KC Symphony presents pianist Jeremy Denk, powerful ‘Poem of Ecstasy’

Jeremy Denk
The Kansas City Star


The opening of the Scriabin was focused and precise yet retained an element of organic surprise as its almost free-floating motif ventured from voice to voice. From there, the piece was a long-haul series of surging crescendos. Excellent solo voices proliferated, but it was the ensemble’s attention to balance and restraint that compelled such an incredible end result. Clean, captivating caesuras had an enormous role in sustaining the energy.

The final chords were given an awesome visceral boost when they were underscored by the pipe organ, the drama heightened by the visual effect of a percussionist climbing a ladder to play the chimes strung up behind the timpanist at center stage.

Denk provided both, his impassioned performance transcending the orchestra’s less versatile reading, as the ensemble matched neither his ferocity nor his lightness. Despite a sturdy opening of orchestral chords and a flurry from the soloist, the primary statement lost momentum until Denk’s entrance. He carried the first movement, especially during his gentle, nuanced variations. The beautiful second movement was more possessed, more assured, and transitioned into the jaunty rondo, a foot-stomping display of contrasts. 

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