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On Heels of Carnegie Hall Triumph, Jeremy Denk Returns as Writer to Pages of New Yorker

“Besides being a brilliant musician, Denk is simply one of the most interesting writers I know.”
– New Yorker music critic Alex Ross

The April 8 issue of the New Yorker presents a personal history by Jeremy Denk – his second contribution to the magazine – titled Every Good Boy Does Fine: A life in piano lessons.  This full-length article appears days after the pianist’s main-stage solo recital at Carnegie Hall, where his “colossal interpretations conveyed the sense of composers grappling with the ineffable, inventing new vocabulary to express the inexpressible” (New York Times).

As those familiar with the pianist’s popular blog already know, Denk is a gifted writer who captures what he sardonically dubs “the glamorous life and thoughts of a concert pianist” with honesty, insight, and humor. He first contributed to the New Yorker last year, with an account of his experiences recording Charles Ives’s “Concord” Sonata, and his personal music writing has since appeared in Newsweek, the New Republic, and on the front page of the New York Times Book Review. In his most recent New Yorker piece, Denk – prompted by the discovery of a childhood practicing notebook – looks back with a characteristic blend of wit and wisdom on his experiences as a student, from childhood to conservatory and beyond. Pondering the harsh necessity of practice drills, he reflects:

“Exercises like this are crucial and yet apparently devised to destroy any natural enthusiasm for music, or possibly even for life. … It is as though you are scrubbing the grout in your bathroom and have been told that, if you remove every last particle of mildew, you will somehow be enabled to deliver the Gettysburg Address.”

Yet as those who attended Denk’s recent Carnegie Hall performance can attest, his efforts were not in vain. According to a glowing New York Times review,

“Listening to the pianist Jeremy Denk play, you never doubt that he is someone who thinks about music deeply and rather a lot. … What [his] 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 life’s broader concerns. … He is a pianist whose fresh insights in familiar territory warrant continued acquaintance.

Concerto.net observed that Denk gave “his maximum effort to make every single work resonate, and become (mostly) a coalescence of era and personal joy. … His recital was a blessing for the piano. The encores became his deeply felt amen.” Denk’s “remarkable sense of joy” was also noted by the New Criterion, in a review that concluded: “There aren't a great many pianists who can approach the quality of the human voice, but Mr. Denk made the instrument sing as I have rarely heard.

The New York recital marked the high point of a 13-city solo recital tour that had already inspired rapturous reviews. “Denk gave a revelatory performance,” concluded the Boston Globe after the pianist’s solo debut at Boston’s Jordan Hall. “It would be foolish to understate how remarkably talented he is.” As the Boston Classical Review confirmed, Denk was in top form, offering reflective and tenderly hewn readings” that revealed him to be a musician’s pianist in the fullest sense of the phrase.”

Denk returns to Carnegie Hall on May 4, for “Vienna: Window to Modernity,” a chamber program that also features soprano Renée Fleming and the Emerson String Quartet.

Meanwhile, the pianist is the subject of a photo feature in the current issue of Vanity Fair. Foregrounding the exploratory nature of his vision, the article describes him as “a frontiersman” who has a way with “music that catalogues the known world before striking out into the wilderness.”

More information on Denk’s upcoming engagements can be found below, and further details are available on his web site, jeremydenk.net.

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Jeremy Denk: upcoming engagements

April 6 & 7
Las Cruces, NM
NMSU Atkinson Music Recital Hall
Beethoven: Concerto for violin, cello, and piano in C, Op. 56 (“Triple” Concerto)
With Ruggero Allifranchini (violin) and Edward Arron (cello)

April 11
Madison, WI
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Mills Hall
Recital

April 14
Aliso Viejo, CA
Soka Performing Arts Center
Recital

May 4
New York, NY
Carnegie Hall (Isaac Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage)
With Renée Fleming and the Emerson String Quartet
“Vienna: Window To Modernity”

May 30, 31 & June 1
Washington, DC
Kennedy Center, Concert Hall
National Symphony Orchestra / John Adams
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G

June 6 & 7
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Slovenian Philharmonic / Keri-Lynn Wilson
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G

June 15–18
Southfield, MI
Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival

June 28 & 29
Purchase, NY
Purchase College Performing Arts Center
Westchester Philharmonic / Tito Munoz
Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54

July 5
Highland Park, IL
Martin Theatre
Ravinia Festival

July 15-18
Santa Barbara, CA
Music Academy of the West

July 23-29
Santa Fe, NM
St. Francis Auditorium
Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival

Aug 2 & 3
Grand Teton Music Festival
Walk Festival Hall
Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra / Ludovic Morlot
Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54

Aug 12
Newcastle, Australia
Newcastle City Hall
Australian Chamber Orchestra

Aug 13
Adelaide, Australia
Adelaide Town Hall
Australian Chamber Orchestra

Aug 14
Perth, Australia
Perth Concert Hall
Australian Chamber Orchestra

Aug 17, 20, 21, & 23
Sydney, Australia
City Recital Hall Angel Place
Australian Chamber Orchestra

Aug 26
Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne Recital Centre
Australian Chamber Orchestra

 

 

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