Sunday, March 30, 2014

GetClassical at India House - Classical Salon Concerts that go under your skin


photo3GET CLASSICAL at INDIA HOUSE  2 Yamaha Grand pianos + 3 pianists - 6 Hands = Magic
tickets



On March 25th, 2014, Masterpiece Caterers hosted GetClassical’s presentation of an intimate evening of classical music, at India House’s historic Landmark location at 1 Hanover Square. Doors open at 6pm for an ‘Aperitivo–hors d’oeuvre’-reception’ (full bar service available throughout the event) and concert performances by pianist-duo Vassily Primakov and Natalia Lavrova and Pianist David Aladashvili. Yamaha Artists Services New York  supports GetClassical events.


India House eventThank you all for coming out and contributing to the success of GetClassical's artist's concert at India House!




Video from Get Classical by award-winning documentary producer Hilan Warshaw soon to come.

Watch a video of GetClassical series' launch on http://getclassical.org

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Music from the suitcase" Yevgeny Kutik at SubCulture

I am curious to find out what's in violinist Yevgeny Kutik's luggage: suitcase - and violin-case!
We will find out at his performance at SubCulture, New York, thisThursday, 3/20! Kutik plans to perform pieces by Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky, which can all be found on his new album, “Music from the Suitcase.”
The New York Times has commented on his “old-fashioned rhapsodic style…magnified by [his] rich, sweet tone.” Mr. Kutik’s second album, Music from the Suitcase: A Collection of Russian Miniatures, is being released by Marquis Classics and will feature music he found in his family’s suitcase after immigrating to the United States from the Soviet Union in 1990.
see him play here:

http://www.subculturenewyork.com/event/489145-yevgeny-kutik-new-york  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Evgeny Kissin: On a Mission to Celebrate Jewish Heritage


When Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post’s longtime political columnist and co-founder of the evening’s host organisation, Pro Musica Hebraica, introduced Evgeny Kissin at his recent Washington concert in co-production with the Kennedy Center, it was clear from the start that this evening would turn out to be very special.  Photo Credit: Margot Schulman

“Tonight’s performance carries particular poignancy because on Dec. 7, 2013, in a dramatic defiance of attempts to isolate and ostracize Israeli artists and musicians, Mr. Kissin took Israeli citizenship as a show of unshakable personal solidarity. Tonight will be his first concert in the United States as an Israeli,” Krauthammer said referring to the native Russian pianist with a British passport.

But beyond his political stance, it was Kissin’s program choices that convinced his audience of the pianist’s deep commitment to his Jewish roots. Both in terms of music and words, Kissin provided a fascinating introduction to a heritage whose riches are not always widely known.

Of course, this is what Pro Musica Hebraica is all about. Started by Krauthammer and his wife Robyn, it is the organization’s mission to explore the historic and geographic diversity of Jewish cultural heritage through a range of programs presenting lost and neglected masterpieces of Jewish classical music. Photo Credit: Margot Schulman

Now in its seventh season, the series’ concerts have covered cantorial music, the works of musicians persecuted during the Holocaust, baroque Jewish music from Amsterdam, and works showing the influence of French Romantic music on Jewish composers. The series has featured performers as varied as Cantor Netanel Hershtik, clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein, and pianist Marc-André Hamelin.

“The series tries to establish that there is more to Jewish music than the obvious pick of Hava Nagilah or Klezmer,” says Krauthammer. “There is an abundance of works that deserve exposure. It is our hope to continue to disseminate these works by charismatic young performers, who carry them on to their next performances and assure these works’ visibility and continued inspiration.”

Who better to fit the bill than star pianist Evgeny Kissin whose personal mission coincides with what the Krauthammers want to achieve?

Kissin made sure that the artistic merits of the evening’s musical part were in no way compromised. As James Loeffler, the series’ director of research explains, Kissin took the plunge into a repertoire that was, in large parts, as new to him as it was to the audience.
         
“Other than with Bloch, Kissin was unfamiliar with the 20th century Russian-Jewish composers. Only after an in-depth examination of 50 or so scores we sent him to read and play did he come up with the concert’s selection. These were pieces he felt he could put out there without compromising their musical validity – he never wanted to play music just because it is Jewish.”

The final selection of works by composers such as Moshe Milner, Ernest Bloch, Alexander Veprik and Alexander Krein left no doubt about the high standard of Kissin’s choices. Transforming the concert hall into a vibrant space celebrating Jewish music and poetry, the pianist took his audience on a musical and poetic journey marked by works that illuminate his own, personal brand of Jewish identity.

Photo Credit: Margot Schulman
Moshe Milner’s dramatic Farn Opsheyd (Before Separating) opened the evening’s program. Composed by the creator of the first Yiddish opera in post-revolution Russia, Die Himlen brenen (The heavens burn, 1923), this work has a compelling modernist, soulful appeal. Milner was greatly inspired by Scriabin, and Farn Opsheyd certainly evokes a similar soundscape. Last year, Kissin chose Farn Opsheyd as the musical segment of a Center for Jewish History event honoring his engagement for Yiddish culture and poetry. “Yiddish culture is a real treasure, not only for the Jewish people but for all mankind,” he commented back then.

Swiss-American composer Ernest Bloch’s Piano Sonata No.40 was next on Kissin’s program. Written in 1935, Bloch had dedicated the sonata to Italian pianist Guido Agosti, who premiered the work in Geneva in 1936.
Representing a distinct expression of Bloch’s relationship with Judaism, the composer described the first movement as being “of an obscure and metallic character without a trace of sentimentalism.” The middle movement, “Pastorale,” is based on a folk-like melody, which undergoes varied metamorphoses through arpeggiated lines and conventional trills that aid in establishing the movement’s idyllic mood; the finale “ … like the great interrogation of life and the future which loses itself in the unknown.”

Bloch’s lifelong quest for the conjoining of his aesthetic ideas and his spiritual-cultural Judaic heritage becomes apparent in works such as his 1923 Baal Shem Suite; many carry Hebrew titles and contain a historic notion of Judaism and Jewish antiquity.

Kissin opened the concert’s second half with Alexander Veprik’s Sonata No.2, Op.5, composed in 1924. Considered one of the greatest composers of the "Jewish school", Ukraine-born Veprik had been part of a group of composers creating Moscow’s Society for Jewish Music in 1923. It was an outgrowth of the Society for Jewish Folk Music, founded in 1908 by a group of young musicians at the St.Petersburg conservatory, and promoted by the eminent Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The renewed interests in Jewish culture lead to an unprecedented flourishing of the art throughout the 1920s. Back then, Veprik’s oeuvre had also gained great popularity in Europe and the United States. The Berlin Radio Symphony performed nearly his entire oeuvre between 1928-1929; in New York, Arturo Toscanini conducted Veprik's Dances and Songs of the Ghetto at Carnegie Hall in 1933.
         
While both Veprik’s and Milner’s works show only subtly nuanced intonations reminiscent of Jewish folk melodies, Alexander Krein’s Suite Dansee is filled with Jewish elements, thus affording a very personally crafted glimpse into a milieu threatened by fading into distant memory.

Composed during a time when increasing political pressure led many artists to compromise individual expression, Suite Dansee takes part of its inspiration from the modern harmonic language of composers like Debussy, Ravel, and Scriabin. Some of Krein‘s most important works based on Jewish folk and liturgical melodies, such as his symphonic cantata Kaddish, date back to the early 1920s; he continued his redefinition of melodies from his Jewish roots right up to the mid-1940s.

Photo Credit: Margot Schulman
In between his musical selections, Kissin showcased portions of poems by Hayim Nahman Bialik and Yithak Leibush Peretz, providing a unique opportunity for audiences to learn about his profound affection for his heritage. In reciting those poignant and often melancholic poetic verses, Kissin indulged his audience in rhythmic throngs of flawlessly pronounced Yiddish verse, and his cherub-like expression left his audience with an almost otherworldly feeling. One did not have to strain one’s imagination to imagine Kissin as a young boy, spending time at his Yiddish-speaking paternal grandparents’ datshka on the outskirts of Moscow. It was here that he inherited his love for the Yiddish language, which he decided to learn many years later, he once told me over dinner on New York’s Upper West Side.
And it was the certainty of Pro Musica Hebraica’s founders that “... Yiddish poetry recited from the stage at Kennedy Center would be an extremely unique and rewarding event,” that had made this special evening a reality.

Kissin’s first public recitations of Yiddish poetry go back to 2002 when Verbier Festival’s Martin Engstroem asked Kissin to integrate poetry recitation into his musical offerings.  “I accepted under the condition that the other musicians do the same. Zubin Mehta, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Itamar Golan agreed to participate in the project. Unfortunately, just before the beginning of the festival, Zubin’s father fell gravely ill and died, so Mehta was unable to continue with the project. And at the last minute, just a few days before her concert, Kiri Te Kanawa cancelled. Only Itamar and I were left. I was the first to get my feet wet,” Kissin recalls. His love for Yiddish poetry also resulted in a recording released in 2010, ”On the Keys of Yiddish poetry”.Photo Credit: Margot Schulman

If the series’ goal is to ask what the essence of Jewish music consists of, and to communicate the uniqueness of a heritage beyond the confines of simple labeling, then Kissin performing the works of the greats of Jewish music and adding an intimate sentiment for the world of Yiddish poetry have greatly advanced that mission.

Pianist Orli Shaham and friends at SUBCULTURE

Monday night’s audience at SUBCULTURE was in for a treat as WQXR’s host Naomi Lewin introduced most of the artists involved in the making of the newly released CD American Grace, which features the world premiere recording of Steve Mackey’s piano concerto, Stumble to Grace composed for Orli Shaham. “She is such a class act,” says broadcaster, publicist and producer Gail Wein “…and extraordinarily joy to work with.”
Photo Credit Elliot Sussman
It all started at the Aspen Music Festival in 2007, when the superb Juilliard-trained pianist, born in Israel, and the cool West Coast guitarist/composer turned Princeton professor (and music department chair) met backstage at one of Mackey’s sizzling concert run-throughs and clicked instantly. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that Orli Shaham was pregnant with her now 6 year-old twin boys, and Steve Mackey and his wife were expecting as well; mostly, though, their connection was about their mutual, deep love for music, and their iconic take on music presentation, as they quickly discovered that Shaham felt a deep commitment towards performing works by living composers. The two musicians forged a bond and commissioned a new concerto, beginning a fascinating musical journey, which was shared live on stage at their recent SUBCULTURE show through excerpts from the CD as well as an interactive discussion by the artists involved. There were also film excursions into the landscape of the creative process, showing what is actually involved in the coming-together of ideas in a commissioned work, and how much depends on the creative exchange and rapport between the artists.
Photo:  during rehearsal at SUBCULTURE credit Ilona Oltuski
It turns out that the cooperative aspect is one of the most intriguing facets of contemporary compositions for today’s performers.  While Mackey studied Shaham’s individual performance style, she informed him about personal preferences and details, for example the size of her hands: things one could not ask a classical composer to consider in the past. In this case, Shaham even got to influence the final shape of the work’s cadenza, which Mackey envisioned as a grand finale. It is with this grander version of the finale, swiftly re-arranged by Mackey, that the concerto received its premiere recording with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Shaham’s husband, David Robertson, who was present as well this evening, acting as a page turner.
Photo Credit Elliot Sussman
Shaham not only exudes her deep understanding of and feeling for the music, but also radiates a contagious joy in performing it: “Every time a part of the score came my way,” says Shaham, “I was more excited to learn it and understand it…I love the different pianistic influences that shine through the music – from Thelonious Monk, to Mozart piano concerti, to Bach’s counterpoint to Vince Guaraldi.”
Mackey’s solo electric guitar performance made clear how broadly his musical understanding reaches. It was fascinating to see the sensitivity and musical insight required to compose music and translate it to the instrument’s specific tactile facility.
Facing Shaham from the second grand piano on stage, pianist Jon Kimura Parker made his appearance. Together they performed John Adam’s Hallelujah Junction, a work for two pianos also performed by both pianists on the recording. Shaham chose to include two pieces by Adams, since she feels that both composers – Mackey and Adams – “are at the forefront of defining what it means to be an American pianist today.” She continues: “Jon Kimura Parker was my dream partner for this work,” which indeed entails the most intricate, rhapsodic rhythmic episodes, fiendishly difficult to pull off as a team. Parker, who is also on the faculty of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, recorded his own transcriptions of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Petrouchka last year.
China Gates for solo piano, another Adams work that Shaham performed at SUBCULTURE, showcases the composer’s strongly formulated lyrical vibe, which, as Shaham says: “has inspired as many composers as it has pianists with its beauty, simplicity, and complexity all intertwined.” (Orli Shaham quoted by Frank J. Oeteri in the CD’s excellent liner note.)
As an encore, closing the evening’s performance, Shaham performed the miniature Sneaky March, originally composed by Mackey for Shaham’s curated series Baby got Bach. The concept of creating these interactive, classical concerts for children came to the entrepreneurial pianist when she discovered that there was nothing offered at the time to capture the musical imagination of the 3-6 year-old demographic. “While there where things for babies and older children, I was not able to find anything of musical interest for my own kids,” she shares. “At a time when kids are most susceptive to engage in a second language, which music is as well, I felt compelled - as a parent and someone passionate about music - to do something about it.” Now in its fourth season at the 92 Street Y, Baby got Bach begins with a hand on experience backstage, where children get to playfully explore musical instruments, followed by the on stage encounter of listening to live chamber music, performed by Shaham and friends.
When it comes to music, Shaham’s enthusiasm and gifted engagement does not stop with her performances that range widely from solo and chamber to concerti repertoire with major orchestras, to guest performer at the great summer music festivals, or her work as a recording artist. She is a respected voice broadcaster, music writer, and lecturer, and shapes the world of music through her increasing number of commissions for new music. She feels indebted to her great mentor, pianist and pedagogue Herbert Stessin. In her obituary for Stessin, published in the Juilliard Journal in 2011, she recalls the “consummate pianist who lived and breathed the world of piano and the music around it…a teacher of fourteen years and friend and second pair of ears for the following fourteen.” In her words, something of her own adoring approach to the piano and the world of music comes through. Orli Shaham is four years younger than her brother, virtuoso violinist Gil Shaham, and though at times the two siblings are professionally connected through some of their shared projects, concerts, and recordings, Orli’s is a view clearly gained independently and shared through her own personal charisma.
Audiences will look forward to her upcoming project, for which Shaham will turn to Johannes Brahms’ late opuses, exploring what inspired him and his works, and how a new generation of composers has in turn been inspired by his influence. Commissions to composers like Avner Dorman, Bruce Adolphe, and Brett Dean are going out for a recording to be released in the beginning of 2015 on the Canary record label.

view excerpts

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Jeremy Denk – A Pianist with a Literary Bent


This is a translation of the article published in the German PianoNews on March 1st, 2014
Photo: Michael Wilson
It’s only been a couple of months since Jeremy Denk was awarded the 2013 MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship, and already he has been honored again, this time by being named “Instrumentalist of the Year” by Musical America. During the December 17 awards ceremony at New York’s Lincoln Center, Denk was in excellent company, sharing the night’s honors with the likes of Musical America’s Musician of the Year, soprano and actress Audra McDonald; Pablo Heras-Casado (Conductor of the Year); George Benjamin (Composer of the Year), and Ensemble of the Year, The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).

Photo: Peter Schaaf
Feeling ‘insanely honored,’ Denk thanked the many people who have been actively involved and helpful in his career, singling out the recently deceased Byron Gustafson, longtime manager at ICM (International Creative Management), who he credits with steering him in the right direction. “He always believed in me,” the coffee addict told me over tea (!) the next morning.  Thanks to his musically insightful piano performances, Denk enjoys a large following, both as a soloist and a chamber musician. But his career has also been advanced by his literary output, which centers on a trove of observations gained at the piano. Via his blog, www.thinkdenk.com, he not only takes his fans beyond the spectrum of the concert hall and into his personal world, but into the realm of contemporary culture, as well. While discussing literary greats we both admire, Denk mentioned Milan Kundera’s Testaments Betrayed, an Essay in Nine Parts.  “Through the fusion of the comic and the trivial with the serious and the important, there does appear an element of great reverence for great works of art,” says Denk, referring to Kundera, and continues to describe how Kundera’s ‘betrayal’ is a comment on change, which, according to the author, often means that the following generation of writers and musicians destroys crucial components of great works of art. Says Denk: “Ultimately Kundera wants to communicate the need to preserve what’s unique and irreplaceable in great art, in different ways – and so do I, in my writing and performing. One informs the other.”
Photo: Courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Denk’s writing was lauded by The New Yorker’s music critic, Alex Ross, who described Denk as one of the most talented music writers of his generation. The distinguished New Yorker, in fact, published some of Denk’s perceptive takes on the day-to-day life at the piano. In his most poignant features, “The Flight of the Concorde” and “Every Good Boy Does Fine”, Denk not only shares his musings on musical repertoire and the recording process, but also demystifies and questions preconceived ideas about piano teachers and piano lessons. “People apparently love stories about teachers who drive their students mad; breaking their spirits with pitiless exactitude … I often rolled my eyes at the music-lesson clichés of movies: The mind games and power plays, the teacher with a quaint European accent who says: ‘you will never make it, you are not a real musician’ in order to get you to work even harder …”, says Denk, and concedes: “There’s a labyrinth of voices inside your head, a counterpoint of self-awareness and the remembered sayings of your guides and mentors, who don’t always agree. Sometimes you wish you could go back and ask your teachers again to guide you; but up there on stage, exactly where they always wanted you to be, you must simply find your way. They have given all the help they can; the only person who can solve the labyrinth of yourself is you.”  One example of a student-mentor relationship providing invaluable inspiration to a young pianist comes from Denk’s own experience with György Sebök, a pedagogue he credits for providing a decisive influence on what he calls the “utopian life of the mind,” and for fostering much of his deepest understanding of music.  While satisfying the music connoisseur’s inquisitiveness, Denk also manages to make his writings accessible to a more general readership. It is this ability that has recently led to a book contract with Random House. Based on “Every Good Boy Does Fine”, Denk’s New Yorker article of the same title, it is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the line every American music student has been taught to memorize the treble clef lines E-very G-ood B-oy D-oes F-ine. The book will give Denk further opportunity to expand on his insights gained during his formative process of becoming a pianist, such as thoughts on the moment one decides to become a pianist, where to get inspiration, and how to continue to grow musically. It will also include references to some of his most important teachers not yet mentioned in his earlier writings. These include Herbert Stessin, the principal pedagogue of Denk’s formative years at Juilliard, who passed away two years ago. Stessin was something of an ‘editor’ for Denk’s fine-tuned craftsmanship at the piano. ”He represented the best of what New York had to offer during this period of my life,” says Denk. “He revealed the tricks of the trade through straightforward advice and a practical understanding developed throughout his great experience in the field. He had important counsel to offer when it came to fundamental questions, such as ‘how do you make that phrase work,’ Denk continues. “Of course, he was already quite old at the time I graduated from Juilliard, but I still continued for a while to play for him; and then it was time for me to fly on my own.”
Photo: Courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Denk remembers the very beginnings of his pianistic life as a period in which a young and impressionable boy absorbed his piano teachers’ advice, praise and criticism with a fair amount of ambiguity. From his early years as a piano student in Livingston, New Jersey, to Cruce, New Mexico, Indiana University, Oberlin and, finally, Juilliard, he learned to ‘reason with his muscles’, going through precision drills and accumulating reminders of haunting prescriptions, some of which he recalls in his infamous “black notebook” - a kind of “Bridget Jones” diary of a pianist’s coming-of-age. In that typical Denk-dash of half joking-half solemn, self-analyzing yet free-spirited voice, he describes how he was going through his share of idolizing teachers, “craving for a guru”, who could lead the way out of the maze of contradictions his many mentors had left him in.  It was not until his late twenties that his career took off. I clearly remember his ‘break out’ moment during his debut performance of the Schumann Concerto at Alice Tully Hall in April 1997, where he performed as a finalist at Juilliard’s concerto competition and winner of the school’s William Petschek Piano Debut Award.  I had admired his mesmerizing phrasing and expressive playing, his subdued originality and the fact that he was able to show his feelings freely, be it through his lilting body language or even facial grimaces. This was a pianist to watch, I thought to myself back then, and I was not alone in my assessment.  The beginnings of his solo career some years later are very much associated with Denk playing under the auspices of Young Concert Artists and the Stern Music Program at Carnegie Hall, an intensive chamber music mentorship under some of the greatest musicians of the time, including the late Stern himself. “I remember thinking of this experience as one of the happiest moments in my life,” he says.  Stressing the importance of objective feedback for even the most accomplished musician, Denk believes that a trusted critic lending a friendly and knowledgeable ear to new repertoire-in-progress or acting as a sounding board for musical ideas is key. For Denk, one such person is cellist Steven Isserlis whose natural musicianship he admires. He has often collaborated with Isserlis, notably at New York’s 92nd Street Y. Another valuable resource he taps for constructive criticism is Yoheved Kaplinsky, chair of Juilliard’s piano faculty. “Lately, when I was returning from all that Ligety playing back to the central, romantic Brahms repertoire, I also played for ‘Veda’,” Denk says referring to Kaplinsky. “We had met again last year in Aspen, and it was incredibly useful work for me – she gave me lots to do.”   He realizes that the process of creating and expressing oneself requires acceptance of shortcomings along the way, and it is that kind of realism, which might well keep his genius grounded. Still, the longing for truth and greatness is always present: “There are glorious lessons to learn within the classical repertoire, the common language and grammar, for example, plus the distinct rules and the way to bend them,” he states. “What Beethoven does in his middle period is a ‘page turner’: the harmonic narrative … each new happening becomes both inevitable and surprising - that‘s the kind of thing great novelists aim for. It does give me real pleasure to play a phrase beautifully if I manage to do so, but so does expressing something beautifully in my writing where some truth emerges. We talk about everything in life, why not about music?”  A musicological “page turner” has now become one of Denk’s latest projects: the late Charles Rosen’s volume, The Classical Style, is in the process of being filled with new life by a comic opera of the same title. “The opera is the absurdist proposition of turning a musicologist text into drama,” says Denk, who is writing the opera’s libretto. A co-production between Denk and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky, the satirical interpretation of Rosen’s work has Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn meeting in heaven and talking about music. “One of the main characters is the ‘dominant’, and there is a love triangle between the intervals, which integrates a fair amount of insider jokes, but largely the comedy will be apparent to everyone,” promises Denk. “It’s about clichés in classical music and how we talk about them. I can just say the nemesis of the over-analyzer gets sent down to hell.”  When Denk performed Bach’s Goldberg Variations at California’s Ojai Music Festival in 2009, his half-serious suggestion to festival head Tom Morris sparked the idea for the opera. Five years later, the project will have its premiere at the 2014 Ojai Music Festival, with plans to take the opera to UC Berkeley, the Aspen Music Festival and Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall.
Photo: Courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
“The opera, the book, the rewards … all this is very powerful! But I am doing what I want to be doing,” says Denk. “I am happiest working on something I am fascinated with. Obviously it can get a bit monotonous at times. Friends are a release from all that.” Denk, the foodie, likes to go out a couple of times a week, but also cooks for himself, and he has a housekeeper. “Laundry remains a problem for now; by nature, I am not very neat. When I am involved in a project - and that is most of the time - everything goes out the window. It’s difficult to structure the day when at home, to find my rhythm.” That’s why Denk adjusts very comfortably to the work rhythm while travelling. He likes the routine, the direct preparation that performance requires: “Typically I go to the hall, try out the piano, and practice in the morning, rest or workout in the afternoon and perform in the evening.”  “There is a lot of music I really want to play, but I have been consumed by monster projects like the Ives Sonatas, Beethoven, Ligety, Bach’s Goldberg Variations … and now the book. While it’s hard to change gears from a writing project to sitting at the piano, music is always at the core. Writing pulls me over to the piano, and playing pulls me over to the desk. I really want to play Mozart. Inhabit it. Share it. And Schumann. There are pieces I have never touched as yet or want to get back to: Papillion, Sonata in F-sharp minor, Carnival ... “  In the upcoming seasons, Denk wants to expand his tour locations, but also return to countries like Germany, where he has played chamber music and duos with violinist Joshua Bell, but no solo recitals. He values German audiences for their level of musical education and interest, and fondly remembers a visit where he played with the Hamburg Radio Orchestra. “They listen!” he recalls.  Denk loves to let his audiences in on the process of how he works and how he arrives at deciding for a repertoire. It follows that he carefully designs the liner notes of his CDs to present an alternative approach to the more generic and often much less accessible notes audiences are often exposed to. “It seems regrettable that a writing style called ‘program note style’ ever came into existence. It’s hard to define, I suppose; you know when you read it, by a slight heartburn of the soul,” he says on his blog.  His search for innovative ways to communicate with his audiences has also led him to collaborate with NPR Classical (National Public Radio) in a video project that focuses on Denk’s intimate exploration of Gyorgy Ligeti’s Etudes (Denk’s ‘Ligeti/Beethoven’, Nonesuch Records 2012). He also worked with NPR on a weeklong series documenting his interpretative strategies of Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’; released in 2013 on Nonesuch Records, the project topped the billboard for ‘Classical Album’ and ‘Traditional Classical Album of the Year’ in 2013.  In an interview with Time Out in 2010, Denk explained what might motivate his eagerness to provide new paths to classical music: “The classical piano repertoire is very well trodden, and I don’t like to feel like it’s been well trodden.” But then his light-footed crossings between different media and his very individualistic and eclectic tastes might just be expressions of his favorite state of being: that ‘unbearable lightness’ Kundera describes so well in his work. Says Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Being: “He considered music a liberating force: it liberated him from loneliness, introversion, the dust of the library; it opened the door of his body and allowed his soul to step out into the world and make friends.”  And on his blog, Denk says: “It’s that the music laughs, more wisely and profoundly than any verbal gag could. Humor is a jolt, a trick of timing, a flash of the unexpected, but it’s also a fluid that carries forgiveness, empathy, generosity.” We can agree with that.