Jeremy Denk

It’s always amazing-slash-disappointing to us to see the poor turnout at SOPAC. Tonight they had pianist Jeremy Denk doing Schumann and Bach to a half-empty house. Denk may not be a household name, but he sure is good enough.

The program was two big pieces. The first half offered Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze. Somehow, they didn’t have programs until intermission, and I’d never heard this one before. I let it wash over me thinking it was Chopin. The second half, Bach’s epic Goldberg Variations. Denk brought back some of the old romantic style — this was emphatically not your Glenn Gould Goldbergs. Ample pedal, wide dynamic shadings and plenty of rubato were the order of the day. And real virtuosity; the fast variations really fast, and he nailed them.

The Goldberg Variations are one of those things I get really geeked up about. This former music theory major loves an intellectual framework around his music, and the Goldbergs supply plenty of that. Legend is, the guy who commissioned the work wanted something very long and very interesting. After the initial aria, the variations come in groupings of three; every third one is a canon at a different interval. The first is at the unison, the next at a second, the next at a third, and so on up to a ninth. But it’s not as simple as that. The canons at the third and fourth have the second voice coming in below the first voice. The canons at the fourth and fifth have the second voice in inversion of the first.

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Like I said, I get geeked up over this stuff.

Denk is a bit of the hipster. His blog is supposedly famous, and his site is full of anti-pretentious shots like this one:

So where was everybody? LF dropped by the box office this afternoon and picked up two tickets at the SHU staff discount price of $8. We sat in the front row, practically in his lap.

This concert had originally been scheduled for earlier in the week, but Denk postponed to be at his friend Joshua Bell’s Haiti relief benefit. Maybe that had something to do with it.

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