Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Newest Artistic Partner: Jeremy Denk

Jeremy Denk
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

2013 MacArthur Fellow, Musical America's 2014 Instrumentalist of the Year, and 2014 winner of the Avery Fisher Prize

Internationally celebrated pianist Jeremy Denk has been named The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's newest Artistic Partner. Denk’s tenure will begin in the 2014-15 season.

SPCO President Bruce Coppock is thrilled to announce that this Artistic Partnership marks Denk’s first appointed position with an orchestra. “Jeremy’s star is clearly on the rise and we consider it a major coup for him to join us. I have had the pleasure of witnessing Jeremy’s extraordinary gifts since serving on the jury that chose him as the 1999 winner of the Andrew Wolf Chamber Music prize, his first major public recognition. Jeremy’s rapacious curiosity and rhapsodic imagination – and his prodigious pianistic skills – have combined to fuel his growth into an extraordinary – potentially iconic – artist. We know that Jeremy will bring every bit of his imagination to his work with the SPCO’s musicians, with many of whom he enjoys longstanding personal and musical friendships. It will be a great partnership – most especially for our audiences, who will be taken on a great musical journey, juxtaposing music of every period from the Baroque to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in fascinating, stimulating ways.”

During the past two years, Denk’s distinctive artistry has been recognized in an extraordinary run of honors and prizes. In addition to being awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize on March 18, he was named a 2013 MacArthur Fellow for his “extraordinary originality, dedication in his creative pursuits, and a marked capacity for self-direction” and he was also named Musical America's 2014 Instrumentalist of the Year.

Jeremy is the music director of the 2014 Ojai Music Festival this summer for which he has written the libretto to a new comic opera, The Classical Style, by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky. Ojai’s Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris congratulated the SPCO on Denk’s appointment, saying, “Jeremy Denk was chosen Music Director of the 2014 Ojai Music Festival because of his fantastic piano artistry, his inquisitive mind, and his infectious imagination. The SPCO is lucky to benefit from these same stellar qualities in his new role as one of its Artistic Partners.”

Denk is also known for his original and insightful writing on music, which has appeared in the New Yorker, the New Republic, The Guardian, and on the front page of the New York Times Book Review. For his work as a writer and pianist, Out magazine included Denk on its “Out 100” list celebrating the most compelling people of 2013.

Denk’s recording of music by Ligeti and Beethoven for Nonesuch Records was included on many “Best of 2012” lists, including those of the New Yorker, Washington Post and NPR Music; his second Nonesuch recording released in September 2013, is of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, a work with which Denk has had a long and close relationship throughout his career. The album reached number one on Billboard’s Classical Chart and was featured in “Best of 2013” lists by the New Yorker and the New York Times. Following the success of those recordings, Denk and the SPCO will make a recording for Nonesuch during his partnership of an intriguing combination of works by Bach and Stravinsky.

Denk has performed with the SPCO many times in recent years, including performances this season of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 and the Brahms’ Piano Quintet. Denk’s 2014-15 SPCO season performances will include Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 as well as a program featuring a pairing of works by Bach and Janácek. In addition to performances of chamber music and well-known piano concertos, his work with the SPCO over the next three years will include collaborations with vocal artists and an emphasis on commissioning new works by both rising and major American composers. During the 2016-17 season, Denk and the SPCO will make a North American tour under the auspices of Opus 3 Artists.

When asked about working with the SPCO, Denk said “Rehearsing Mozart with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra last fall was one of my happiest experiences; they have the kind of openness and freedom that I have always dreamed of in a relationship with an orchestra. I am excited to pursue various musical curiosities and enthusiasms with them, to create interesting programming, and, most importantly, to have fun.” 

Kyu-Young Kim, the SPCO’s senior director of artistic planning and principal second violinist, looks forward to working with Denk both as a musician and colleague. "The SPCO absolutely loves making music with Jeremy. He is a fabulous pianist with a probing intellect and the ability to express his ideas with utter conviction and clarity, both in rehearsal and in performance. Jeremy can make you hear a work that you've played and heard a million times in a completely new way, and not through gimmicks or artifice, but by making a deep personal connection with every note and gesture in the score. We are thrilled to welcome him to our stellar roster of Artistic Partners."

The SPCO is recognized for its innovative approach to artistic leadership. In 2004, the SPCO transferred broad artistic responsibilities from a music director to the SPCO musicians and an intentionally diverse group of Artistic Partners – which have included Italian conductor Roberto Abbado, French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Scottish conductor Douglas Boyd, American violinist Joshua Bell, Dutch conductor Edo de Waart, British conductor Nicholas McGegan, American pianist and composer Stephen Prutsman, American soprano Dawn Upshaw, German pianist Christian Zacharias, and Austrian violinist Thomas Zehetmair. Moldovan Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja will begin an Artistic Partnership in the 2014-15 season. In collaboration with a committee of SPCO musicians and management, the Artistic Partners develop distinctive multi-year programming plans focused on the particular musical interests they share with the SPCO.