Jeremy Denk in Recital_house programme

Page 1


Welcome to the Grand Hall. Thank you for coming to the concert. To ensure that everyone enjoys the music, please switch off your mobile phones and any other sound and light emitting devices before the performance. Unauthorised photography and audio / video recordings in the Hall are prohibited. Enjoy the concert and come again.

Presented by

museinfo@hku.hk | +852 3917 8165 | www.muse.hku.hk Cultural Management Office LG. 45, Lee Shau Kee Lecture Centre Centennial Campus, The University of Hong Kong Pokfulam, Hong Kong

Supported by MR. KUANG-HSIANG LIN



© Shervin Lainez

JEREMY DENK

NO TES O F P RO F U N DI T Y: JE R E M Y D E N K I N R E C I TA L

Jeremy Denk is one of America’s foremost pianists. Winner of a MacArthur 'Genius' Fellowship, and the Avery Fisher Prize, Denk was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Denk returns frequently to Carnegie Hall and has recently performed with the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and Cleveland Orchestra, as well as on tour with Academy St. Martin in the Fields, and at the Royal Albert Hall this Summer performing Bartok 2 in his return to the BBC Proms.

2

In 17-18, Denk reunites with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony to perform Bartok 2. He will also return to Carnegie Hall, both to perform Beethoven 5 with Orchestra St. Luke’s, and alongside Joshua Bell, one of his long-time musical partners. Returning in subscription to the Seattle Symphony, Denk will also embark on a tour with the orchestra performing Beethoven 5, and he continues as Artistic Partner of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra with multiple performances throughout the season, including the premiere of a new piano concerto written for him by Hannah Lash. He also appears in recital throughout the US, including performances in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Princeton. His collaborations in 17-18 include a US tour of the complete Ives Violin Sonatas with Stefan Jackiw in a special project in which Denk will present the sonatas with a vocal ensemble performing hymns embedded in the compositions. A recording of the Sonatas with Stefan Jackiw is forthcoming from Nonesuch Records.


Abroad, Jeremy Denk will be presented by the Barbican in multiple performances as artist-in-residence at Milton Hall. He will also return to play-direct the Britten Sinfonia in London, and on tour in the UK. In Asia, Denk will make his debut in recital in Hong Kong, Seoul, and Singapore. Future projects include re-uniting with Academy St. Martin in the Fields for a tour of the US, and a trio tour with Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis.

In 2014 Denk served as Music Director of the Ojai Music Festival, for which, besides performing and curating, he wrote the libretto for a comic opera. The opera was later presented by Carnegie Hall, Cal Performances, and the Aspen Festival. Denk is known for his original and insightful writing on music, which Alex Ross praises for its "arresting sensitivity and wit." The pianist’s writing has appeared in the New Yorker, the New Republic, the Guardian, and on the front page of the New York Times Book Review. One of his New Yorker contributions, Every Good Boy Does Fine, forms the basis of a book for future publication by Random House in the US, and Macmillan in the UK. Recounting his experiences of touring, performing, and practicing, his blog, Think Denk, was recently selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress web archives. In 2012, Denk made his Nonesuch debut with a pairing of masterpieces old and new: Beethoven’s final Piano Sonata, Op. 111, and Ligeti’s Études. The album was named one of the best of 2012 by the New Yorker, NPR, and the Washington Post, and Denk’s account of the Beethoven sonata was selected by BBC Radio 3’s Building a Library as the best available version recorded on modern piano. Denk has a long-standing attachment to the music of American visionary Charles Ives, and his recording of Ives’ two piano sonatas featured in many 'best of the year' lists. Jeremy Denk graduated from Oberlin College, Indiana University, and the Juilliard School. He lives in New York City, and his web site and blog are at jeremydenk.net.

NO TES O F P RO F U N DI T Y: JE R E M Y D E N K I N R E C I TA L

In 16-17, Denk toured extensively in recital including performances at the Wigmore Hall and Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival in a special programme that included a journey through seven centuries of Western music. He also returned to the National Symphony led by Sir Mark Elder, and performed with the St. Louis, Vancouver, and Milwaukee Symphonies, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, among others. Denk also recently made his debut at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Philharmonie in Cologne, and Klavier-Festival Ruhr. Denk’’s upcoming releases from Nonesuch Records include The Classical Style, with music by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. He also joins his long-time musical partners, Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis in a recording of Brahms’ Trio in B-major. His previous disc of the Goldberg Variations reached number one on Billboard’s Classical Chart.

3


4

© Michael Wilson

NO TES O F P RO F U N DI T Y: JE R E M Y D E N K I N R E C I TA L


"We can plunge far and farther, and without stay or end, into the profundity of space." - John Ruskin, Modern Painters I (1843)

Rondo in A minor, K. 511

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

While a normal rondo form is A-B-A-C-A (A being refrains; B and C being episodes), Mozart’s Rondo is a deformed rondo, or 'second rondo', as some may call it. Mozart abbreviated the first refrain, wrote the two episodes (B and C) in a miniature sonataallegro form, and made the transitions from episodes to refrains exceptionally long. The opening five measures, according to music theorist Allen Forte, are the chromatic nuclei of the entire piece. One can hear the F major in the first episode as an expansion of the upper neighboring note of E in the first measure, and A major in the second episode as a formal realization of C# in measure 5. Moreover, the chromatic turn centering around E and the ascending chromatic line from A to E generate the parallel figures in the first episode (turn on C) as well as the chromatic melodic figures (both ascending and descending) in the transitions. The coda concludes the piece with neighboring motions in both hands. This is what Forte calls 'generative chromaticism'; a chromaticism that generates an organic whole. But perhaps Mozart’s pervasive chromaticism, too, generates something less complete, something deeper in us: our thinking and dynamic experience of key relationships, affects, motives, and forms.

NO TES O F P RO F U N DI T Y: JE R E M Y D E N K I N R E C I TA L

Our journey of profundity begins with Mozart. If profundity simply implied the quality of being deep, one might ask: what is deep about Mozart? Are we being anachronistic in asking this question in that the notion of musical depth did not emerge until the nineteenth century? Or, are we being too shallow in associating depth with objective measurements rather than our imagination? Let’s try not to answer these questions hastily, but after we listen to Mozart’s Rondo in A minor written in 1787. Compared to his other more 'light-hearted' piano works, the Rondo seems to unfold on a different wavelength. Mozart imbued the work, as German historian Hermann Abert notes, with turns and chromaticisms so much so that they do not function as pure ornaments (chroma meaning 'colour' or 'colour quality') but as unresolved tension. Critics often draw parallels between the pervasive chromaticisms and the composer’s despair, and attribute the despair to multiple reasons: Mozart’s illness, his waning popularity, the death of his close friend Count August von Hatzfeld, and so forth. But perhaps Mozart’s profundity lies in the emotional diversity the work can generate. Pianist Vladimir Horowitz did not hear melancholy or morbidness in the piece, but pensiveness tinged with movement. In Horowitz’s view, the Rondo encourages us to think, not weep. What can we think about? The depth of chromaticism, perhaps.

5


Visions fugitives, Op. 22 Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Visions fugitives are an assemblage of twenty short piano pieces Prokofiev composed between 1915 and 1917, during which he also wrote pieces such as Five Songs for Voice and Piano, Op. 27 (1916) and the Classical Symphony (1917). The order of composition for Visions fugitives is not in line with that of the final work. For instance, the earliest five pieces he composed were in fact numbered 5, 6, 10, 16, and 17 in the final opus. This is often reduced by critics to randomness or whimsicality that resonates with how the composer viewed himself as an original thinker at that time, claiming that he did not follow normative musical systems and theories.

NO TES O F P RO F U N DI T Y: JE R E M Y D E N K I N R E C I TA L

But the title of the work, Visions fugitives, tells us much more beyond the seemingly haphazard assemblage. Prokofiev named the piece 'mimolyotnosti' ('fleeing visions', 'transiences', or 'ephemeralities') on hearing his friend Konstantin Balmont’s sonnet: "I do not know wisdom – leave that to others – I only turn fleeting visions into verse. In every fugitive vision I see worlds, full of the changing play of rainbow hues." (Balmont’s wife provided Prokofiev’s with the French translation Visions fugitives.) As one commentator suggests, while Balmont turned fleeting visions into verse, Prokofiev turned them into sound.

6

In this sense, Prokofiev did not ask us to look for a uniting force that lurks beneath the variety he proffered, but to experience the momentary sense of loss, confusion, and dreaminess within and between the pieces. Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives would plunge one into the black hole of lento irrealmente, and take him or her into the realm of ridiculosamente. Within this affective universe, of course, one can still hear Prokofiev’s extensive use of seventh chords and his play between tonality and atonality, but perhaps the relationships between individual pieces can be more profitably understood as contingent articulations of processes, of unfathomably deep sonic ephemeralities.


Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op. 109 Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

If Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives are an assemblage of short piano pieces that represents the profundity of ephemeral human emotions, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op. 109, written in 1820, speaks of a different kind of profundity, a dialectic profundity of the orderly and the disorderly.

Beethoven pedaled this aesthetics of the dialectic between rupture and depth of coherence to the second movement, in which he marked, in contrast to the slow and lyrical conventions, prestissimo (very fast) and marcato (with emphasis). Despite Beethoven’s infusing the movement with the contrapuntal style of Baroque keyboard music and the Romantic scherzo, one can find structural similarities between both movements in descending bass lines and the opening adjoined tetrachords. Consisting of a theme with six variations, the third movement, as many analysts have noted, is a synthesis of the two preceding movements both motivically and tonally. The dramatic tension reaches its climax in the ultimate variation, in which Beethoven unfolded its rhythmic development in diminution, creating an illusion of an everincreasing tempo while maintaining the intervallic material in the opening motive in the first movement. On the whole, Beethoven’s Op. 109 is described by one analyst as "variations within variations within variations", a profundity that is at once orderly and disorderly, a profundity that is introspective and ceaselessly changing.

NO TES O F P RO F U N DI T Y: JE R E M Y D E N K I N R E C I TA L

One of Beethoven’s late piano sonatas, Sonata in E major is often considered a radical departure from the Classical conception of a three-movement sonata. As nineteenth-century German critic Adolf Bernhard Marx commented, the first movement is "somewhat unsatisfying", intimating Beethoven "diverting himself". The lack of a prominent motivic entry in the movement may have led Marx to hear it "as if one were testing a harp to see if it were in tune". Moreover, the largely truncated exposition, uncanny texture of the primary theme (arpeggiated chords over a descending bass line), avoidance of clear cadential progression from the primary theme to the secondary theme, and the blurriness of thematic duality, support the negative reception of this sonata in the nineteenth century as perversion of structure. Beethoven was then conceived as the musical 'other'. But in the twentieth century music theorist Heinrich Schenker recuperated this structural messiness by underlining the structural importance of the first two notes (G# and B) in the first movement (the inversion of the two notes appears at the end of the movement), prizing Beethoven for his ingenuity in formal, if not artistic, revolution in the Sonata. In light of this reception history, Beethoven’s profundity seems to result from the guise of the dismembering of structure, an artistic proclamation during his late style that necessitates the depth of our own thinking.

7