Largo with a consistently rounded tone.
Jeremy Denk
The Los Angeles Times April 18, 2010
page 2 of 2

Music scholar Joseph Kerman called Mozarts Concert Rondo in D major (K. 382), which followed, a shamelessly
popular display piece. Composed as a replacement finale to an earlier concerto, there is no denying its crisp, lightly
textured vibrancy, and Denks fleet-fingered reading made a persuasive case for it. Still, the Stravinsky concerto lasted
about 20 minutes, the Mozart about 10. Why not a full-length Mozart concerto instead of a brief set of simple, if
delightful, variations?

After intermission, there was a touching moment when Kahane announced that LACOs principal double bass player
for 29 years, Susan Ranney, was retiring. Then the band launched into a lean and invigorating reading of Mozarts great
Jupiter Symphony. Tasteful and well-judged, the performance was not as revelatory as last months Weill
symphony, but it was refreshing nonetheless.

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, 7 p.m. Sunday at UCLA's Royce Hall. One hour before the concert, as part of
LACO's Concert Preludes, Denk and Kahane are scheduled to perform Mozart's substantial (about 23 minutes) Sonata
in C (K. 521) for four hands.
Jeremy Denk
The Los Angeles Times April 11, 2010

Jeremy Denk: In his own words

Virtuoso extends his mastery of piano keyboard to that of a computer keyboard with his blog.

Jeremy Denk is a relatively young, up-and-coming concert pianist acclaimed for his renditions of Bach, Beethoven and
Ives. He's also something a bit more 21st century: "a wigged-out blogger," to steal a phrase he once applied to himself
while posting in a Starbucks.

His blog, Think Denk: The Glamorous Life and Thoughts of a Concert Pianist, takes a playful, sometimes contrarian
approach to music and culture. One post defends Chopin's piano music from those who consider it "pure boredom in a
jar"; another looks at the use of Schubert in the "Twilight" movies. Yet another features an apocryphal interview with
Sarah Palin. (You betcha.)

"I don't have a mission statement," explains a cheerful and casual Denk, 39, wearing a striped T-shirt and Adidas
Sambas and sitting in a Walt Disney Concert Hall dressing room before a performance with violinist Joshua Bell. "I
just want to write things that are interesting to me." (He's back in town next weekend for concerts with the Los Angeles
Chamber Orchestra at the Alex Theatre and UCLA Royce Hall.)

The blog often comes to Denk during the six or so hours he rehearses each day. "I don't set out to be contrarian -- but
you're stuck there, next to the instrument, for hours and hours in your apartment, practicing. And inevitably, there's an
amazing amount of stuff that hits your brain -- about what you like about the piece, or whatever it is which wouldn't be
appropriate for program notes. And also these loose and slightly disturbing thoughts -- about life and playing what's
now this ancient and way outdated music, and how they interact."

Sometimes he's just writing about the craziness of the road; he's toured extensively and been part of the road show put
on by the prestigious Marlboro Music Festival. Other times he's writing about the clutter in his apartment in New
York's Upper West Side.

But often his thoughts are odd indeed, as when Denk was struck by the gradual stretching-out of the playing time for
Brahms' B Flat Concerto, and extrapolated it into a comic riff about lengthening bathroom lines and the larger decline
of the universe.

That piece started with a real scholar's graph of the lengthening of the concerto over the years. "It looked," recalls
Denk, "exactly like all the global warming charts I see these days."

The New Yorker's Alex Ross has praised Denk's "sensitivity and wit," writing, "This is a voice that, effectively, could
not have been heard before the advent of the Internet: sophisticated on the one hand, informal on the other, immediate
in impact."

Ross, who runs the wide-ranging blog the Rest Is Noise, has long argued for the need for classical music to engage with
the wider world. "Blogs such as this put a human face on an alien culture."
Jeremy Denk
The Los Angeles Times April 11, 2010
page 2 of 3

Passing thoughts

The roots of Denk's playing go back to his childhood in New Jersey, where he began taking lessons at 6, and later in
Las Cruces, N.M., where he flipped over some of his parents' records of pianist Murray Perahia. Denk attended Oberlin
Conservatory and later the University of Indiana; he studied there with pianist Gyorgy Sebok. He made his recital debut
in 1997 at Alice Tully Hall in New York.

The roots of his blog are less conventional. In 2004 or so, Denk was rehearsing Mozart in a church in El Paso when an
unannounced visitor showed up.

"This crazy man came into the church," Denk recalls, "and started lecturing me on Mozart and the purpose of music. I
wasn't entirely sure if he was going to kill me . . . or what."

As he recounted the story to a friend at NPR, with whom he'd cut some radio bits for the network's "Performance
Today" program, she insisted he document his adventures in writing. What started out as journal entries evolved into
Think Denk.

Denk's blog and his playing inform and complement each other: "He has a distinctive way of looking at things," says
his friend, British cellist Steven Isserlis, "and that comes out in both his playing and his writing. Wit is very important
in a musician -- and so are curiosity and the ability to articulate."

The pianist's writing shows his interest in the odd corners of pieces, and his fondness for pushing ideas, musical or
otherwise, to the breaking point.

The same is true of his choice of repertoire. Interestingly for a musician interested in the latest technology, his taste in
music includes contemporary pieces -- by Ligeti, Elliott Carter and Thomas Ads -- as well as much earlier work.
Overall Denk says he's attracted to strange and difficult pieces from any period, whether Beethoven's "Hammerklavier"
Sonata, Bach's "Goldberg" Variations or Charles Ives' Second Sonata -- what he calls "really arcane and far-out pieces.
I'm drawn to these pieces that are on the edge of playability, of sanity, on the edge of proportion -- whatever."

Lately, he says, he's been playing a lot of Bach. Perhaps suiting Denk's relatively cheery personality -- by the standards
of someone playing a body of music that has its share of angst and longing -- the pianist thinks much Bach is played
with far too much sorrow in its soul. That includes the famously eccentric interpretation that made Glenn Gould
famous, which Denk finds "brilliant" but too full of ego.

"Bach for me is a lot more humane -- a smiling, generous composer. He wrote music to be performed not by hermetic
weird geniuses, but every day in the coffee house. It breathes. And the music is shared -- it irradiates this tremendous

What's ahead

So far, Denk's performances have drawn rapturous reviews for his choice of material and his intellectual curiosity.
He's been praised for the intimacy of his playing, his musical athleticism on difficult work and his ability to conceive
the overall shape and structure of a long piece without getting lost in the details.

Although Denk has developed an underground reputation as the-best-pianist-you've-never-heard-of, he's got a long way
to go to reach the world domination of a classical star such as Lang Lang.
Jeremy Denk
The Los Angeles Times April 11, 2010
page 3 of 3

For instance, though his tour with Bell has exposed Denk to a wider audience, as of now he doesn't have a recording as
a leader or soloist to his name.

That could begin to change this year, when a solo collection of Bach partitas under his name -- alongside appearances
on recordings of Corigliano, Faur and Chausson -- comes out. Denk also has a recording of Ives' Second Sonata, for
which he's been praised in recital, due this year.

He also has a rising profile in the Southland. On returning to Southern California, Denk will perform Mozart and
Stravinsky with the L.A. Chamber Orchestra. The Stravinsky will be the Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, a
neoclassical piece from the early 1920s he describes as "very witty and urbane."

Mozart's Concert Rondo in D Major, which he will also play, is not obviously edgy but still a piece close to his heart,
he says. "I have great pleasure playing that -- the harmonies couldn't be more traditional, and on top of all of it is this
wonderful impish quality -- the joy of playing the piano."

And the pianist, who last week appeared at a Santa Monica benefit for the Ojai Music Festival, will serve as the
festival's music director in the future.

At this point, he's not certain which way he wants to go. "I certainly haven't been guilty of thinking too career savvily,"
he says.

"But on other hand, things seem to be moving in the right direction. And I seem to spend a lot of time playing the
music I really love, music that really gets me. And I get tremendous satisfaction in that. I guess I want to be well
regarded enough to do the stuff I really like."
Jeremy Denk
South Florida Classical Review April 11, 2010

MTT, New World deliver resounding Mahler performance at Arsht Center


The New World Symphony left its nondescript Lincoln Theatre home for the polished wood and gleaming fixtures of
the Arsht Centers Knight Concert Hall Saturday, for a performance that fully justified the grander surroundings.

Michael Tilson Thomas, the orchestras artistic director and one of the worlds leading Mahler specialists, led the
orchestra in an intense, resounding performance of the Fifth Symphony. And the idiosyncratic New York pianist
Jeremy Denk gave an energetic account of Aaron Coplands rarely heard Piano Concerto.

The concert opened with the Copland concerto, a 1926 work that Denk learned for this performance at the suggestion
of Tilson Thomas. This is not one of those piano concertos that offers long, soaring lines of melody. Copland wrote a
percussive, rambunctious piece that draws on jazz, ragtime and harmonic techniques current at the time, but which
remains highly accessible to modern listeners.

Denks performance was improvisatory, and technically he appeared to have no trouble with the rapid fistfuls of notes
Copland requires from the pianist. Despite his serious expression, Denk seemed to be having fun with the music. In the
rollicking jazz and ragtime sections he avoided the over-precise playing of the slumming classical pianist and let
himself go, giving a clanking, aggressive performance that was bursting with energy.

The rapport between pianist and conductor was evident. Denk integrated his performance to a large degree into the
orchestra, allowing the piano seemed to become less a solo instrument than a significant member of the New World
Symphonys percussion section.

Denk has a deep interest in the work of the American composer Charles Ives, and as an encore he gave a vigorous
performance of the fourth scherzo from the composers Piano Sonata No. 1.

Tilson Thomas, who has recorded a complete Mahler cycle with the San Francisco Symphony, conducted the sprawling
Fifth Symphony without a score, showing a mastery of detail that was never fussy but seemed the product of intense
concentration on every moment and every note.

Big rousing performances of Mahler symphonies like this one invariably bring audiences to their feet, and this
performance was no exception. But as impressive as the orchestras full blast sound was, what was equally impressive
was its transparency and attention to nuance.

He drew fine playing from the strings, from frenetic runs in the violins to the pianissimo reiterations of the grave
themes of the first and second movements. The opening of the second movement was particularly violent in his hands,
with brass and percussion blows striking like artillery shells over the turbulent rushing of the strings.

The famous Adagietto came off without the simple-minded bathos with which it is sometimes performed. In Tilson
Thomass hands, tension was maximized, with transparent string textures and climactic moments of ecstatic release.
Jeremy Denk
South Florida Classical Review April 11, 2010
page 2 of 2

The Fifth Symphony is a difficult work to play, with long exposed passages for brass and winds, as well as rapid, high-
ranging passages in the strings. Although there were a couple of ragged passages in the brass, the young musicians of
the New World met the challenge, with particularly strong playingonce warmed upfrom the horn section.

The New World Symphony repeats the program 2 p.m. Sunday at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts Knight
Concert Hall.
Jeremy Denk
New York Times February 26, 2010

Inflections: Proustian and Jazzy


Rachel Papo for The New York Times

Joshua Bell, left, and Jeremy Denk played Ravels Sonata at Carnegie Hall.

Many composers have considered the piano and violin natural soul mates, but Ravel deemed them essentially
incompatible. He said that instead of reconciling their differences in his Sonata for Violin and Piano, he would
emphasize their independence.
The work is one of several jazz-influenced scores that Ravel composed in the 1920s, impressed by the African-
American jazz bands he heard in Paris. The sonata finished a recital by Jeremy Denk and Joshua Bell on Wednesday
evening at Carnegie Hall.
The two musicians offered a subtly shaded, evocative interpretation of the spare-textured piece, which alludes to
Gershwins Rhapsody in Blue in its second movement, Blues: Moderato, and in the concluding Perpetuum
Mobile: Allegro.
Frequent collaborators, these fine musicians are sympathetic chamber partners, although they follow different
paths as solo musicians. Mr. Denk often offers more eclectic and adventurous fare than Mr. Bell, who tends to
focus on romantic and early-20th-century music in recitals.
Jeremy Denk
New York Times February 26, 2010
page 2 of 2

Mr. Bell rarely performs Bach in public, while Mr. Denk is a superb Bach interpreter. The program opened with
Bachs Violin Sonata No. 4 in C minor, although in it the partnership seemed less cohesive than in the romantic works
on the program.
Schumann and Saint-Sans offered a showcase for Mr. Bells gleaming tone and virtuosity. After meeting the Spanish
virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate, Saint-Sans was inspired to compose many works for the violin. Mr. Denk and Mr. Bell
gave a passionate performance of the Sonata No. 1 in D Minor, which Proust alludes to in Remembrance of Things
Past. There were plenty of fireworks in the whirlwind of the concluding movement.
The program also featured a lovely rendition of Schumanns Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor, with an ideal balance
between stormy and intimate sections, a reflection of the alter egos that Schumann identified in his journals as the fiery
Florestan and the gentle Eusebius.
The enthusiastic audience was rewarded with an encore: a soulful rendition of Fritz Kreislers arrangement of Dvoraks
Slavonic Fantasy, a popular choice.
Jeremy Denk
21C Media February 9, 2010

Sensational Jeremy Denk Plays Stravinsky under John Adams,

First with London Symphony Orchestra in London and Paris (March 11 & 16), Then in Philadelphia
and Carnegie Hall (May 9-10)

Pianists Other Spring Highlights Include Dates with Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and New World
Symphony Orchestra,
Performing Stravinsky, Copland, and Mozart

Jeremy Denks Carnegie Hall recital came in at number two in New York magazines Top Ten Classical Events of
2008, second only to a John Adams premiere. This spring, the pianist and the composer/conductor present a united
front, teaming up for performances on both sides of the Atlantic of Stravinskys Concerto for Piano and Winds.
Together they are set to make high-profile appearances, first for Denks debut with the London Symphony
Orchestra, at Londons Barbican Hall (March 11) and Pariss Salle Pleyel (March 16), and then with Ensemble
ACJW at Philadelphias Kimmel Center (May 9) and New Yorks Carnegie Hall (May 10). For two dates with the
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Denk couples the Stravinsky concerto with Mozarts Concert Rondo in D (April
17-18), after returning to the New World Symphony for Coplands Piano Concerto (April 10-11). The versatile
pianists spring season also features a full line-up of solo and chamber recitals, master classes, and a U.S. tour with
Joshua Bell, including performances in Carnegie and Walt Disney Concert Halls.

The Concerto for Piano and Winds (1923-24, rev. 1950) is one of the mainstays of Stravinskys neoclassical output.
Having composed the concerto for his own use, he performed it more than 40 times in the five years after its premiere
under Serge Koussevitzky. Of the innovative scoring, Stravinsky wrote: The short, crisp dance character of the [first
movement], engendered by the percussion of the piano, led to the idea that a wind ensemble would suit the piano better
than any other combination. In contrast to the percussiveness of the piano, the winds prolong the pianos sound as well
as providing the human element of respiration. The concerto influenced many later works, notably Bartks Second
Piano Concerto, in which the New York Timess Anthony Tommasini considered Denk a brilliant soloist,

Hearing Mr. Denks bracing, effortlessly virtuosic and utterly joyous performance, one would never guess how
phenomenally difficult the piano part is.

Like Stravinsky before him, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams is also a skilled and dynamic conductor
(New York Times), and Denks first spring performances of the Concerto for Piano and Winds are under Adamss
direction. As performers, both Adams and Denk consistently win praise for their facility with a broad range of
repertoire; the New York Times admired Adamss versatility on the podium, while the Philadelphia Inquirers David
Patrick Stearns wrote of Denk:

With a supreme command of the piano allowing endlessly varied color, touch, and chord voicing, all
possibilities are seemingly open to him. And all possibilities are imaginable, thanks to a fine intellect.
Jeremy Denk
21c Media February 9, 2010
page 2 of 5

The two first come together when Denk makes his debut with the London Symphony, adding the ensemble described
as scarily impressive (Londons Independent) to the roster of world-class orchestras with which he has appeared.
They perform the Stravinsky twice, first at the orchestras home in Barbican Hall (March 11), and then on tour in
Paris, at the citys landmark Salle Pleyel (March 16).

It is not until spring draws to a close that Denk and Adams reunite to bring their Stravinsky interpretation home to the
States. This time they are supported by Ensemble ACJW, praised by the New York Times for its polished
performance and consistently beautiful playing, and comprising young professionals under the joint auspices of
Carnegie Hall, the Juilliard School, and the Weill Music Institute. First in Philadelphia, at the citys Kimmel Center
on May 9, and then in New York, at Carnegie Hall on May 10, Denk and Adams reprise the concerto with which they
are to serenade the two European capitals.

Denk also revisits the Stravinsky when he joins the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, a shining feature in L.A.s
cultural landscape (Los Angeles Times). Under the orchestras music director Jeffrey Kahane, Denk will appear at
two of its primary venues: Glendales Alex Theatre on April 17 and L.A.s Royce Hall on April 18. This time the
pianist performs not one but two works with the ensemble, exploiting its modest size by coupling Stravinskys neo-
classicism with the quintessentially Classical: Mozarts Concert Rondo in D major, with which Denk has already
impressed critics. The Denver Post reports that he easily exceeded expectations in his solid, astoundingly fluid
delivery of the Rondo in D major, and continues, Denk demonstrated impressive dexterity and emotional depth and
clearly enjoyed his role as purveyor of Mozarts delightfully sunny themes, whimsical turns of phrases, and flashes of
technical brilliance. As the San Jose Mercury News affirms, the pianist isnt afraid to emote his Mozart.

Denks appearance at the New World Symphonys Ives Festival was named one of the top three performances of 2009
(South Florida Classical Review). Now he returns to the orchestra for Coplands Piano Concerto of 1926. The
concerto relies heavily on the jazz idioms of its time, since Copland considered jazz the first major musical movement
to be genuinely American. Denks two traversals of the work on April 10 and 11 will be directed by the legendary
Michael Tilson Thomas. When the two collaborated during the conductors tenure with the San Francisco Symphony,
Denks performance inspired high accolades: He is a sensational musician. Denk was extraordinary here Plus, he
played with such love of the music (San Jose Mercury News).

In addition to his concerto appearances, Denk has many chamber and solo performances scheduled this spring. Since
2004, he has been the recital partner of violinist Joshua Bell, with whom he has recorded Coriglianos Violin Sonata
for Sony Classical. Between February 2 and March 4, they make an extensive tour of the U.S., taking in numerous
cities including New York (Carnegie Hall, Feb 24), Los Angeles (Walt Disney Concert Hall, Feb 26), Washington
(Feb 9), and Seattle (Feb 22). The New York Times recently observed: The two musicians are an ideally matched duo,
with Mr. Denks fiery playing complementing Mr. Bells luxuriant, singing tone, while a Philadelphia reviewer noted
their equal partnership, with no upstaging. Full tour details are provided below.

Denk also joins the Lark Chamber Artists at New Yorks Merkin Concert Hall on April 22, for an evening of
chamber music featuring Schumanns titanic Piano Quintet, Op. 22, and the world premiere of a new work by Pulitzer
Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec. Finally, as well as several master classes, Denk gives two of the recitals for
which he is so justly celebrated, in Richmond, VA on March 21, and Schenectady, NY on April 24. Here he performs
Bachs Goldberg Variations and Ivess little-heard Sonata No. 1. In Ives, he offered an entire world, declares
Anne Midgette in the Washington Post, while the New York Timess Vivienne Schweitzer styles Denks Goldbergs
magical, and describes how they earned him universal approval from the rapturous audience.
Jeremy Denk
21c Media February 9, 2010
page 3 of 5

Jeremy Denk: spring engagements

February 2 March 4: U.S. tour with Joshua Bell:

Feb 2, Akron OH
Feb 3, Oberlin OH
Feb 4, Portsmouth NH
Feb 6, Gainesville FL (University of Florida)
Feb 8, Princeton NJ (McCarter Theatre Center)
Feb 9, Washington DC
Feb 10, Charlottesville, VA
Feb 11, Englewood NJ
Feb 13, Morrow GA (Spivey Hall)
Feb 14, Huntsville AL
Feb 15, Fort Lauderdale FL
Feb 19, La Jolla CA
Feb 20, Santa Monica CA (Mendelsohn Hall)
Feb 21, Berkeley CA
Feb 22, Seattle WA
Feb 24, New York NY (Carnegie Hall)
Feb 26, Los Angeles CA (Walt Disney Concert Hall)
Feb 27, Davis CA (Mondavi Center)
Feb 28, Palm Desert CA
March 2, Pittsburgh PA
March 4, Peekskill NY

March 11, London UK

Barbican Hall
London Symphony Orchestra / John Adams
Stravinsky: Concerto for Piano and Winds

March 16, Paris, France

Salle Pleyel
London Symphony Orchestra / John Adams
Stravinsky: Concerto for Piano and Winds

March 21, Richmond VA

University of Richmond

March 22, Richmond VA

Modlin Center for the Arts
Master Class

March 24, New York NY

Manhattan School of Music
Master Class
Jeremy Denk
21c Media February 9, 2010
page 4 of 5

March 31, Seattle WA

Meany Hall
Master Class

April 10, Miami Beach FL

New World Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
Copland: Piano Concerto

April 11, Miami Beach FL

New World Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
Copland: Piano Concerto

April 17, Glendale CA

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra / Jeffrey Kahane
Alex Theatre
Mozart: Concert Rondo in D major
Stravinsky: Concerto for Piano and Winds

April 18, Los Angeles CA

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra / Jeffrey Kahane
Royce Hall
Mozart: Concert Rondo in D major
Stravinsky: Concerto for Piano and Winds

April 22, New York NY

Lark Chamber Artists
Merkin Concert Hall
Schumann: Piano Quintet, Op. 22
Paul Moravec: new work (world premiere)

April 24, Schenectady NY

Union College
Bach: Goldberg Variations
Ives: Sonata No. 1

May 9, Philadelphia PA
Ensemble ACJW / John Adams
Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Stravinsky: Concerto for Piano and Winds

May 10, New York, NY

Ensemble ACJW / John Adams
Carnegie Hall
Stravinsky: Concerto for Piano and Winds
Jeremy Denk
21c Media February 9, 2010
page 5 of 5 <>


21C Media Group, February 2010

Jeremy Denk
Pioneer Press January 31, 2010

Classical music review: Fearless pianist Jeremy Denk delivers


Jeremy Denk loves a challenge. This is a pianist who once played Charles Ives' notoriously difficult "Concord" Sonata
on the same program as the multi-headed hydra of Beethoven sonatas, the "Hammerklavier." So it would be
understandable if you mistook him for a musical mountain climber bent on conquest.
But Denk isn't just a thrill junkie intent on performing superhuman feats. He's a masterful musician who not only
wishes to come to the deepest understanding of the composers he interprets, but wants to bring audiences along with
him. Those who attended Denk's Sunday afternoon Chopin Society recital were encouraged to grab hold of the rope
and join him in climbing two daunting peaks of the piano repertoire, Robert Schumann's "Davidsbundlertanze" and J.S.
Bach's "Goldberg" Variations. By concert's end, the standing and cheering crowd at St. Paul's Janet Wallace Fine Arts
Center clearly felt following this seemingly fearless pianist to have been worth the effort.
But they were also, perhaps, giving themselves a hand for making it through a musical marathon like the "Goldberg"
Variations. It's a work as complex as a PhD-level mathematical theorem, yet it also offers what may be the most
detailed portrait of, arguably, music's greatest mind. In Denk's talented hands, Bach's 30 variations seemed like 30
distinctly individual poems, sharply contrasting in tone from one to the next. Themes would dance around and atop one
another in layered fugues, then become mellifluous and meditative as if falling into a kind of sad exhaustion.
While Bach's variations give a listener's head a serious workout, Schumann's "Davidsbundlertanze" reaches for the
heart as only that quintessential Romantic could.A set of dances from relatively early in the composer's career, they're
something of a battle royal between the brightest and darkest aspects of his personality. Denk conveyed these internal
arguments eloquently, eventually brokering a kind of peace built around bittersweet reflection.
But this pianist's most endearing quality is his palpable love for the music. He performed these taxing pieces (entirely
from memory, incidentally) not to be showy, although he was certainly that. No, Denk is an artist who gets the "why"
of the works as well as one could hope for, and Sunday's audience came away knowing more about Schumann and
Bach than any biography could tell them.
Jeremy Denk
The Washington Post January 25, 2010

Music review: Pianist Jeremy Denk at the Terrace Theater


Jeremy Denk has become known as a smart pianist. He has done this with a combination of excellent playing --
sensitive, thoughtful, engaging -- and writing: His blog, "Think Denk," gives more insights into music and its practice
than most professional writing about the field, often delivered with the deadpan mien and humor of a really good stand-
up comic.
Denk is also getting known for his collaborations with the violinist Joshua Bell; he appeared with him in Thursday
night's "Live From Lincoln Center" broadcast, and he will play with him at Strathmore Hall on Feb. 9. On Saturday
afternoon, however, he was alone at the Terrace Theater, courtesy of Washington Performing Arts Society. In his solo
appearances, Denk tends to push the "smart pianist" concept to the brink of outrageousness: Last season, he juxtaposed
Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" and Charles Ives's "Concord" sonatas, two of the most formidable works in the piano
literature, on a single program, a feat so extreme that to musicians it sounds almost like the set-up to a joke -- though
people laugh with Denk, not at him. (He played the program at Wolf Trap in November 2008.)
His program on Saturday was slightly less in-your-face, though not much less ambitious. It ranged from a Bach toccata
to Ives's less-known first sonata, from Liszt at his showiest (transcriptions of Berlioz and Meyerbeer) to Schumann at
his most opaque (the "Davidsbndlertnze," a title which requires a disproportionate amount of explanation to translate,
and which describes a piece made up of 18 vignettes, none of them very dancelike). And the playing certainly lived up
to Denk's reputation, from its intelligence down to the deadpan humor as Denk's fingers led the Bach toccata (BWV
912, in D) through a boisterous outburst while his face expressed slight bemusement at their presumption.
Jeremy Denk
The Washington Post January 25, 2010
page 2 of 2

If the "smart" appellation is misleading, it's because it conjures up the notion of a quasi-academic approach, and Denk's
is anything but that: His strength is bringing music to life. The Bach, indeed, was so idiosyncratic and narrative and
filled with drama as to sound suspiciously theatrical, as if Bach -- here's a radical notion -- were about content rather
than simply a master of exquisite, brilliant form.
This approach augured well for the Ives, in whch Denk's sure hand and storyteller's sensibility created a smooth path
through a conglomerate work larded with nuggets of hymn tunes and rags. Having laid out the essential story line of the
piece ("the only piano sonata about a Connecticut farming family") in program notes that made the reader eager to hear
the work ("Ives was always good at depicting the moment when the party goes over the cliff, the moment when you
should probably send everyone home; this has never endeared him to a certain kind of classical music enthusiast"),
Denk bore out every bit of that promise in his strong, fluid playing. It's notable that he projects such quiet assurance,
given his ability to tear into the keyboard in repeated wild assaults before returning to serenity, grasping the frail sweet
echo of a melody at the end of the first movement like a photo of childhood snatched from a tangle of dark sound.
It says a lot about the program's intensity that the Liszt transcriptions acted as a palate-cleanser (Denk played them after
the intermission) rather than a tour de force. Denk closed the afternoon with the Davidsbndlertnze, instead. Like the
young pianist Di Wu, who also played Liszt and the same Schumann piece on her D.C. recital the week before, Denk
used the contrast to showcase both emotional and technical range. He is at his best when he is most quiet; a few of his
more dramatic physical touches (a toss of the head, a wave of the head) were followed by a microsecond of imprecision
in the music.
He is also at his best in music that fully engages him. The Liszt, in his hands, became delightful anecdotes, like Saki
stories; but in Ives -- to which he returned with his encore, the "Alcotts" movement of the "Concord" sonata -- he
offered an entire world.
Jeremy Denk
New York Times August 30, 2009

The Pianist Is Casual in All Things but Music


Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

Jeremy Denk played music by Ives, Bach,
Chopin and Liszt.

If classical music is dying, as weve been hearing for years, why are so many rock clubs suddenly presenting it? And
why are so many people, with the young outnumbering the old, coming to hear it?
The Highline Ballroom, which started a piano recital series this summer, was comfortably full when Jeremy Denk
performed there on Saturday. Mr. Denk, a thoughtful pianist who has always seemed most at home in early-19th-
century repertory and a tuxedo turns out to have broader tastes, which he put to good use here.
Dressed for the occasion in a gray T-shirt, black jeans and running shoes, and given to chatting amiably between works
about the music to be performed, Mr. Denk began with a Bach Partita and an Ives Sonata, hitting the 19th century only
after the intermission, with works byChopin and Liszt. (As originally announced, the program was also to have
included works by Ligeti and Debussy, but these were dropped, apparently because the Highline had to set up for a
later show.)
As casual as his dress and demeanor were, he made no concessions in his playing of the Partita No. 3 (BWV 827). His
is a modern conception of Bach: it takes into account scholarly ideas about Bachs tempos and the importance of
keeping the counterpoint transparent, but also draws fully on the flexibility of the pianos timbres and dynamics.
In the Sarabande he made the top line sing with a graceful legato, and in the fast movements particularly the
Corrente and the closing Gigue he gave hard-driven performances that mined the musics energy without making it
sound breathless or overworked.
Jeremy Denk
New York Times August 30, 2009
page 2 of 2

The Ives Sonata No. 1 was an odd but welcome choice. Heard much less frequently than its successor, the Concord
Sonata itself hardly a war horse Sonata No. 1 is a work that Ives tinkered with between 1909 and 1916, and it
catches him in one of the amusingly perverse moods that he made into his trademark.
The first, third and fifth movements sketch a nostalgic home scene, with quotations from late-19th-century hymns and
popular songs, skewered with dissonances and comic melodrama. The opening movement, for example, moved back
and forth between sentimentality and chaos in ways that made it sound like the perfect score for a Buster Keaton film.
The second and forth movements, by contrast, were hymn tunes reconfigured as full-throttle ragtime.
Mr. Denk gave the Ives an explosive reading. He also offered a poetic, passionate rendering of Chopins Polonaise-
Fantasie (Op. 61) and closed the evening with a suitably muscular performance of Liszts splashy, endurance-testing
Rhapsodie Espagnole.
The Highline is a comfortable place to hear a recital, but if it is to continue experiments with classical music (this was
the last such concert listed on its Web site), some details should be seen to. Stacking plates during the performance is a
generally bad idea. Programs would be helpful. And although subtle amplification may be necessary, it must be done
sensitively: Mr. Denks piano was pumped through big speakers that thickened its textures and robbed the playing of
some nuance.
Stefan Jackiw and Jeremy Denk
The Seattle Times July 31, 2009

Chamber Music Festival lifts audience to an exalted other world


Every musical performance has two sides: The stage, where the musicians perform, and the seats, where the audience
There is a third place as well, the dimension where, under extraordinary circumstances, both player and audience
commingle in one collective consciousness. This third place isn't a physical location but a state of mind that exists only
in the moment the music is made.
This phenomenon of the third place is the reason people listen to live music. And why the Seattle Chamber Music
Society's Summer Festival draws such ardent fans. Trying to predict when this mutual state of bliss might happen is
impossible. But, like falling in love, it's unmistakable when it does.
On Monday night, after a quaint, courtly Haydn trio, it happened in Brahms' Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano, with
violinist Stefan Jackiw and pianist Jeremy Denk.
Jackiw's lustrous talent finds an ideal outlet in Brahms, that most solitary yet ardent of composers. The violinist played
the sonata with the artlessness of a child, caressing the notes with such authentic joy that merely watching him was
enough to inspire pleasure. His natural, unforced fluidity in phrasing and expression made the music seem an
extemporaneous creation rather than the polished product of practice.
The wondrously reliable Denk provided lush, full-toned accompaniment to Jackiw's sprite of a violin. Denk is a
generous chamber player: always appropriate, always considerate, always in the right place in the right time with the
right phrase. As violin and piano bantered playfully in the second movement, I imagined that the legendary 19th-
century recitals of violinist Joseph Joachim and pianist Clara Schumann lifelong friends and fervent exponents of
Brahms couldn't have sounded better than Jackiw and Denk.
The energy generated by this duet lingered through intermission and charged the Bartk Quintet for Piano and Strings,
which surged open with a voluptuous show of strings. Violinists Soovin Kim and Erin Keefe, violist Richard O'Neill,
cellist Ronald Thomas and pianist Adam Neiman brought a fierce unanimity to their playing, giving full range of
expression to Bartk's dynamo. One of the sexiest moments of that hot night happened during the Adagio, when Kim's
violin and O'Neill's viola engaged in a languid duet before being joined by Keefe's second violin.
From symphonic swells, passionate runs, and brooding melodrama to intellectual tonalities, rustic syncopations and
whistle-able melodies, the Bartk Quintet has as my companion so aptly described it "a little bit of everything."
Delivered by such capable hands, this smorgasbord of sound was richly satisfying and never overwhelming. That's
because in the third place, one can gorge upon music and still leave hungry for more.
Upcoming highlights
Tonight at Lakeside: Denk and Keefe unite in Grieg's dramatic and lyrical Sonata for Violin and Piano in C minor. The
evening will close with Dvork at his most charming and great: the Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 87.
No Monday concert this week. The festival moves to the pastoral and acoustically superior Overlake School in this
Stefan Jackiw and Jeremy Denk
The Seattle Times July 31, 2009
page 2 of 2

Wednesday at Overlake: If you've never had the chance to experience Mendelssohn's electrifying Octet live, seize it
now. And with such players! Stefan Jackiw, Erin Keefe, Stephen Rose and Scott Yoo on violin; Richard O'Neill and
Che-Yen Chen on viola; Robert deMaine and Toby Saks on cello.
Jeremy Denk June 15, 2009

eighth blackbird and other new music at Ojai Music Festival


Although we never really know where music is headed, sometimes we think we do. This is one of those times. The
Chicago-based new music sextet eighth blackbird took over this years Ojai Music Festival in Libbey Bowl for four
days and packed it full with more and more varied music (and music theater) than ever before in the quirky, famous
festivals 63-year history.
The players, in their early 30s, are musical omnivores, convinced that nearly anything goes and goes together. A non-
stop series of concerts, demonstrations, a symposium and a film screening that began last Thursday night and
concluded with a five-hour marathon Sunday was not always convincing. But with these blackbirds singing morning,
noon and in the dead of night, horizons could not but expand.

Formed in 1996 by students at Oberlin College, the blackbirds are examples of a new breed of super-musicians. They
perform the bulk of their new music from memory. They have no need of a conductor, no matter how complex the
rhythms or balances. They are, as Juilliard Dean Ara Guzelimian said at the festival symposium Friday, stage
animals, often in motion, enacting their scores as they play them. They are without stylistic allegiances. Minimalism,
Post-Minimalism, experimentalism, New Romanticism, old Expressionism, rock, smooth jazz, not-so-smooth jazz
all come easily and naturally.
Jeremy Denk June 15, 2009
page 2 of 3

They brought to Ojai several of their like-minded, and in some astonishing instances, similarly multi-tasking, multi-
talented friends. In addition, resident at Ojai this year were three barrier-breaking artists interesting enough to be
subjects of their own festivals.
Trimpin is often called a mad genius, because thats a lot easier than describing the way his startling mind works as he
assembles toys, junk and what-not into fantastical, joyously interactive sonic installations that sweep the
observer/participant into states of sonic wonderment. His Sheng High in Libbey Park translated the images of a
martini and other unlikely things into the sounds of an otherworldly underwater organ. The fine, funny new
documentary, "Trimpin: The Sound of Invention," which was screened Saturday, proved a marvelous mood enhancer.
Jeremy Denk -- a young American pianist who also happens to have a background in chemistry and who also happens
to be a gifted writer (his blog, Think Denk, is marvelous) with a deep and original musical mind -- was another hero of
the festival. If he had done nothing more than rescue Ives First Piano Sonata from obscurity, which he did in his
glorious Saturday morning recital, I would say the weekend would have been worthwhile.
The third resident genius was the curious singer, actor Rinde Eckert. He was, along with composer Steven Mackey, the
co-creator, and central figure in the centerpiece of the festival, Slide, which received its world premiere on Friday

Slide, in many ways, epitomized the kind of new musical world that eighth blackbird is ushering us into. Like most at
Ojai this year, Mackey is more than one kind of musician. He is an electric guitarist and his music is influenced by
rock and jazz. He is a Princeton music professor, and his music equally includes subtle metric shifts and rhythmic
intricacies found in sophisticated contemporary classical music.
He doesnt completely manage the merger of raw rock and cooked classicism in Slide, but the stylistic sliding is
nonetheless powerful and impressive. Unfortunately, he saddled himself with a sophomoric theatrical concept a
lonely psychologist who studies how people interpret images seen in and out of focus. This mirrors his own soft-focus
The show, which was directed by Eckert, is an elaboration of a series of elliptical songs. At 80 minutes, Slide
slipped a lot and will surely have significant refinement as the blackbirds begin to tour it. Mackey wailed away on his
guitar and served as effective narrator. Eckert enacted a sad-sack who could boogie. The blackbirds brought their
irresistible lan.
Mackey was born in 1956, so the blackbirds cant be accused of age discrimination, but I was particularly struck by
how many of the major works they chose were written by composers in their 30s. Schoenbergs Pierrot Lunaire was
one, and it was given an elaborate staging Saturday night by choreographer Mark DeChiazza. Five of the blackbirds
pianist Lisa Kaplan, violinist and violist Matt Albert, cellist Nicholas Photinos, clarinetist Michael J. Maccaferri and
flutist Tim Munro played from memory while assuming both meaningful and meaningless poses around soprano
Lucy Shelton.
Percussionist Matthew Duvall, who is given no part by Schoenberg, enacted Pierrot and a dancer, Elyssa Dole, added
further extraneous activity. The intense interaction of the players and Shelton turned this performance into a genuinely
new way of looking at a 20th century musical icon. But all the rest made it a pointless "Pierrot."
Ives was an exact contemporary of Schoenberg, and his First Sonata was roughly contemporary with Pierrot. Steve
Reich was in his late 30s as well when he wrote his groundbreaking "Music For 18 Instruments" in 1976. The
blackbirds, with a lot of help from their friends, put together a winning performance of the hour-long piece in a couple
of rehearsals for our Sunday morning wake-up call.
Pierrot was preceded on Saturday night by a recent work by yet another thirtysomething, David Michael Gordon.
His Quasi Sinfonia for 16 musicians goes to town with 19th century musical hymns, which the composer said in his
Jeremy Denk June 15, 2009
page 3 of 3

program note suited his evangelical Christianity. Gordon uses a lot of percussion and by the end I felt as though he
wanted to smash the hymns down a listeners throat. But his harmonic skill is formidable and, for all his gimmickry, he
writes strong, disturbing music.
Programming contrasts such as Gordon with Schoenberg were common all weekend. Denk paired Ives' hard-edged
sonata, which also uses 19th century hymn tunes, with Bachs celestial Goldberg Variations. Tin Hat, a four-member
ensemble, played light jazz before Slide. This new contrasting aesthetic suggests a clicker mentality but without the
short attention span. Concentrating hard and long on one thing, then moving on to the next, unrelated thing becomes
the new way of paying attention.

I was ready to dismiss Tin Hat as pleasant brunch stuff until I heard what these players could do in other contexts.
Most impressive was the violinist and soprano Carla Kihlstedt. She is a really good violinist and a really good soprano
at the same time, and her solo performance of Lisa Bielawas haunting Kafka Songs on Sunday was memorable, and
all the more so for her achieving it in a late stage of pregnancy.
There were many highlights. Stephen Hartkes Meanwhile had the blackbirds entering into the world of Asian
puppet theater. Nathan Davis Sounder included remote-controlled nutty percussion hanging from a nearby tree,
courtesy of Trimpin. QNG, a quartet of four German recorder players, chirped alluringly in music new and ancient.
Steve Reichs Double Sextet, winner of this years Pulitzer Prize in music, was given full-out with 12 players (eighth
blackbird performed it last year in Orange County against a recording of itself). Louis Andriessens Workers Union
written in 1975 and another ground-breaking piece by a composer in his 30s ended Sundays five-hour marathon
with all the festival participants magnificently banging away.
John Cage once said, anything goes, but that doesnt mean you can do anything you want. Eighth blackbird does
anything it wants, and gets away with it much of the time. I think greatness for this ensemble will come when it learns
a little more discrimination and when it works more with top theater artists. Still, blackbirds loosened on Ojai last
weekend are unquestionably birds of bright promise.
Next year the British composer George Benjamin will be music director.
Photo: Guitarist/composer Steven Mackey and singer/actor Rinde Eckert perform the world premiere of their music
theater piece "Slide" (top); violinist and vocalist Carla Kihlstedt with Tin Hat at the Ojai Festival Friday night. Credit
Eric Parsons/For The Times
Jeremy Denk
Detroit Free Press March 14, 2009

Pianist Jeremy Denk brings thrills, wit to DSO


Orchestra rises to guest soloist s gleeful challenge

There's a marvelous moment in the development section in the first movement of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1
that can make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Beethoven has already unlocked several surprising doors on
his way to a new key and established fresh melodic and emotional terrain when the piano begins an otherworldly
passage, soft and mysterious, of falling scales that suggest serene waterfalls. Pianist Jeremy Denk was thrillingly alive
to the possibilities of this magical episode on Thursday with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The music pulsated with
drama, shifting dynamics and revelatory expression, as the pianist unearthed buried layers of meaning in what became
a kind of concerto within a concerto. Add those eye-opening moments to countless similar details from Thursday's
performance and they add up to the most viscerally exciting, emotionally absorbing and intellectually rich account of
Beethoven's First Piano Concerto that I have ever heard in concert.
It's harvest time for Denk, a fast-rising 38-year-old American making his debut with the DSO under guest conductor Sir
Andrew Davis. Denk has been turning heads locally for years through his authoritative appearances at the Great Lakes
Chamber Music Festival, where his repertoire has included mainstream works, modernist classics like Elliott Carter's
Piano Sonata and new music by Leon Kirchner and others.
The pianist cuts a brainy but playful profile -- an impression reinforced not only by his entertaining blog at, which mixes erudite musical talk with quirky ruminations on a musician's life, but also his
penchant for high-concept ideas, such as building a recital program that pairs two of the most ginormous works in the
repertoire: Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" and Charles Ives' "Concord Sonata."
What becomes especially clear in a staple like the Beethoven concerto is that beyond the lickety-split dexterity and
control of color at Denk's command, he is always thinking his way through the music. He approaches the score as a
blank slate, reconsidering every harmonic shift, melodic turn and rhythmic twist. Yet the results breathe with a
spontaneity that gives the illusion of improvisation. It's a compelling gift.
On Thursday, he skipped through the rapid-fire opening with irresistible wit, underscoring Beethoven's impish humor
in the trilling pirouettes and quick bursts of action. The wild cadenza was a symphony of theater. The slow movement
unfolded with sublime patience and beauty. Denk went to town in the rambunctious finale, throwing offbeat accents
around with gleeful abandon that were mimicked by the orchestra under Davis' alert baton.

After the audience went nuts, Denk offered an unusually substantive encore -- "The Alcotts" slow movement from Ives'
"Concord Sonata." The music is an abstract tone painting that transforms an echo of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony into a
transcendental dreamscape that climaxes in an explosion of ugly beauty.
The "Concord Sonata" belongs on the short list of the greatest music ever written by an American, and Denk played it
so charismatically that I wouldn't have minded if the DSO had taken the rest of the night off so he could play the rest of
the work.
Jeremy Denk
Detroit Free Press March 14, 2009
page 2 of 2

But don't get the wrong idea. Davis had the DSO sounding sharp and engaged, and the rest of the program offered the
varied pleasures of Edward Elgar's warmly lyrical and relaxed Serenade for Strings in E minor, Claude Debussy's
atmospheric "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" (highlighted by a sumptuous flute solo by Sharron Wood Sparrow)
and Stravinsky's fireball Symphony in Three Movements.
The latter, which the DSO hadn't played in 21 years, is a masterpiece, completed in 1945 and full of fierce rhythm and
energy, syncopated pop and harmonic tang. Under Davis, the orchestra matched the composer's craggy power with
plenty of its own.
Jeremy Denk
Palm Beach Artspaper March 10, 2009

Revelatory Beethoven from Pletnev, Denk in Boca


BOCA RATON -- We have reached the point as a civilization where you'd think there was absolutely nothing new
someone could bring to the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven.

And yet there it was tonight at the Festival of the Arts Boca: A performance of this 205-year-old masterwork that was
sometimes head-shakingly odd and textually questionable, but that was overall so sensational that it had your ears on
full alert and your eyes on the stage, wondering what was going to come next. It sounded new, it sounded bold, and it
sounded revolutionary, and that is exactly what its composer would have wanted.

This reading of the Fifth (in C minor, Op. 67) came courtesy of Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra,
the house ensemble of the third annual Festival of the Arts Boca, which continues through Sunday. This is a large,
powerful ensemble that must rank among the finer orchestras in the world, and as Pletnev showed earlier in the week
with a performance of Beethoven's Second, he's willing to use everything his big band can give him, and that means
plush, colorful and high-octane versions of these canonical works.

The major focus of Pletnev's distinctive interpretation of this most familiar of symphonies was in its emphasis on
certain motifs in a talismanic way that seized the attention each time. In the first movement, it was the horn call that
introduces the major-key contrasting theme; in the second it was the cadential, falling, four-note-scale-plus-triplet that
ties up the melody. In both cases, Pletnev practically stopped the proceedings, dragging out the motifs so that they
sounded less like musical moments than utterances from an oracle.

Which I suppose was the point, because in the second movement especially, he made sure to do it every time, even
though it's arguable that the last appearance or two of the motif compromised the music's forward motion. But there
was so much else to admire here, such as the vast dynamic range Pletnev insisted on, which was most striking in the
softest passages such as the repeated winds-and-strings back-and-forth on the same minor chord, perfectly preparing
the listener for the drama to come.

Then, too, was the sheer virtuosity of this orchestra, the lower strings blazing through the fugal passage that follows the
initial C major blast of the finale, and easily brushing off all of the usual stumbling blocks in the symphony everywhere
else. Mention should also be made of the nearly Brucknerian approach to the brass parts, especially in the finale, where
the big perorations of the music were drenched with trumpet, horn and trombone color, an effect that pushed the work's
sonic identity 50 years into the future.

It was an exceptional presentation, full of power and majesty, tremendous light and sepulchral dark, and even though I
couldn't agree with some of the choices Pletnev made, it was in every important sense an original rethinking of the
Fifth. That it owed some of that to an older tradition of Beethoven performance, and some to a specifically Russian
heart-on-sleeve tradition, doesn't take away from its audacity, or its success.

The concert opened with another excellent Beethoven performance, that of the Fifth Piano Concerto (in E-flat, Op. 73,
Jeremy Denk
Palm Beach Artspaper March 10, 2009
page 2 of 2

Emperor), with the fine American pianist Jeremy Denk as the soloist. Denk, a frequent accompanist for Joshua Bell, is
a standout technician who plays with a sort of cool-temperature flash, rolling out his scale patterns with gratifying
evenness and clarity.

Although its pianistic difficulties are substantial, the Emperor is also a symphonic rather than a display concerto, and
while Denk has a full mastery of the work's big-hearted virtuosity, he was also admirable in the little details, and this
made him a first-rate partner for Pletnev and the RNO. In the first movement, for example, he played the second
iteration of the descending triplet motif with a sharp decrescendo each time, a tiny stylistic wink that dovetailed
perfectly with the orchestra's aggressive response.

Denk played with a lovely sense of serene near-detachment in the beautiful slow movement, letting his rippling
figurations murmur like placid water, and in the main theme of the third movement, played the little downward
chromatic part of the theme with a light snap, as opposed to the sliding effect you often hear in other performances.
That also worked well with the orchestral approach, which exaggerated short staccato notes throughout, in the first
movement punching them in nail-gun fashion.

That Denk is more of a collaborative pianist than a high-profile one does not detract from the assured artistry of his
playing. What it might have lacked in the showboat category it gained in that of sheer musicianship, a quality that is
much better-suited for the Emperor Concerto in any case.

Although tonight's concert was nominally all-Beethoven, it opened with a late addition, a brief curtain-raiser written in
honor of the 75th birthday of the composer and oil-fortune heir Gordon Getty. Composed by Luna Pearl Woolf, who
introduced the work and paid tribute to Getty, who was in the audience, the 75th Fanfare is a well-crafted piece of
orchestral music that displayed a good ear for effective color.

Woolf (pictured at left) said the music was based on themes from Getty's pieces, and there were moments in the music -
- an English horn solo, and another one on trumpet -- that suggested what they were. The piece was appropriately
celebratory in parts with more or less traditional brass statements, and more evocative in others, particularly as the
strings wandered moodily underneath that English horn.

Since Getty's Plump Jack Overture will be on the Music From the Americas program this Friday at the Boca fest, that
would be an ideal time to encore Woolf's fanfare so we can get to know it a little better.
Jeremy Denk
The Miami Herald February 23, 2009

New World Symphony takes on Ives Concord


The New World Symphony's intensive Ives weekend concluded with a program that showcased the pioneering
American composer in all his anarchic, icon-smashing glory through his epic Concord Piano Sonata, heard not once but
twice -- in the original piano version and in Henry Brant's orchestration.
Spanning four movements and almost 50 minutes, the Concord hails from Ives' favored strain of American
Transcendentalism, with each section inspired by a specific writer. Emerson, the massive 16-minute opening
movement, is a dense monolith with much craggy grandeur amid its Beethoven quotations and profusion of surging
notes. Hawthorne, surprisingly, is a fantastical scherzo with plenty of in jokes, and The Alcotts bestows a homespun,
Stephen Foster-like, domestic simplicity.
Thoreau ends the work with a quiet, searching slow movement, a solo flute conveying a touch of the peaceful nature of
Walden Pond. As with so many Ives compositions, the final cadence is unresolved, and the philosophical quest
Tackling this work is a daunting task, but pianist Jeremy Denk served up a staggering tour de force performance
Sunday night at the Lincoln Theatre. The pianist possesses a steel-fingered technique and blazed through the sections of
knuckle-busting bravura, bringing great clarity to Ives' most knotty and dissonant contrapuntal thickets.
Denk also showed supreme sensitivity in the more introspective moments and had the sense of the discursive work's
architecture, letting the Emerson movement's long arc span unfold and bringing great tenderness to The Alcotts.
Thoreau made a fitting culmination, bringing the thematic development full circle, as Denk's performance ended with
the right hushed, searching expression.
Music lovers may differ on the place of Ives' Concord Sonata in the Romantic piano repertory, but Denk's extraordinary
advocacy had many in the audience convinced we were hearing a true masterpiece.
One can go a long time without hearing a performance of the Concord Sonata, let alone two performances, so kudos to
Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World for giving us Henry Brant's orchestrated version after intermission. It was
interesting to hear -- once.
Brant, who died in 2008, spent years on his retooling of the sonata as A Concord Symphony. However faithful and
scrupulous he may have been, his adaptation, scored for huge orchestra, is, to put it charitably, not a success.
Ives' dense counterpoint and fusillade of notes comes across in Brant's interpretation as raucous and wildly overblown,
veering from a kind of low-gear Mahler to deafening cacophony, the music acceptable on a keyboard miles over the top
when pounded out by full symphonic forces.
Even Tilson Thomas couldn't make a case for this unkempt leviathan, and the souped-up treatment he gave it only
made Brant's cochlea-damaging orchestration seem even more empty. Almost no one could fault the New World
pianist on stage who had her fingers in her ears for much of the performance.
Jeremy Denk
New York Times February 10, 2009

Zesty Piano and Luxuriant Strings: Sonatas by a Well-Match Pair


Eugne Ysae, the Belgian violinist and composer who died in 1931, was nicknamed the king of his instrument. He
composed six solo sonatas as a tribute to Bach, filtering the Baroque genre through a late Romantic prism.
Before a superb performance of Ysaes Sonata No. 2 in A minor at Avery Fisher Hall on Sunday afternoon, the
violinist Joshua Bell spoke from the stage about Ysae, whom he called one of the greatest violinists ever. Ysae
taught Josef Gingold, Mr. Bells former teacher.
Ysae wrote the six sonatas after hearing the Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti perform Bachs sonatas and partitas for
solo violin. In the first movement of Ysaes second sonata (dedicated to the French violinist Jacques Thibaud)
fragments of Bachs Partita in E intertwine with echoes of the Dies Irae chant, a motif that recurs in later movements.
Mr. Bell played the colorful opening movement (titled Obsession) with vigorous poise and the Dies Irae theme in
the somber Malinconia with haunting intensity. His voluminous tone and powerful technique vividly illuminated the
intricacies of the virtuoso finale.
The sonata was included in a stellar recital (part of the Great Performers series) that Mr. Bell played with the excellent
pianist Jeremy Denk. The program also included Francks Violin Sonata in A, which the composer wrote as a wedding
gift for Ysae, who gave the work its premiere.
These two musicians are an ideally matched duo, with Mr. Denks fiery playing complementing Mr. Bells luxuriant
singing tone. Mr. Denk played the enigmatic opening to the first movement of the Franck with gentle insistence. The
dialogue in the charming final movement traversed varying degrees of jovial familiarity and passionate exuberance
with gripping intensity.
The program opened with Janaceks earthy Sonata for Violin and Piano, which highlights the composers fascination
with Czech folk music. (He once said, The whole life of man is in folk music.) Mr. Denk and Mr. Bell offered a
richly hued performance, with the pianist imbuing the rhythmically vibrant sections with zesty vigor.
The first half of the concert also included a passionate rendition of Brahmss Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor in which
Mr. Bells soaring tone was displayed to splendid effect.
After a rapturous ovation from the packed house at the end of the program, the musicians offered a sweet-toned
rendition of Massenets Meditation from Thas as an encore.
Jeremy Denk
New York Times November 13, 2008

Soul Mates on the Wild Side: Transcendental Ives and Mavericky


At first glance Charles Ivess Concord Sonata and Beethovens Hammerklavier Sonata would not seem to have that
much in common, other than being two of the hardest, longest and most path-breaking works in the piano repertory. But the
pianist Jeremy Denk paired the pieces in his exciting sold-out recital at Zankel Hall on Tuesday night. In the engaging
program notes that this intellectually curious pianist wrote for the occasion, he made a case for these works, written roughly a
century apart, as creative soul mates, too dangerous, wild, asymmetrical, elusive to be monumental.
Both the Hammerklavier, completed in 1819, and the Concord, finished in 1918, display a perverse desire to do the
unimaginable. Beethovens fugue subject in the final movement seems to defy the genre of the fugue. And Ives,
evoking Ralph Waldo Emersons prose style, tried to create a form without what we would normally call form, to sustain an
enormous shape through thunderbolts of connection and association. Though visionary, these sonatas are summations that
seek modernity in the past.
I am tempted to continue letting Mr. Denk do my work for me and just keep borrowing his keen observations. But the real
argument for the linkage between these pieces came with Mr. Denks thrilling performances. He played these daunting
scores, each about 45 minutes, from memory, bringing a rare combination of command and spontaneity to his dynamic
He began with the Concord, consisting of wildly contrasting portraits of towering figures of 19th-century American
transcendentalism. In Emerson, the opening movement and the wildest, Ives conveys the teeming, free-thinking ideas of
the status-quo-smashing essayist.
Many pianists emphasize the volatile craziness of Emerson. Mr. Denk conveyed the musics teeming energy, while also
projecting the thematic thread, however fractured, that runs through this movement. He somehow made the mood swings
seem inevitable, from the dissonant, contrapuntally convoluted outbursts to the pensive passages with hints of hymn tunes.
During the raucous Hawthorne, the homebound tenderness of The Alcotts and the metaphysical musings of Thoreau,
Mr. Denk brought out both the sonatas radicalism and nostalgia, yet never let the music seem simply eccentric. Ives
emerged here as a cagey master.
There was no trace of Germanic, granitic monumentality in Mr. Denks performance of Beethovens Hammerklavier.
From his bracing account of the opening Allegro, taking a fleet tempo, through the insanely complex final fugue, its subject
thick with finger-twisting trills, Mr. Denks playing was wonderfully light-textured, articulate and restless. Beethoven never
wrote a thornier piece. Yet hints of Beethoven the daring improviser also came through in Mr. Denks fresh, risky and, when
called for, boldly humorous performance.
Speaking of humor, check out Mr. Denks Web site ( for his musings on music and the life of a concert
pianist. In a recent post he writes an imagined interview with Gov. Sarah Palin, discussing the Hammerklavier, which she
calls Beethovens most maverickyest song. Giving advice to Mr. Denk in tackling the daunting fugue, his Sarah Palin says,
Trill, baby, trill!
Jeremy Denk
Washington Post November 10, 2008

Pianist Denk Puts His Stamp on 2 Difficult Sonatas


That the Yamaha grand needed retuning during the intermission of pianist Jeremy Denk's concert at the Barns of Wolf
Trap on Friday gives just a hint of the dimensions of what had just happened on that stage and what was about to
happen. Denk had just explored the knottiness and quirkiness of Ives's Sonata No. 2, "Concord, Mass., 1840-1860,"
with both explosive power and sublime poetry, and would soon embark on Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" Sonata, Op.
106, one of Ives's major sources of inspiration.
Taking on these titans on the same program is a little like running back-to-back marathons. Beethoven was wrenching
himself from the confines of classicism; Ives, a century later, was thumbing his nose at romanticism; and both
composers did this at great length, in the process testing the physical limits of the piano and the emotional limits of the
Ives's "Concord" Sonata, in four movements titled "Emerson," "Hawthorne," "The Alcotts" and "Thoreau," is a journey,
frequently on rough roads, through the philosophical struggles of the four protagonists. There is a sense of wildness in
everything he writes but also an infectious exuberance and, sometimes, sweetness that, played as well as it was here, is
irresistible. The "Hammerklavier" is Beethoven defiantly going his own way and doing his own thing, mostly in a
frenzy of activity.
Both of these pieces must score way up there on the notes-per-page scale, and Denk has the chops to muscle his way
through them without breaking a sweat. What made his performance so compelling, however, were the intelligence,
lyricism and transparency that illuminated everything he touched. His attention to detail only heightened the unfolding
drama -- one unexpected staccato in the midst of a cascade of notes, a lyrical melody able to assert itself within a welter
of hyperactivity and, in the Beethoven, the powerful and authoritative mastery of silence.
When he wants to, Denk has the kind of touch on the keys that seems to draw the sound from the piano. This sort of
anti-percussion gave both the Ives and the Beethoven third movements an almost vocal quality. Beethoven may have
tailored this sonata for the percussive force of the piano, but his rage raged more powerfully because, in Denk's hands,
his moments of repose were so peaceful.
For this concert, Denk provided the most interesting and well-written program notes I've ever read.
Jeremy Denk
The New Yorker November 10, 2008

Musical Politics


The pianist Jeremy Denk has established himself as perhaps the leading humorist-intellectual of the classical-music
blogosphere, if that is not too esoteric a category. In a recent post at, he published a purported
interview with Governor Sarah Palin on the subject of Beethovens Sonata No. 29, Hammerklavier, in which she
proposed that a composer is a lot like a musicologist, except that he has actual notes to put down on paper; attacked
immigrant notes that encroach upon the key of B-flat; and advised, regarding the densely figured fugal finale, that
Denk should simply trill, baby, trill. This silliness may be Denks way of venting tension in advance of his Zankel
Hall recital dbut, on Nov. 11, in which he will play one of the most demanding recital programs in recent memory: the
Hammerklavier and Charles Ivess no less monumental Concord Sonata. Prior concerts have suggested that Denk
has the chops, the brains, and the heart to pull it off. Whether Palin will attend is unknown at this writing.
Jeremy Denk
Buffalo News October 29, 2008

A great stop for Jeremy Denk on way to Carnegie Hall


Pianist Jeremy Denk is on his way to Carnegie Hall with Beethovens Hammerklavier, no less. Buffalos Ramsi P.
Tick Memorial Concert Series managed to snag him on the way. Tuesday in Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Denk
played a glorious, heavy program: the Hammerklavier, preceded by Schuberts B flat sonata, D. 960.
The program was the result of a last-minute switch, and, with two sonatas from the same era and in the same key, it was
a bit odd. But I loved hearing these two sonatas together, comparing and contrasting, reveling in their mercurial nature.
And the rest of the crowd seems to have agreed with me. I have never seen a more rapt audience.

Denk is an unusual pianist. He is intense but not introverted. He has a fine-tuned sense of timing and proportion, but he
also pays exquisite, unhurried attention to the musics details. That was clear from the first phrases of the Schubert,
which were beautifully shaped.

If I had to single out the evenings high point, I would say the slow movement of the Schubert. I have simply never
heard anyone play it as beautifully as Denk did.

After the last note faded, all of us, Denk included, sat there in silence. How do you follow that? He showed tremendous
grace easing into the Scherzo. Not easy.

The Hammerklavier is the ultimate challenge for any pianist. Its beginning is famous just on its own. Right at the get-
go, the left hand makes this big leap. You cannot guarantee it will land where it should.
Denk compounded the drama of that beginning by hurling himself into the piece within a second of finishing his
spoken introduction. He said, Enough talking! and boom, he was off and running before he even sat down. You could
not beat that.

The first movement of the Hammerklavier had a boundless energy and a great forward momentum. Denk made sure
you felt the musics impact. When he hit one of those fortissimo fanfares, his arms swung up from the force of it. He
would throw back his head, catch the audiences eye. He was natural, not uptight, not affected. I admired that.
The slow movement was so deeply felt and the finale so dazzling that at the end, I think everyone was a little dazed.
What a display this was of virtuosity, assurance, strength and humor. Denk defined the musics architecture, but also
played up the disorienting key changes, the zany melody lines the humanity, you could say, in this superhuman
creation. I wish I had a recording of it. I would like to hear it again.

As an encore, Denk played the slow movement of Charles Ives Concord Sonata, the piece he originally planned on
playing here in its entirety. He made it charming, embracing the musics wit and lyricism.
Dont worry about that Carnegie Hall gig, Mr. Denk.

Youre good to go.

Jeremy Denk
The Denver Post October 19, 2008

Relatively unknown pianist is making a grand name for self


The first time I heard pianist Jeremy Denk was last autumn on a barge moored under New York's Brooklyn Bridge,
where he delivered a transcendent performance of the music of Charles Ives.
To hear the versatile virtuoso again in Denver on Friday night was a treat, this time through the gentle intricacies of
Richard Strauss' Burleske and a tuneful Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart rondo both for piano and orchestra.
While attendance at Boettcher Concert Hall was conspicuously sparse, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and music
director Jeffrey Kahane joined Denk in a thoughtful, committed interpretation of Strauss' energetic, waltz-like work.
As always, Kahane purposefully propelled the CSO through brisk rhythms and full-voiced orchestral flourishes. But
what drove home the Burleske was Denk's insightful, fleet- fingered phrasings in harmonious alignment with timpanist
William Hill's sophisticated rendering of the work's main themes.
Not exactly a household name, Denk then easily exceeded expectations in his solid, astoundingly fluid delivery of the
Rondo in D Major. With capable support from the CSO, Denk demonstrated impressive dexterity and emotional depth
and clearly enjoyed his role as purveyor of Mozart's delightfully sunny themes, whimsical turns of phrases and
flashes of technical brilliance.
After intermission, Kahane led the CSO sans score through Mozart's exultant Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major,
attentively teasing out its good humor as well as its moments of profound pathos. Most notably, Kahane gave
careful consideration to the elegant Minuetto that smoothed the way for his intuitive, meticulous direction of the
contrapuntal final movement.
Opening the program of pleasing, yet largely unfamiliar works (which may account for the slight audience) was the
CSO premiere of George Tsontakis' romantically inclined "Winter Lightning" from Four Symphonic Quartets. Kahane
explained and shared excerpts of T.S. Eliot's reflective poetry as the work's inspiration, articulating in words both
its angular grandiosity and wonderfully soft sweeps of sound.
Yet overall, "Winter Lightning" lacked a sense of cohesion of unity in its construction, and therefore proved
unsatisfying and at odds with the rest of the program.
Jeremy Denk
New York Times August 8, 2008

Making Just One Sonata Last All Night


Usually when people say that less is more, its bunk: less is less. The real question is whether less is enough.
Jeremy Denk proposed that it can be in his recital at the Kaplan Penthouse on Wednesday, part of the Mostly Mozart
Festivals 10:30 p.m. series, A Little Night Music. Many in the audience had just heard a full-length Mostly Mozart
concert, and some had started earlier still, with a preconcert recital. But even for listeners who turned up just for Mr.
Denks performance, his decision to play a single work, Schuberts B flat Sonata (D. 960), seemed perfect.
Granted, the sonata lasts only 35 minutes, and performing a Schubert impromptu as a curtain raiser would have brought
the program closer to the hours length these concerts are meant to be. And some listeners, on their way out, said they
would have liked an encore.
But this final Schubert sonata is so eventful and so fully packed with singing themes and ingenious transformations that
its length is beside the point, and Mr. Denks nuanced, finely detailed performance illuminated those elements without
sacrificing Schuberts broader strokes. A shorter work before it would have been a distraction; an encore would have
dissipated its emotional charge.
In Mr. Denks account, the outer movements perfectly mirrored each other in their balance of relaxed, tuneful reflection
and intense passion. He phrased with an appealing fluidity of both dynamics and tempo, and even the most serene
passages the works first few pages, for example were suffused with a quiet energy that drew a listener in.
Mr. Denks varied articulation contributed to that effect: amid the calmly flowing opening figuration, his sharp-edged,
tactile bass trill offered a first hint that this would be a richly characterized reading. Mr. Denk maintained that breadth
of color throughout the work. The contrast between the sparkling brightness of the Scherzo and the dark hues and
emphatically accented bass line in the Trio were a case in point.
No doubt the intimacy of the space played a part as well. No one in the room was very far from Mr. Denk, so even the
subtlest shifts in timbre or pacing registered. Certain of Schuberts expressive effects dropping a thought suddenly
and, after a moments ominous silence, picking up another, as happens in the transfixing slow movement had a
dramatic force that doesnt come through quite as startlingly in a large hall.
The Mostly Mozart Festival runs through Aug. 23 at Lincoln Center; (212) 721-6500, Jeremy Denk
is also performing at the Bard Music Festival on Friday and Saturday, (845) 758-7900,; and at the
Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival on Wednesday and Aug. 17, (631) 537-6368,
Jeremy Denk
The New York Sun August 8, 2008

Jeremy Denks Labyrinthine Lyricism


Michael Tilson Thomas has made the perspicacious argument that the history of Western music would have looked
very different if Alban Berg had not died at a young age. On Wednesday at the late-night recital of the Mostly Mozart
Festival at the Kaplan Penthouse, the pianist Jeremy Denk offered music of the man whose untimely demise left the
biggest hole in the progression of the art form.
No, it's not Mozart. Of course, Wolfgang died young and, had he lived, would have undoubtedly given to the world
more of the greatest music ever composed. But Mozart was really not much of an innovator; rather, he refined standard
theorems to their ultimate apogees. The composer who would have had the most profound influence expired at the
ridiculously young age of 31. His name was Franz Schubert.
Mr. Denk chose one of the three posthumous sonatas of Schubert, the one in B flat Major, D. 960, the last in numerical
sequence. Technically, he did a fine job, but, much more significantly, he was adept at the poetics of the piece.
Schubert creates the illusion of the death of linear time. In a good performance like this one, the listener should feel
hopelessly but deliciously lost. Mr. Denk, of course, has to keep his bearings. The trick is to appear to be caught in the
labyrinth as well.
The opening Molto moderato is almost as long as the other three movements combined, or so it seems. Mr. Denk
offered the movement very clearly, employing dynamic contrast and the slightest of rubato to propel us forward.
Emphasizing the architecture of the music, he arrived at his conclusion powerfully. The stage was set for Schubert's
prestidigitation of the temporal.
Except that all of Mr. Denk's months of preparation and assiduity were negated by the boorish decision of Lincoln
Center management to allow the seating of latecomers at the movement's conclusion. The mood was broken and Mr.
Denk needed quite a bit of time to silently prepare himself before continuing.
Soldiering on, Mr. Denk was superb in the Andante sostenuto. He wove a profound, slow movement whose cerebral
quality was underscored by a palpable contrast of clean and murky. Judicious use of the pedal aided in this subtle
process of definition and demarcation.
A delightful Scherzo followed, Mr. Denk lovingly intoning those unique Schubertian phrases with what in poetry we
might call their feminine endings, surprising little twists and turns that are the essence of this composer's vocabulary.
Music would not experience these elegant but oddly self-effacing devices again until the Symphony No. 4 of Gustav
Mr. Denk is a thoughtful musician, a talented turner of written phrases as well as musical ones. In his Web log recently,
he stated that "Schubert's tunes are made to reflect upon themselves, doubtfully." This sentence captures flawlessly the
special mystery of this special composer. I wish that I had written it.
Jeremy Denk
Philadelphia Inquirer January 9, 2008

Pianist Jeremy Denk with the Chamber Music Society


Though this cannot be proved, Jeremy Denk probably holds the record for playing the most notes in a two-hour
Philadelphia piano recital - Monday's program, with three of the chunkier sonatas written over the last century.
Denk's advocacy wasn't always thoughtful, but never was there a note too many.
Presented by Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the recital was built around Charles Ives' Mount Rushmore-
like Concord Sonata in a performance that's the most fully realized I've heard in concert or on recordings,
preceded by early Elliott Carter and late Leon Kirchner.
That didn't have to happen. Denk never pounds, but even Bach leaves him more enthralled with the physicality of
the playing than concerned for the sound world that listeners need to parse dense scores.
Carter's 1946 Piano Sonata can be a Coplandesque walk in the park - when undersold (if only a bit) by the
performer. The program notes discussed how revolutionary the piece was when first written. It's not now, and
need not be to assume relevance. Denk, however, seemed to shove it back toward the cutting edge with bright,
metallic sonorities. And who knows what might have been revealed in a more yielding approach to the emotional
landscapes of Kirchner's 2003 Piano Sonata No. 2. Even so, the sonata is a major work of amazing vitality for the
then-84-year-old composer.
The Ives sonata is a magnum opus (one of several) assembled from earlier works in four movements that are
designated portraits of figures from Emerson to Thoreau, but feel more like Grandma Moses landscapes with
much visual imagery alongside intellectual references to other composers. This performance stood apart from the
others with Denk's ability to find shades of meaning in what are usually dense thickets of notes. You could say the
piece is overwritten were it not for the thorny grandeur achieved not just with all the notes sounding, but with the
accumulation of detail.
What set Denk above supervirtuosos like Marc-Andre Hamelin was the necessity of intelligent choice. Hamelin
allows you to hear it all, and "all" is well into the sensory overload zone. Denk prioritized with a rightness that
suggested he knew the piece's various levels even better than the composer, who mused about never having
finished it. Another nice touch was the brief offstage flute solo in the final "Thoreau" movement - heard like a
bird call from the next world. The first movement's viola solo was absent: It's ad-libbed, suggesting Ives wasn't so
serious about it.
Jeremy Denk
Times Union December 13th, 2007

Pianist scales monuments


The boundaries between modernism and romanticism were blurred Tuesday night in the bold and unusual recital by
pianist Jeremy Denk.

Performing at Union College, the 37-year-old American offered only two sonatas, but each is a doozy: Ives' "Concord"
and Beethoven's "Hammerklavier." And his approach to each work was unexpected, applying a spacious romanticism
to the Ives and highlighting the modern extremes in the Beethoven.

Proceeding in reverse chronological order, Denk opened with the Ives, which has been regarded as a monument of
American music ever since its premiere in 1939. But that's often how it's been approached in performance, as a hard-
faced stony monolith. Denk allowed the work to breathe and the wild diversity of Ives' writing benefited, especially in
the most daunting and laden movement "Emerson."

Denk's fortes were particularly telling here -- resonant and confident, yet never demanding or overpowering.
Denk has a fluid grace at the keyboard and his body language can be fascinating, especially in the Ives. As if
contemplating the material at hand, his head turns this way and that, sometimes nearly fully facing the audience, or
with his chin raised toward the ceiling. Denk's arms even flapped a bit in the lively "Hawthorne" movement.

Audience members' heads turned this way and that during the final movement of the Ives, "Thoreau," when the sound
of a flute arrived from offstage. This element of the piece is often dropped, but it's a lovely haunting effect. Tara Helen
O'Connor gave the handful of lines a warm and reedy tone.

Where the Ives is a crazy quilt of musical Americana with its seams all showing through proudly, the Beethoven is a
fabric woven of one piece, though still chaotic in texture and color. Denk gave it a more in-your-face reading, with the
opening Allegro full of grander and crisper playing than anywhere in the Ives.

The Adagio felt like a nightmare in pastel hues, so well did Denk plumb its miserable depths. Perhaps it was the long
passages of wandering harmonies that gave it such an arduous quality, but the memory of Ives' climax happy writing
also contributed.

The weatherman's terminology of "a wintry mix" well describes the windy and stormy finale of the Beethoven.
Jeremy Denk
Times Union December 13th, 2007
page 2 of 2

Like Ives, Beethoven copped out on resolving some of his grandest conundrums, and instead just cuts to a quiet
chorale. Denk handled the evening's many contradictions with aplomb, and offered as an encore a reprise of "The
Alcotts," Ives at his most tender.
Jeremy Denk
Detroit Free Press June 22, 2005

Detroit gives props to Carter


Elliott Carter, the resident composer of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival and amazingly at the top of his
game at age 96, is one of those high modernists often blamed for driving a wedge between classical music and the
The question of modernism's impact on audiences is a hornet's nest. But as it relates to Carter, the charge rings
hollow in metro Detroit, where I count only seven professional performances of his music since 1970, including
one inconsequential performance by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra of a minor early work. How can people hate
-- or learn to like -- music they never hear?
In a single week, the Great Lakes festival has doubled the amount of Carter heard locally in 35 years. As a fan
(though not a sycophant), it was thrilling to witness the reception at Monday's all-Carter program. An audience of
140 cheered enthusiastically for such thorny works as the 21-minute "Night Fantasies" for piano (1980),
winningly played by Carter champion Ursula Oppens.
More telling, the audience at Saturday's mostly mainstream program at Seligman Performing Arts Center went
berserk after Jeremy Denk's explosively virtuoso reading of the landmark Piano Sonata (1946), erupting into a
standing ovation and demanding curtain calls. Carter's music may not be for everyone, but his best music -- when
performed with skill, nuance and in context -- communicates just fine, thank you.
Monday's survey concentrated on Carter's autumnal work, including "Night Fantasies" and four pieces written
since 1994: "Fragment No. 1 for String Quartet," "Gra" for solo clarinet (played in its trombone version by the
DSO's stand-out principal Ken Thompkins), "Two Figments for Solo Cello" played with charisma by Fred Sherry,
and Fifth String Quartet. Including the Piano Sonata, the festival traced the long arc of Carter's maturity.
The mammoth Sonata finds Carter discovering his atonal language, muscular sonority and rhythmic complexity.
The piece opens with a fierce unison stab and quiet response that stakes claim to the entire keyboard and
expansive emotional world not unlike Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" sonata -- an impression reinforced by
Carter's brilliantly jazzy fugue.
Playing the 22-minute piece from memory, Denk unearthed the beauty in Carter's clashing melodic cells and
untangled the mercurial passages with breathtaking clarity and flair. He was like an unerring guide leading you
through what you thought was an impossibly thick forest, pointing out the wondrous details. The ghostly end was
More hermetic, "Night Music" finds Carter still in touch with his relentless textural density of the '60s and '70s.
There are no themes. Nothing is repeated, and the music lacks internal memory to a fault. The piece unfolds in
improvisatory bursts. I was reminded of avant-garde jazz pianist Cecil Taylor, though Carter's piece is
meticulously notated and zaftig while Taylor's improvisations leap with echoes of ballet.
Carter's recent music is his most distilled and lucid. The solo works are playful rhapsodies. The witty Fifth
Quartet (1995), which mimics a rehearsal in the way players worry over independent fragments, is full of
beguiling tempo games but more transparent than his earlier quartets. The Amernet Quartet deftly captured the
personality of each line yet also functioned as a unified ensemble.
Jeremy Denk
Detroit Free Press June 22, 2005
page 2 of 2

Carter, by the way, was not present, not because he's too frail to leave New York but because he's too busy
fulfilling commissions. He's a miracle of our age.
Jeremy Denk
Philadelphia Inquirer September 15, 2005

Pianist is making a bigger name for himself


Name Philadelphia's most often heard classical pianists, and one is far less famous than Andre Watts: Jeremy
Beloved by hard-core audiences who attend smaller-scale recitals in museums and galleries, Denk has played in
Philadelphia at least 20 times in the last 17 years. Three full Denk recitals are to come this season, starting with a
rare, single-evening traversal of Bach's six partitas at the Bach Festival of Philadelphia's Monday opening. The
other concerts, presented by his longtime champion, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, will be Feb. 3 and
May 17, with his customary recital partner, violinist Soovin Kim.
Denk, 35, is still making important debuts, some as superstar violinist Joshua Bell's pianist of choice - which is
how he arrived at Verizon Hall last spring. That's a switch from his first Philadelphia visit, a disastrous Curtis
Institute of Music audition. Now, his association with Philadelphia borders on a love affair.
"I have friends [there], so socially and musically, it's a great vacation from my life in New York," he says. "I see
the same people in the audience time after time after time. I feel like I have an audience family."
Denk is sitting cross-legged in New York's sunny Riverside Park, taking a break from his admittedly chaotic
apartment. He gravitates toward a monument of Joan of Arc; they share an aptitude for doing the impossible. Just
over the summer, Denk replaced Emanuel Ax in a Mostly Mozart Festival recital at Lincoln Center, and dusted
off Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra on one day's notice.
Dusting off, for him, means memorization, right down to orchestration details. No wonder composers, who often
miss deadlines, adore him. Denk thoroughly mastered Jake Heggie's concerto, Cut Time, inside of a month. "And
he did it all with good humor and a warm and friendly collaborative way," Heggie says. "Which is extremely
Denk doesn't fathom his rareness: "If I'm learning a concerto, wouldn't I want to know what the orchestra is
The six Bach partitas are more than just making him sweat. When he came down with a high fever last week, he
was told by one friend he was having Bach overdose. The concert offer arrived relatively late (April), and Denk
saw the crush coming. But the partitas, which show Bach pushing the limits of possibility with unusual audacity,
were irresistible. Besides, Denk has never regretted his risks. "Not yet," he says. "Each one turned out nicely."
One reason for his success dangles from his key chain: a New York Sports Club membership card. Though never
a jock, Denk knows how to cultivate stamina and says that some of the best practicing happens away from the
"Right now," he says, "I can feel my brain going over passages of the partitas that I just played through. I never
stay up all night practicing. I reserve my nights for more frivolous activities, like going out in the city with
He also writes his blog, ironically titled "Think Denk: The glamorous life and thoughts of a concert pianist" (since
it's not so glamorous), found at It's a travelogue of his charmed life with his share of
dates (he's single), Proust and sake.
Jeremy Denk
Philadelphia Inquirer September 15, 2005
page 2 of 2

So it's hard to imagine that the North Carolina-born, New Mexico-raised pianist was once, by his own description,
"pretty nerdy, to be honest." He was always on fast-track course schedules, which landed him in Oberlin College
at age 16 with a double major: music and chemistry. But even his chemistry adviser told him to concentrate on
piano, which he did at Indiana University under the esteemed Hungarian pianist Gyrgy Sebk.
Denk did well in minor-league piano competitions in London and Munich, but even though he has always been
technically commanding, he compares his younger self to a wild baseball pitcher: "Sometimes it would go
amazingly, and sometimes it was all over the place."
His musical identity continues to form slowly. Only in recent years did he find a template for what has become a
bracing, vigorous approach to Bach: After a chance encounter with the 1930s recordings of Swiss pianist Edwin
Fischer, Denk had his godfather.
"He captures the incredible sadness of the theme [of one of Bach's fugues]," Denk says, revealing where he's
headed in his own Bach interpretations. "Fischer listens to the interplay of the voices. He doesn't explain it, but he
listens to it. The flow is very natural. When another subject [melodic idea] enters, it's like a trumpet of the
apocalypse. There's a thrilling tension; the last eight bars are devastating!"
The gulf between envisioning and manifesting such insights remains the single problem of his existence. "I'm
obsessed with the saying that one's whole work is to shorten the distance between the brain and the fingertip," he
says. "I'm an intense performer. I can get carried away. Sometimes, you'd rather be watching from above the fray.
That's what I'm working on - being totally involved but in control in a bigger sense."
Jeremy Denk
The Post & Courier June 4, 2004

Chamber performance triumphant


Triumphant describes the final movements of Brahms venerable "G minor Piano Quartet," performed with eloquence
and excitement and also provides the description of Thursday's fifth Chamber Music Series concert at the Dock
Street Theatre.
Just when you thought you had heard the very best performance ever of the Brahms chamber music icon, along came
Chee-Yun (violin), Daniel Phillips (viola), Andres Diaz (cello) and Jeremy Denk to turn the tables and surpass any and
all expectations of spontaneity and originality.
With Denk's lyrical yet commanding piano setting the accelerating beat and dynamics, the ensemble responded with
inspired individual riffs, and collective emotions at full tilt.
By the finale gypsy movement, hands and string bows took flight with Denk's mini-concerto glissandos tossed off with
the lan and boyish joy of a Fourth of July sparkler.
It was a 40-minute epiphany that stilled the heart.
Three standing ovations followed.
Fortunately, with his inimitable wit, host Charles Wadsworth had prepared us for the extravaganza with what he
described as an "encores-style" warm-up: Dvorak's "Two Waltzes for String Quartet (Opus 54, No. 1 and 4) convivially
performed by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, including Geoff Nuttall (violin), Barry Shiffman (violin), Lesley
Robertson (viola), and Christopher Costanza (cello).
The group emits a volubility and enthusiasm that in part reflects the addition of newcomer Costanza.
And, incidentally, credit the other Spoleto newcomer, Denk, for adding an irrepressible buoyancy to the series as well.
For their part, the St. Lawrence had fun with Dvorak's lilting, fluffy confection, evoking turn-of-the century balls and
hints of flirtatious indiscretion.
The second offering introduced a young, optimistic Beethoven, which is something of a contrast to his sad, older years,
in a unique combination of instruments: "Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano" performed by Diaz (cello), Wendy Chen
(piano) and Todd Palmer (clarinet).
Rarely heard, the snappy, three-movement work variations on an aria from Weigel's innocuous opera "Sailor's
Loves" had abundant folk-time jocularity to showcase the skills of the virtuosi.
With the thunderous Brahms-Quartet crescendos seared on my memory along with the focused, exhilarated faces of the
performers, here's a toast to Wadsworth and Chamber V performers, and a plea for you to return to Spoleto next year.
Jeremy Denk
The Post & Courier June 2, 2004

Cheers for Chamber Music program


The second program in the Chamber Music series brought Todd Palmer and Christopher Costanza playing Poulenc,
Paula Robison and Jeremy Denk playing Debussy, and Mr. Denk and the St. Lawrence Quartet playing Franck. These,
you must have noted, are all French pieces and were played in reverse order of their composition.
Poulenc is very popular these days, probably due to the increasing interest in his very serious opera about the French
revolution, "The Dialogues of the Carmelites." The opera has become nearly a repertory item in theaters large enough
to cope with it, and it contains a finale that probably is the most wrenching one in the history of the stage: An entire
group of nuns goes to the guillotine, singing a hymn, and their heads are lopped off in turn while the hymn is reduced
from a chorus to a solo and then to silence. The guillotine is offstage, but its chopping sound is heard, and the effect is
quite as horrible as it sounds on paper. Perhaps it is Poulenc's music that makes it so horrible, for the music is a hymn
and the music is ecstatic rather than savage.
"Dialogues," though, is very unlike Poulenc's other music, which generally creates a very Gallic aura that makes one
think of wine, outdoor cafes and matters of mostly a light-hearted nature. This is the mood pervading the sonata for
clarinet and cello that opened the Chamber Series second program. Mr. Palmer was the sparkling clarinet player, Mr.
Costanza the equally sparkling (in a lower register, of course) cellist.
After Poulenc, back in time to Debussy, whose "Bilitis" conjures up Ancient Greece and the legendary Bilitis and her
women. Whether Bilitis was the most noted lesbian of her time is up for argument. Her famous "circle of beautiful
women" would suggest so, and several organizations of lesbian women presently call themselves Daughters of Bilitis.
Be that as it may, Debussy's "Bilitis" comprises six small scenes of Ancient Greece and provides an atmospheric group
for flute and piano. Ms. Robison plays them better than anybody alive, probably, and proved it, with pianist Mr. Denk
at her side.
The big work on the program was Cesar Franck's huge "Piano Quintet in F-minor." The piece is the size and shape of a
piano concerto, and the piano writing is thick, bristling with difficulties and rich in melody. It needs a virtuoso to pull it
off, and it had that in Mr. Denk, who surmounted the difficulties in grand style. It set the audience cheering, as well it
Mr. Denk was back in the Chamber Series third program, this time in solo place. He played Bach's "English suite" (in
G-minor) in irresistible style. I thought it went a bit too fast for the music to keep up, but it certainly made a glittering
effect, and Mr. Denk kept all the textures as clear as crystal. Surprisingly, the audience shouted and rose to their feet
when it was over. An ovation for Bach? Not unknown, but certainly surprising.
The ovation went on and on, and suddenly Mr. Wadsworth was back on stage, explaining that he had miscalculated the
length of the opening work and they had five minutes to spare, and he had asked Mr. Denk if he knew anything five
minutes long, and Mr. Denk said "Sure," and suddenly there we were with an encore. The audience reacted like kids
handed ice cream instead of mashed potatoes.
The encore was by that tower of the last century's avant garde, Charles Ives. It was the "Concord Sonata," one of the
most difficult pieces ever written (I once tried to play it and got to the end of the first page before realizing I couldn't
Jeremy Denk
The Post & Courier June 2, 2004
page 2 of 2

even read it). Mr. Denk played the "Alcott" section splendidly, and it proved exactly the right contrast to Bach. Again
the audience roared, and Mr. Denk left the stage looking slightly stunned, having just become a Spoleto Star.
The earlier part of the program contained one of the brisker Haydn string quartets (Op. 64, No. 2), played with great
briskness by the St. Lawrence String Quartet. The group has been a favorite here for years, probably because of the
effervescent first fiddler, Geoff Nuttall, whose concert wear used to provoke as much comment as his playing. This
year he seems to have settled down and favors a sober dress style. In any case, the Nuttall personality and performing
style is as eye-catching as ever. He and his three collaborators played the Haydn in deluxe fashion.
The concert finished with one of those twittering exercises so beloved by flutists (whose repertory is stuffed with such
things). This was an "Andante and Rondo" by one Franz Doppler, a 19th-century Polish composer of practically zero
reputation these days. The two flutists involved were Ms. Robison and Tara O'Connor, who tore into the music with
enormous relish. I thought it pleasant enough but a sad comedown after Mr. Denk's Bach and Ives. I clapped, but when
they decided to repeat the last half, I gathered my belongings and fled for the Footlight Players Theatre.
When I got there, QuinTango was about to take the stage, and I was just in time to hear a whole hour-plus of the best
tango playing this side of San Telmo (which is an area of Buenos Aires known for tango bars). The group's pianist was
new last year and has settled into his job with startling effectiveness. Jeffrey Watson is young, handsome, blond. His
command of the tango idiom is absolute and his keyboard dexterity is dazzling. He anchors the group to perfection.
And, I'm happy to say, Joan Singer remains a delightful lecturer/hostess/violinist, and Libby Blatt a white haired
charmer on the double-bass. Jorge Espinoza is still romantically black-haired as cellist, and Paula Akbar a vivacious
fiddler able to match Ms. Singer with great lan.
I've been a QuinTango fan ever since the group arrived here six years ago. I've seen changes in personnel (most
drastically when Bruce Steed, their unique pianist, died before last year's engagement), but I've never heard a tired or
merely dutiful performance from them. This year, to my surprise, QuinTango is unquestionably better than ever. There
is an increased sparkle, and their repertory has expanded and been honed to a sharp new edge.
Jeremy Denk
The Post & Courier June 1, 2004

Chamber concert impresses


The third Bank of America Chamber Music concert at the Dock Street Theatre was a crowd-pleasing event.
There was an enthusiastic rendering of Haydn's "String Quartet Op. 64, No. 2" by The St. Lawrence String Quartet,
Jeremy Denk's organic reading of Bach's "English Suite in G minor." Doppler's "Andante and Rondo," with piano
backing from Charles Wadsworth, was a tour-de-force duet for flutists Paula Robison and Tara Helen O' Connor.
In his commentary, Wadsworth noted the complexity of string quartet performance and the great jump from execution
to interpretation. Certainly, after first violinist Geoff Nuttall played the opening phrase of the allegro movement, the St.
Lawrence String Quartet played with a refined sense of dramatic interplay. Second violinist Barry Shiffman, violist
Lesley Robertson and cellist Christopher Costanza formed into duets, trios and the occasional solo under Nuttall's
control, as the music of the first violin soared over the rest of the group in an extremely high melodic line. In the adagio
section, a touching duet between Shiffman and Costanza shifted to an expressive solo for the cello. Haydn fills the
"Finale Stretto" with a number of musical jokes which are as much fun for the musicians as for the watching audience,
and the quartet ends on a surprising musical anti-climax.
Bach's "English Suite in G Minor" attains a glossy richness when played on a Steinway grand piano, especially when it
is played with Jeremy Denk's understanding. Bach's "English Suite" consists of a prelude and a variety of movements
based on contemporary dances such as the gavotte, the minuet and the allemande. Even though the dances vary from
the grave to the giddy, Denk's interpretation never allowed the overall pattern to collapse into a series of fragments.
Performing without a pause, Denk elegantly phrased the musical line, shifting tone from the melancholy to the merry,
and all with tasteful ornamentation.
The audience rewarded him with a standing ovation, and Denk performed the first of two encores. His encore consisted
of a movement from a piece by Charles Ives, and his mastery of that composer's modern idiom showcased Denk's
You expect great music from Haydn and Bach, but who knew that Franz Doppler would be anything but a source of
lame puns for Wadsworth. The 19th century Polish composer's "Andante and Rondo" written for himself and his
brother, who was also a flutist, turned out to be filled with lengthy "bel canto" melodies, after the manner of Bellini.
While Wads-worth played a rather drab piano background, O'Connor and Robison played with over-the -top
theatricality, and the whole thing was more fun than Rossini's orchestral celebration of cats fighting.
Jeremy Denk
The Post & Courier May 31, 2004

Chamber series has French twist


The second program of the Chamber Music series had the Dock Street Theatre filled with Spoleto Festival USA
dignitaries, participants, locals and tourists alike who gave host Charles Wadsworth a rousing welcome.
Wadsworth chatted about our attending a concert at church time Sunday morning by quoting a roadside sign he noticed
recently: "Jesus is Coming and Boy, is he Mad." He allowed as how he gave himself a present (early birthday, perhaps)
by scheduling an all-French concert well, almost all French.
Cesar Franck, the composer of the morning's big piece, a piano quintet, was born in Belgium but spent most of his
creative life in Paris.
First, we were treated to the short and sweet "Sonata for Clarinet and Cello" by Francis Poulenc.
In 1922, Poulenc combined his sense of humor with his admiration for Igor Stravinsky, employing spiky rhythms and
piquant harmonies in this piece originally composed for clarinet and bassoon.
Wadsworth was studying in Paris in the early 1950s and was present when the composer authorized this version,
charmingly rendered by Todd Palmer and the new kid on the block, Christopher Costanza.
Perhaps it was the vicissitudes of Poulenc's witty score, but it seemed Costanza has the nimblest fingers of any cellist in
recent memory.
He seems also to have a distinctly upbeat personality, a strong presence that is virtually a requirement for a musician
who expects to survive and flourish in this environment.
Before we saw him again as part of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, another bright light of Spoleto's chamber music,
Paula Robison, lit up the stage with another personable newcomer, Jeremy Denk.
They clearly enjoyed their "refinement" of Claude Debussy's "Trois chansons de Bilitis" arranged for flute and piano.
Six images of ancient Greece involving the poet Bilitis and her circle of beautiful women became songs of nymphs,
Egyptian courtesans, the poet tracing her words in the sand.
Here, Robison and Denk lent a bucolic beauty by contrasting legato phrasing with tripping melodies.
In a floor-length, spaghetti-strap wheat-gold gown, Robison executed her signature dips and sways, even making a
welcoming gesture before the Egyptian piece, that helped evoke finger cymbals, undulating dancing girls and the
seductiveness of French music transposed to the Fertile Crescent.
Denk plays with a naturalness and joy, a fluidity that helps define any mood he chooses.
When he joined Geoff Nuttall, Barry Shiffman, Lesley Robertson and Costanza for Franck's "Piano Quintet in F
minor," he seemed to derive pleasure from every note Franck wrote for the piano, from the first movement syncopation
to the reflective qualities of the third movement.
Members of the ensemble displayed their unique communicative abilities, especially evident in this work of thematic
unification: a whole new perspective to enjoy.
Jeremy Denk
Philadelphia Inquirer February 1, 2004

A stage of stars no guarantee of stellar music


Gala-hardened classical music lovers know to quell reflexive excitement over so-called summit meetings of musical
personalities - and my guess is that New York Philharmonic ticket buyers are no exception. Just because the stage is
dense with an unusual number of high-repute, star-quality musicians doesn't mean a concert will be good.

Nonetheless, the latest superstar piano trio - violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, her pianist/conductor/composer husband
Andr Previn, and cellist Lynn Harrell - gave the New York Philharmonic's box office a zing that's particularly unusual
in weather that makes people want to stay at home. Not a single unoccupied seat in Avery Fisher Hall greeted the trio
(as far I could see) Jan. 24 as they took the stage to play Beethoven's Triple Concerto. And you can expect similar
excitement when Mutter, Previn and Harrell come to the Kimmel Center for a Brahms and Ravel program April 18.

The most suspicious ears could have left Saturday's Philharmonic concert happy. Previn gave the piano writing a
Mozartean grace, Harrell found astoundingly detailed poetry in every phrase, and Mutter's violin sound seemed to have
a special magnetic charge that immediately drew your ear to all she did. Most important, the trio and conductor Kurt
Masur had thought about what this lesser Beethoven composition needs.

That should happen regularly, but it doesn't. The single worst chamber-music concert in my experience was an all-star
string trio of Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman and Leonard Rose: Badly blended violins and poorly tuned chords sound
pretty much the same whether coming from an amateur orchestra in Bucks County or from the lofty Stern.

Most often, superstar collaborations fall somewhere between musicians' trying to stay out of each other's way and
doing all they can to crowd each other out. The former is uninteresting, except when the individuals safely seize a star
moment here and there. The latter can be perversely fascinating, like that famous televised reunion of the Supremes in
which Diana Ross attempted to push her colleagues off camera. When the Three Tenors first began singing together,
their concerts turned into yellfests - fun to watch, but not actually music.

Such is the paradox of star quality. Those who have this magnetism are often pressured into grandstanding, but virtuoso
fame and star quality aren't the same. In fact, star quality can be channeled into great collaborative music-making. And
star quality isn't always found in stars.

Rarely has that been so apparent as in the Jan. 13 Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert featuring a pair that has
barely registered on the international scene: violinist Soovin Kim and pianist Jeremy Denk. I'm not alone in feeling that
Jeremy Denk
Philadelphia Inquirer February 1, 2004
Page 2 of 2

their performance of Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 9 was a peak experience, not just because of technical prowess or
hyperintelligence, but partly because the disparate timbres of the instruments blended in previously unimaginable ways.

I've heard star quality of this kind in a lot of other unexpected places, such as the rank and file of the Philadelphia
Orchestra - from violinist Nancy Bean and flutists Jeffrey Khaner and David Cramer, to name three. Knowing this, just
what sort of talent are we talking about?

The essential element of any star performance is more metaphysical than anything - intangibles that fall under the
heading "gifts from God" - combined with industry, dedication and musical intuition.

A decisive factor, oddly enough, is confoundingly mundane: the quality of the instruments. Denk lucked into a
particularly superb Steinway at the Philadelphia concert, and after years of borrowing various concert-worthy
instruments, Kim now plays a Joseph Guarneri del Gesu that allows him to surpass himself. You can have the most
profound instrumental colors in your head and not project them if the instrument is bad, unless, perhaps, you're a once-
in-a-century magician like pianist Sviatoslav Richter.

The careerist element, however, can create an artistic imperative. Philadelphia Orchestra musicians have taken on
hugely difficult solo works with great problem-solving savvy. But if the performance can make or break your career
and determine whether you spend your life playing the music you love or teaching in some snowbound, Upstate New
York college, you're going to perform with more consistency and urgency.

There's a fine line between creative invention and the ongoing desperation that's part of a young artist's career. If you're
not driven to begin with, you become that way. The result can be racehorse music-making. But careers that are only
about flourishes and not the needs of the music don't last long.

How, then, does one explain what I heard from Isaac Stern the night he sawed through Beethoven string trios? Here's
one theory: He had played all the great works of the violin literature and made Carnegie Hall safe from the wrecking
ball - preserving it for future violinists of Soovin Kim's caliber. His work was done. He still wasn't ready to give up
Beethoven, but at that point, could a figure this towering and a personality this secure give the music the life-and-death
significance it needs?
Jeremy Denk
Philadelphia Inquirer January 15, 2004

A perfect night of chamber music- and just for $15


The ingredients of the concert promised nothing life-changing. The young musicians, violinist Soovin Kim and pianist
Jeremy Denk, had just converged from far-flung places. The venue was the sterile Convention Center Auditorium. The
night was freezing. But you had to be glowing after the Mozart, Faur and Beethoven performances Tuesday. The
concert was almost too good to have hoped for.
In the world of brand-name classical musicians, one often hears chamber performances that seem like afterthoughts to
more lucrative engagements. But the Kim-Denk duo has at least a five-year history, much of which has been here,
thanks to the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society (which presented Tuesday's concert) and Astral Artistic Services.
You'd expect a solid chamber-music rapport. Yet the two delivered much more.
Kim's tone was typically warm and radiant, but his trills have never been so musical, rising naturally out of the pitch
like heightened vibrato. And has Denk, or anybody else, ever played pianissimos so intensely? Together, their blend
was subtler and more mellow (even with Denk's piano lid open at full stick) than any I've heard. Synchronization was
Much of the music at hand, such as Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 9 ("Kreutzer"), thrives on competitive tension
between the players, but the fact that this duo can achieve a complete lack of that made Beethoven's stormier moments
all the more intense.
I've heard major personalities such as Joshua Bell and Jean-Yves Thibaudet blast their way through the Kreutzer and
heard nothing new in the music itself. Not so with Kim and Denk. Using Beethoven's not-always-practical dynamic
markings as a quarry, their myriad choices in the second movement's theme and variations conspired to echo popular
dance rhythms - a reminder of the genre's roots in genteel salons.
Simultaneously, the performance looked forward to Beethoven's later gargantuan masterpiece, the Diabelli Variations,
in the sense that the thematic material is hardly exalted but its treatment is. Each individual variation was a complete
musical world, thanks to the minute, but never fussy, level of detail this duo explores.
Kim and Denk's performance of Faur's Violin Sonata No. 1 (Op. 13) was on a par with standard-setters by Anne-
Sophie Mutter and Gil Shaham. Though Faur is often presented as a gentle soul, this performance was bracing and
virile, with the sort of spontaneous interpretive originality (flagging only in the final moment) that comes from
complete emotional immersion in the music.
Amid a concert that one might call, in the spirit of actor Spalding Gray, "a perfect moment," you could marvel at the
$15 ticket price and grieve at the lack of recording devices on hand. But like most perfect moments, this one is most
accurately preserved in one's heart.