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Pianist Jeremy Denk plays Stravinsky with John Adams & LSO

Jeremy Denk’s Carnegie Hall recital came in at number two in New York magazine’s “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 Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Winds.  Together they are set to make high-profile appearances, first for Denk’s debut with the London Symphony Orchestra, at London’s Barbican Hall (March 11) and Paris’s Salle Pleyel (March 16), and then with Ensemble ACJW at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center (May 9) and New York’s Carnegie Hall (May 10).  For two dates with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Denk couples the Stravinsky concerto with Mozart’s Concert Rondo in D (April 17-18), after returning to the New World Symphony for Copland’s Piano Concerto (April 10-11).  The versatile pianist’s 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 Stravinsky’s 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 piano’s sound as well as providing the human element of respiration.”  The concerto influenced many later works, notably Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto, in which the New York Times’s Anthony Tommasini considered Denk a “brilliant soloist,” commenting:

Hearing Mr. Denk’s 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 Denk’s first spring performances of the Concerto for Piano and Winds are under Adams’s direction.  As performers, both Adams and Denk consistently win praise for their facility with a broad range of repertoire; the New York Times admired Adams’s “versatility on the podium,” while the Philadelphia Inquirer’s 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.”

The two first come together when Denk makes his debut with the London Symphony, adding the ensemble described as “scarily impressive” (London’s Independent) to the roster of world-class orchestras with which he has appeared.  They perform the Stravinsky twice, first at the orchestra’s home in Barbican Hall (March 11), and then on tour in Paris, at the city’s 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 city’s 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 orchestra’s music director Jeffrey Kahane, Denk will appear at two of its primary venues: Glendale’s 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 Stravinsky’s neo-classicism with the quintessentially Classical: Mozart’s Concert Rondo in D major, with which Denk has already wowed 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 Mozart’s delightfully sunny themes, whimsical turns of phrases, and flashes of technical brilliance.”  As the San Jose Mercury News affirms, the pianist “isn’t afraid to emote his Mozart.”

Denk’s appearance at the New World Symphony’s Ives Festival was named one of the top three performances of 2009 (South Florida Classical Review).  Now he returns to the orchestra for Copland’s 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.  Denk’s 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 conductor’s tenure with the San Francisco Symphony, Denk’s 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 Corigliano’s 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. Denk’s fiery playing complementing Mr. Bell’s 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 York’s Merkin Concert Hall on April 22, for an evening of chamber music featuring Schumann’s titanic Piano Quintet, Op. 44, 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 Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations and Ives’s little-heard Sonata No. 1.  “In Ives…, he offered an entire world,” declares Anne Midgette in the Washington Post, while the New York Times’s Vivienne Schweitzer styles Denk’s Goldbergs “magical,” and describes how they “earned him universal approval from the rapturous audience.”


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
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 

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© 21C Media Group, February 2010

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