Versatile Pianist Also Joins Steven Isserlis for Family Concert at NYC’s 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 Stravinsky’s 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 Denk’s 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 York’s 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 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 a performance of 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.”