Pianist Jeremy Denk takes Milwaukee Symphony audience on a rare journey

Karina Canellakis, Jeremy Denk
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Many musicians make lovely music, but just a few truly transport audiences.

Pianist Jeremy Denk, who is appearing with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra this weekend, is one of those rare few.

Denk gave an extraordinarily engrossing performance of Mozart’s Concerto No. 19 on Friday morning, with guest conductor Karina Canellakis. Denk gave beautiful shape to phrases and created a fascinating palette of subtly shifting sounds, from abrupt staccatos to absolutely liquid, fast, running passages, if a few rhythmic inconsistencies.

He moved from quick, at times teasing, passages, to a serenely graceful second movement, and a third movement that sounded like Mozart had fun putting it together.

Denk answered enthusiastic applause with a captivatingly played encore of the Andante movement from Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 16. Playing with a gentle, fluid touch and artful, expressive phrasings, his transporting performance pulled the audience into the piece rather than reaching out to them with it.

The concert opened with a vivid rendition of Messiaen’s “Hymne pour grand orchestre.” Canellakis and the orchestra moved with absolute conviction from atmospheric sounds and cloudy harmonies to direct, simple statements, giving a taut, crisp performance, making sections of it fairly crackle with musical energy and tension.
Canellakis and the orchestra closed the Friday morning program with a sunny, somehow optimistic performance of the four-movement work that was filled with stylish, meaningful turns of musical phrase and fine ensemble playing, despite a few frayed passages in the last moments. 

Read the rest of the review here