American pianist Jeremy Denk offers a pathway to the sublime in Hong Kong recital

Jeremy Denk
South China Morning Post

Echo of Glenn Gould in soloist’s interpretations of late works by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Prokofiev

By Dirk Newton

The American is a soundscapist, capable of communicating an understanding of the music at every turn. Prokofiev’s Visions Fugitives allowed him to show off that ability, as he seesawed between a finely weighted touch and bold dramatic execution.

Denk approached Mozart’s famous Rondo in A Minor, K511, in a rather leisurely manner, but produced extremes of dynamic contrast and tempo variation. This was a romanticised reading, with particularly noticeable pauses included after cadence points.

Conducting with his other hand when a single hand was playing, as another American pianist, Glenn Gould, famously did, Denk sought to emphasise significant compositional moments both musically and physically. Piercing glances directed at the audience ensured we understood his intent.

This he demonstrated in the third work of the evening, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Minor, Opus 109, playing the opening of its third movement as though time had stood still. This approach to the hymnlike material was ethereal, and its return, after a turbulent, trill-laden passage, was transcendent.

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