Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Multifaceted pianist to return to Charlotte

A multi-talented pianist will practically sneak into Charlotte on Thursday for his first concert here in more than five years. 

Jeremy Denk will be one of the six players when Charlotte Concerts hosts New York's Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at CPCC's Halton Theater. Since his last appearance in Charlotte -- with violinist Joshua Bell in 2007 -- Denk may have attracted as much notice for his writing as for his always-stylish piano playing. 

In an essay last spring in the New Yorker, Denk let readers in on the joys and challenges of recording a piece of musical Americana that's one of his specialties, Charles Ives' "Concord" Sonata. For NPR, on the air and online, he has discussed music from Bach's "Goldberg" Variations to another of his specialties, a set of etudes by Gyorgy Ligeti. His blog, ThinkDenk, features his meditations on a range of topics, musical and otherwise. It even includes a  fantasy interview  in which he collects insights on Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" Sonata from -- are you ready? -- Sarah Palin.

Denk played another powerful Beethoven sonata -- No. 32, Beethoven's last one -- in Charlotte in 2003 when he took part in the Brightstar Music Festival, the now-closed summer chamber music series founded by former Charlotte Symphony player Jennifer Sperry. Music lovers who are veterans of the Spoleto Festival USA may remember him from several years on the chamber-music roster down there.

On Thursday, Denk and five other musicians -- including John Zirbel, the Montreal Symphony's principal French horn -- will mix and match in three sonorous chamber works: Brahms' Horn Trio; Max Bruch's Eight Pieces for clarinet, viola and piano; and a work harking back to Brahms, the Sextet by Erno Dohnanyi. Denk will play in all of it. And if his past performances are any indication, he should contribute richly even when he isn't in the spotlight.