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Pianist Denk sparkles with Mozart concertos

02.03.17
Jeremy Denk
San Antonio Express-News

During the years Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived in Salzburg, Austria, he made his living largely by composing piano concertos and then selling tickets to the concerts with himself at the keyboard.
 
The San Antonio Symphony lovingly made that time as visible as possible Friday night with widely recorded New York pianist Jeremy Denk standing in for Mozart.
 
The orchestra and Denk performed not one, but two popular Mozart concertos, Nos. 19 and 23. The concert was quite an intimate one at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, with smallish ensembles performing the Mozart Festival program.
 
A formal conductor was not needed. Denk conducted the concertos from the Steinway keyboard, his back to the audience. Concertmaster Eric Gratz was the “leader” from his chair for two other program pieces.
In the Concerto No. 19, Denk emphasized how Mozart varied the moods among the many repetitions of the same basic theme, from impishly comic to seriousness.
 
Denk made the middle movement sound deceptively wise before jumping into the lively final movement’s dialogue between the winds and the keyboard.
 
Denk was even better in the more mature Concerto No. 23, especially in the spellbinding “Siciliano” adagio that was absolutely gorgeous in the warm, resonant concert hall acoustics. Mozart’s playful melodic twist at the end of the concluding rondo was greatly satisfying. Denk’s piano technique in both concertos was absolutely flawless. His playing exhibited a self-assured sense of phrasing. It’s no wonder artists like violin star Joshua Bell seek Denk to be an accompanist.
 
After the concertos, Denk rewarded the audience of more than 1,000 people with an encore, the disarmingly beautiful andante from Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 16, K. 545.
 
Read the rest of review here