Jeremy Denk plus three violinists...

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Ricordanza
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Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 4:58 am
Location: Southern New Jersey, USA

Jeremy Denk plus three violinists...

Post by Ricordanza » Sat Dec 15, 2018 2:33 pm

...equals a unique evening of music.

Look up the word denken in a German-English dictionary and you’ll find that it means to think in English. How appropriate! Whenever pianist Jeremy Denk comes to town for a concert, we know we’ll get something to think about.

There was plenty to think about—and enjoy—in a marathon concert on Tuesday evening, December 11, entitled: “Mozart Reflected: Violin Sonatas with Interludes in Three Acts.” The format was unusual—three segments beginning at 7:00 pm, separated by two intermissions, each featuring a different violinist collaborating with (note, I did not say accompanied by) Denk. The first and final segments included three Mozart sonatas for violin and piano, while the middle segment consisted of two of those sonatas. Each segment also included pieces for violin and keyboard by other composers: Handel, Schubert, Ravel, Stravinsky, Webern and John Adams. At the beginning of each segment, Denk spoke to the audience, offering his take on the connections between these often wildly disparate pieces.

In his introduction to the program, Denk noted that he had participated in many concerts for violin and piano where a Mozart sonata began the program before the musicians moved on to “more weightier material.” However, Denk had long wanted to “linger” with Mozart, and now, with this program (also to be performed in New York on Sunday afternoon, December 16), he had a chance to do this. Clearly, his goal was to convince us (the audience) that the Mozart sonatas for violin and piano are no mere warm-up pieces for the “big” works in the repertoire, but masterpieces in their own right. Denk (as usual) has a point. Among his instrumental works, Mozart is most well known for his symphonies, piano concertos, quartets and piano sonatas. The sonatas for violin and piano (although Mozart generally entitled them as works for keyboard and violin) are less famous, but as this evening’s program demonstrated, deserve to be considered in the top tier of Mozart’s compositions.

The entire evening comprised 14 different pieces. I won’t try to describe all of these—I’ll just touch on some of the highlights from my perspective.

The first segment began with a performance by 29-year-old violinist Benjamin Beilman and Denk of an early work by Mozart—indeed, a very early work. The sonata in C Major, K. 6, is rather simple in its form and musical content, and rather primitive in the interplay between violin and piano, but then, what other seven-year-old could even begin to create a work like this?

Denk’s piano was somewhat overpowering in the opening work, but as the evening progressed, he achieved a better balance with his collaborators.

Beilman and Denk concluded with a pairing of John Adams’ 1995 work, Relaxed Groove, with Mozart’s Sonata in D Major, K. 306. Adams describes his work as “a relaxed drive down a not unfamiliar road.” Really? My impression of the piece was that of a hard-driving Toccata. This exciting piece was expertly played by Beilman and Denk. The Mozart sonata also starts out in a fairly vigorous fashion, but doesn’t match the intensity of the Adams piece. The third movement of this sonata, marked Allegretto, was particularly appealing.

In the second segment, violinist Stefan Jackiw joined Denk for a performance of two movements from Handel’s Sonata in D Major, HWV 371. Of the three violinists, Jackiw was the most physically demonstrative, almost to the point of distraction. I say “almost” because nothing could diminish from the impression he gave on this evening (as well as a previous concert I attended) that he is an exceptional player of his instrument. Jackiw and Denk proceeded, without pause, into Mozart’s Sonata in G Major, K. 379. Here, the connection between the two pieces was clear, as the first movement of the Mozart Sonata has a distinct Baroque flavor. This sonata only has two movements, but we don’t feel shortchanged. The second movement, a theme and variations, is a marvel of musical invention and a joy to hear.

The final segment featured violinist Pamela Frank. Among other attributes, she is a long-time faculty member of the Curtis Institute of Music, and was a teacher of Benjamin Beilman, who performed in the opening segment. Ms. Frank’s performing career was interrupted for several years by a hand injury. But she is back on the concert stage and--I’m happy to report from this concert--remains an outstanding violinist and chamber music collaborator. The entire segment of five pieces was played without pause. The final piece, Mozart’s Sonata in A Major, K. 526, is justly celebrated as a masterpiece.

At the conclusion of the program, all four musicians came on stage for a well-deserved enthusiastic ovation.

Rach3
Posts: 1314
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:17 am

Re: Jeremy Denk plus three violinists...

Post by Rach3 » Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:13 pm

Thanks for this ! Denk is amazing. I'll have to hear the K.526, not sure I ever have to date.

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