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Jeremy Denk makes Nonesuch debut May 15 with Ligeti/Beethoven

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 Ligeti’s Piano Études, plus Beethoven’s 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 Denk’s recording of Beethoven’s final piano sonata. Denk’s performance of Beethoven’s 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 combination—both 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 I’m nuts about the label’s 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.  I’m 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 connection…is the way both Ligeti and Beethoven relate themselves to jazz (and to syncopation, rhythmic dislocation generally). Many people get disturbed, or confused, by Beethoven’s anachronistic boogie-woogie; but I can’t 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 Beethoven’s vast timeless canvas and Ligeti’s bite-sized bits of infinity. Almost every étude 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 it’s 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 Études on the first of two programs in St. Paul (April 19–22) before heading to Europe for a recital tour with Joshua Bell. Denk’s recent album with Bell, French Impressions, was widely acclaimed and topped the 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 Schumann’s song cycle Dichterliebe, Op. 48, and the Joffrey Ballet dancing George Balanchine’s choreography for Stravinsky’s Duo Concertante—with violinist Stefan Jackiw—as well a performance of Dvořák’s Piano Trio in F minor with cellist Katinka Kleijn. Denk returns to the San Francisco Symphony for a second time this season for Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1, led by Michael Tilson Thomas (June 21–23); he performs with members of the orchestra in New York at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall on March 30 as part of the San Francisco Symphony’s “American Mavericks” US tour.
In recent months, Denk’s 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 Music’s Deceptive Cadence blog during its Goldberg Week. In New York this week (March 26–30), Denk is pianist-in-residence on Q2 Music’s 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 WQXR’s 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 Denk’s upcoming engagements follows, and additional information is available at his website,
Jeremy Denk’s upcoming engagements
March 30
New York, NY
Carnegie Hall’s 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
Solo recital
Mozart: Sonata in C minor, K 427
Liszt: Prelude on “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen” S.179
Ligeti: Etudes, Book 1
Brahms: 6 Pieces, Op. 118
Liszt: Apres une lecture du Dante, fantasia quasi sonata
June 3
Chicago, IL
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
“The Collaborative Pianist” program of Schumann, Stravinsky and Dvořák
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
Solo recital
Ligeti: Etudes, Book 1 and 2
Brahms: Six Pieces, Op. 118
Brahms: Variations on the Theme by Paganini, Op. 35

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