Masses of finesse

Jeremy Denk
The Sunday Times

Hardly had the Proms reached their climax with Verdi’s Requiem — in an inspiring, spacious account by the BBC Youth Choir and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Marin Alsop, with superb soloists, among whom the American bass Morris Robinson stood out — than the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus opened their new season at the Barbican with the same work.

The American Jeremy Denk, with an intellectual appetite matching his stark, versatile keyboard brilliance, offered nothing less than a history of western music - in two hour-long unfoldings. The first began with a transcription of Machaur and embraced Ockeghem, Defay, Byrd and Monteverdi, double-peaking first in a Scarlatti sonata, then with the spectacular call-to-attention of Bach's Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue. The second half brought the stylistic opposition of pellucid (though more than passingly chromatic) Mozart, and worked through Beethoven, Schumann and Chopin to Wagner as arranged to Liszt - Isolde's Liebestod, another peak, magnificently rendered. 
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