Our music community was treated to an evening of Mozart, Prokofiev, Beethoven and Schubert by internationally renowned pianist Jeremy Denk. Mr. Denk is an artist of rare depth and sensitivity, and his breathtaking performance closed off another great season for the Carmel Music Society. In his remarks during the performance, Mr. Denk suggested that time and its role in accentuating the compositional structure and interpretation is a theme of artistic interest, and drew, through his exquisite interpretation, lines through all the works leading to Schubert’s masterpiece, his Sonata in B-flat Major, D.960.
He opened with Mozart’s Rondo in A Minor, K.511 with a velvety, lyric tone that proved to be a hallmark of his playing in general. From the first moment we knew we were in for a great performance. Denk’s rare sense of phrasing and timing allowed the listener to hear the intimate changes in textures in moods of the piece while being faithful to the beautifully long lines and variations within the rondo structure chosen by Mozart. Mr. Denk’s interpretive imagination took advantage of the full range of the modern piano in his unique and stunningly beautiful rendering of this classical work.
Prokofiev’s Visions Fugitives, Op. 22 followed, and Denk delivered the composer’s archetypal sarcasm and wit through the work’s vignettes and portraits. His sense of timing in the phrasing and continuity, and even his use of silence, was powerful and especially effective in bringing Prokofiev’s distinctive character alive in these short works.
Mr. Denk closed off the first half with Beethoven’s beloved Op. 109, in which he encapsulated the essence of late Beethoven at the pinnacle of his creativity. In the opening movement the work burst through the composer’s own earlier compositional boundaries into a magnificent and victorious exposition of its themes. During the Adagio Denk revealed tender, pastoral scenes underpinned by poignant lyricism. In the final movement, the Andante, Denk allowed the composer’s inexpressible sense of hope and joy to burst forth in rays of sunshine, leaving the listener with a sense of enthusiasm and fulfillment.
The second half of the program was completely devoted to Schubert’s final Sonata in B-flat Major. The composer’s awareness of his impending death led to an acutely sensitive expression of all moods, brought forth exquisitely by Mr. Denk. The depth of sorrow in the Andante was, as Denk described in his commentary, evocative of Schubert’s Winterreise, in which the transcendence of human tragedy in artistic expression was rendered by Schubert’s compositional genius. It is worth noting that only an artist of great sensitivity would have the perception and talent to make this so clear to an audience, and Mr. Denk filled that role beautifully – his performance was deeply moving. The Scherzo contrasted the Adagio with Viennese dance forms reminiscent of joyful times. Denk finished the piece with the Allegro, merging themes, relationships and moods with a common thread of hope. This was a very touching end to a magnificent program, leaving the audience breathless.
The audience’s standing ovation was long and it appeared nobody wanted Jeremy Denk to leave the stage. He returned for two encores: the middle movement of Mozart’s Sonata in C Major, K.545 and a lively transcription of a Wagner theme in a ragtime format.