Press Room

Jeremy Denk headlines “Ives Project,” makes CSO debut, and more

When Jeremy Denk paired Charles Ives’s “Concord” Sonata with Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata for a sold-out recital at Carnegie’s 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 Ives’s monumental sonata are dedicated (Nov 4). Beethoven also features in Denk’s 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 York’s 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 8–10) and the First Concerto at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St Luke’s 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 Ives’s four famous New England transcendentalist friends, that Denk established himself as a leading exponent of the composer’s work. Released last fall on his own Think Denk Media label, Denk’s debut solo album – Jeremy Denk Plays Ives – was afforded a rapturously warm welcome. The pioneering composer’s music has traditionally been considered challenging by all but the most die-hard of new-music lovers. Yet in Denk’s hands, Ives’s 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 nation’s 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, “Denk’s balance of passion and precision makes [the “Concord” Sonata’s] strange beauty come suddenly clear, without losing any of its improvisational radicalism.”
In tribute to Ives’s 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 Beethoven’s “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 pianist’s 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 Beethoven’s mystical final C-minor Sonata at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival was “alive to every suggestion and nuance in the score…an absolute joy to witness,” while after his rendition of Ligeti’s Études 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: Brahms’s Variations on a Theme by Schumann and Beethoven’s “Eroica” Variations, which take as their basis the same theme from the famous Third Symphony.
Beethoven also features in Denk’s orchestral programming this season. For his hotly-anticipated debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Denk undertakes Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto – the composer’s first in a minor key and the one that marked his break with the Classical style – for three performances on December 8–10, under the direction of guest conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. It was with Beethoven’s 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 wouldn’t 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 Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto that [the reviewer had] ever heard in concert.” The pianist reprises the work for his return to Carnegie Hall’s main stage with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s 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 December’s “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 Denk’s upcoming engagements follows below, and much additional information is available at his web site: The site includes the versatile pianist’s blog, Think Denk, which has earned plaudits among the cognoscenti; the New Yorker’s Alex Ross calls Denk “one of the most interesting writers I know.”
Jeremy Denk’s 2011-12 engagements
November 3
North Bethesda, MD
Music Center at Strathmore
Master Class / Chamber Concert
November 4
North Bethesda, MD
Music Center at Strathmore
Solo Recital
With William Sharp, reader
Ives: Piano Sonata No. 2, “Concord, Mass., 1840-1860”
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat, Op. 106, “Hammerklavier”
November 13
Scottsdale, AZ
Virginia G. Piper Theater – Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Beethoven: 15 Variations and Fugue on an Original Theme, Op. 35, “Eroica”
Brahms: Klavierstücke, Op. 119
Ligeti: Études
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 28 in A, Op. 101
November 25–27
St. Paul, MN
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra / Douglas Boyd
Brett Dean: Pastoral Symphony
Brahms: Serenade No. 2 in A, Op. 16
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Op. 15
December 2
Schenectady, NY
Memorial Chapel – Union College
December 3
New York, NY
92nd Street Y
Solo recital
Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Schumann, Op. 9
Beethoven: 15 Variations and Fugue on an Original Theme, Op. 35, “Eroica”
Ligeti: Études, Book I
Beethoven: Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
December 8–10
Chicago, IL
Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Michael Tilson Thomas
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37
January 12
Boston, MA
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Concerts with Joshua Bell
Bach: Partita No. 5 in G, BWV 829
Grieg: Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Op. 45
January 15
Beacon, NY
Howland Cultural Center
January 19 and 20
Oberlin, OH
Oberlin Conservatory of Music
Performance / Master Class
February 2
Birmingham, AL
Samford University
Performance / master class
February 7
Philadelphia, PA
Perelman Theater – Kimmel Center
Philadelphia Chamber Music Society
February 12
Beacon, NY
Howland Cultural Center
February 16
New York, NY
Carnegie Hall
Orchestra of St. Luke’s / Sir Roger Norrington
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Op. 15
February 23
Scranton, PA
Mellow Theater
Community Concerts at Lackawanna College
February 25
Des Moines, IA
Sheslow Auditorium
Drake University
February 27
Fort Worth, TX
Bass Performance Hall
Van Cliburn Foundation
February 29
Schenectady, NY
Memorial Chapel – Union College
Union College Concerts
March 4
New York, NY
92nd Street Y
Family Program: “The Prodigy With The Ponytail”: The Life and Music of Mozart
March 11
San Francisco, CA
American Mavericks
Cowell: Piano Concerto
Chamber music with members of the San Francisco Symphony
March 22
Ann Arbor, MI
Hill Auditorium
American Mavericks
San Francisco Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas
March 30
New York, NY
Zankel Hall
American Mavericks
Members of the San Francisco Symphony
April 19 and 21
St. Paul, MN
Music Room at SPCO Center
Kagel: Morceau de Concours for two trumpets
Ives: Largo for violin, clarinet and piano
Ligeti: Selected Études
Ives: Piano Trio
April 20 and 22
St. Paul, MN
Music Room at SPCO Center
Elgar: Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 84
May 8–14
European recital tour with Joshua Bell
   May 8: Madrid
   May 9: London
   May 10: Paris
   May 14: Berlin
May 19
Washington, DC
Washington Performing Arts Society
June 3
Chicago, IL
Chicago Symphony presents “The Collaborative Pianist”
June 21–23
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra / Michael Tilson Thomas
Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat
July 18
College Park, MD
Gildenhorn Recital Hall
University of Maryland
Kapell Competition
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© 21C Media Group, November 2011

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