Jeremy Denk follows Ojai success with full summer of festivals

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MacArthur Fellow Jeremy Denk Follows Ojai Success with Recitals at Tanglewood & Aspen, plus Beethoven’s First Concerto with Philadelphia Orchestra & Music Academy of the West 



Jeremy Denk – already honored with a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship, the 2014 Avery Fisher Prize, and Musical America’s 2014 Instrumentalist of the Year award – scored another triumph last month at the 2014 Ojai Music Festival, where he “proved to be a terrific fit” (Classical Voice North America) as Music Director, performer, and librettist of The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts), which the San Francisco Chronicle called “a dazzling display of inventiveness and broad comical delight.” Now the pianist looks forward to a full summer of festivals. He revisits two of his most celebrated recordings – Jeremy Denk Plays Ives, which dominated “Best of 2010” lists, and last year’s chart-topping Bach: Goldberg Variations – with performances of the “Concord” Sonata and Goldberg Variations in solo recitals at Tanglewood (Aug 13) and Aspen (July 23). He also plays Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Saratoga Springs (Aug 7) and at California’s Music Academy of the West (July 12), where his residency includes an account of the “Concord” (July 15) and a trio of masterclasses.


For his summer solo recitals – the second of which, at Tanglewood, is presented by the festival’s resident Boston Symphony – Denk demonstrates his formidable range with a characteristic pairing of two highly contrasting pinnacles of the keyboard literature. As he recently recounted in an interview with Listen magazine, he considers Bach’s Goldberg Variations “a life journey.” His 2013 Nonesuch release of the “Goldbergs” won wholesale praise, reaching number one on Billboard’s Classical Chart and making “Best of 2013” lists in the New Yorker and the New York Times. Denk’s season-launching “Goldbergs” concert tour found similar favor; his appearance at Chicago’s Symphony Center was hailed as one of the fall’s ten best classical events by Time Out Chicago, and prompted the Chicago Tribune to conclude: “Few of today’s important concert pianists have pondered J.S. Bach’sGoldberg Variations as deeply, written about the piece as extensively, or play it as exuberantly, as Jeremy Denk.


The music of Charles Ives has played a similarly important part in the pianist’s career; just last month at Ojai, the Wall Street Journal noted: “If one musical spirit hovered over this year’s festival, it was Ives, whose works Mr. Denk has consistently championed,” and indeed, the pianist’s review of Mad Music: Charles Ives, the Nostalgic Rebel appears in the June 19 edition of the New York Review of Books. Marking his solo album debut, Jeremy Denk Plays Ives (2010) was heralded as a landmark recording that underscored the pianist’s special connection with America’s pioneering musical maverick. The composer’s music has a reputation for daunting complexity, yet in Denk’s hands, his Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840–60 was 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 YorkerNew York TimesBoston Globe, and Washington Post. As Gramophone’s Jed Distler proclaimed, Denk’s was a “major addition to the Ives discography.”


A Mosher Guest Artist at last year’s Music Academy of the West, Denk returns to the Santa Barbara festival this season for a weeklong residency. Besides reprising the “Concord” Sonata and imparting expertise from the three major strands of his performing career, with masterclasses in solo piano (July 14), collaborative piano (July 10), and chamber music (July 17), he will join the Academy Festival Orchestra under Edward Gardner for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The Los Angeles Times found his account of the concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel “illuminating”; the review continued: “Denk unravels mysteries. He commands an impressive clarity of tone and thought. He brings out delicious details,…his fingers catch[ing] the sparkle in his eye.” Beethoven’s concerto also serves as the vehicle for the pianist’s return to the Philadelphia Orchestra, under the leadership of Bramwell Tovey.


More information on Denk’s upcoming engagements can be found below, further details are available on his web site:, and high-resolution photos are available here.



What critics are saying about the 2014 Ojai Music Festival


On Denk as Music Director:


“He proved to be a terrific fit for this quirky, brainy, adventuresome little festival.”

– Classical Voice North America


“Denk, one of the field’s most deserving fast-rising stars, served as music director.”

– Los Angeles Times


“This year’s ebullient edition of the Ojai Music Festival reflected the eclectic taste, prodigious scholarship, and zany sense of humor of its music director, pianist Jeremy Denk.”

– Saint Barbara Independent


“…the fantastic arrangements and choices that Denk, acting as Artistic Director of the 68th Ojai Music Festival, made with the utmost sensitivity, curiosity, and integrity.”

– I Care If You Listen


“Ojai. It’s an exhausting four days, but I’m always sad to leave. The real world seems just a little unimaginative in comparison.”

– Orange County Register


On Denk as performer:


“Denk’s virtuosity is a thrill, killing and enlivening tradition at the same instant.”

– Los Angeles Times


“Mr. Denk…opened the Sunday evening concert with music that has become a calling card, György Ligeti’s Etudes, which he dispatched with distinctive character – by turns lyrical, hypnotic and even jaunty – as well as ample virtuosity, a capacity he wears lightly. … [His] performance of Beethoven’s ‘Choral Fantasy,’ proved a fittingly joyous end, with Mr. Denk winningly unbound.”

– Wall Street Journal


“Ligeti’s Etudes (stunningly dispatched by Denk) required a mind-boggling virtuosity.”

– Orange County Register


“What distinguished Denk’s performance as belonging to the Ojai tradition of unsettling approaches was the sequencing. … The combination made an eloquent brief for the festival’s theme, which was the beautiful tension between the consolations of harmony and the ecstasies of dissonance.”

– Santa Barbara Independent


“Denk made the connection closer [between Janácek and Schubert], by slamming pieces together that shared a particular harmonic sequence, or melodic shape, or rhythmic profile. It was a lovely, wistful and nostalgic sequence, and yet Denk kept a firm hand on the wheel, never dawdling over the material and dispatching it with a kind of Bachian sense of counterpoint and line.”

– Orange County Register


On world premiere of The Classical Style: An Opera (Of Sorts)


The Classical Style is a mash-up of Glenn Gould at his most satirical, PDQ Bach at his sauciest and a distractedly erudite Rosen cooking up a French sauce while pontificating on harmonic structure in his kitchen. But underlying the jokes (good ones and the groaners) and tomfoolery, Stucky’s resourceful score and Denk’s droll text produce an ingeniously eloquent musing on the meaning of life.

“Birth, not death, is music’s – and hence life’s – greater mystery. Schumann makes the final entrance, transforming Beethoven, a new life with Beethoven’s DNA. Like all births, there is something new in the room that wasn’t there before. For Stucky and Denk, this is a fleeting instant of transcendence, namely a miracle.”

– Los Angeles Times


“A dazzling display of inventiveness and broad comical delight.”

– San Francisco Chronicle


The Classical Style took the festival by storm, a mash-up of Glenn Gould, Bach and Rosen all hysterically contorting their theories on musical form into a blend of priceless satire.”

– Classicalite


The Classical Style: An Opera (Of Sorts), a 75-minute romp of a comic opera with serious undertones by a couple of guys who love music and are not afraid to have fun with it. Writing his first opera libretto, Denk seems to be hugely enjoying himself, firing off one contemporary reference and in-joke after another. … It was clearly a hit with Ojai’s doting audience and with at least one music critic who laughed his head off at many of the musical in-jokes.”

– Classical Voice North America


The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts) proved unexpectedly moving.”

– Santa Barbara Independent


The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts) is an opera for real. … It also proved to be an unexpectedly witty, illuminating and all-around delightful 70 minutes of entertainment. Too bad it’s not running for a week or two.

“It’s as if the Marx Brothers are teaching lessons on music theory and sonata-allegro form. There are plenty of in-jokes, but this shouldn’t deter anyone from seeing the opera – because anyone can hear what counts: the bliss and beauty of the music.”

– San Jose Mercury News


“The more you knew about its subject matter the funnier it was, but the farcical proceedings are lively enough that even the uninitiated are allowed in.

“The opera was smart and clever screwball comedy, and the talk of the festival.”

– Orange County Register


The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts) manages to make light of the current uncertain state of classical music, but also reminds us – through the words of Charles Rosen – of its ultimate value.”

– Sequenza 21


“A dangerous, delicious and distinguished new work.”

– Berkeley Side


“Now he’s added two more lines to his resume: opera librettist and festival curator.”

– San Francisco Chronicle




Jeremy Denk: summer engagements


July 12

Santa Barbara, CA

Music Academy of the West

Academy Festival Orchestra / Edward Gardner

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Op. 15


July 15

Santa Barbara, CA

Music Academy of the West

Ives: Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840-60


July 23

Aspen, CO

Aspen Music Festival

Ives: Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840-60

Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988


Aug 7

Saratoga Springs, NY

Philadelphia Orchestra / Bramwell Tovey

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Op. 15


Aug 13

Lenox, MA

Tanglewood Festival

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Ives: Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840-60

Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988

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