American pianist Jeremy Denk is known for unusual programs that juxtapose wildly different kinds of music, but nothing he has done before approaches the novelty of c.1300-c.2000
, which is exactly what it sounds like: a survey of seven centuries of music, played on the piano. It's hard to say what Denk is up to here. The earlier pieces are not keyboard transcriptions but simple arrangements of pieces of medieval and Renaissance polyphony, carefully rendered versions of what a music history teacher might play during a class to illustrate the various styles. Then, at the beginning of the second disc in the physical release, Denk shifts gears into actual piano music. However, even here, his method is not really clear: Mozart
is represented by the slow movement of the "easy" "Piano Sonata in C major, K. 545," but that's followed by the mighty opening movement of Beethoven
's final sonata, the "Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111." Denk says of the first part of the program that "I felt it was essential to deal with a more purely musical love: the art of counterpoint, a foundation of the long story to come." Yet the piano works on the album don't pick up this thread. All this said, Denk is often, as usual, quite compelling (sample the first disc's corker of a Bach
"Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903"), and there's an X factor here that gives the pianist points for sheer adventurousness in trying something absolutely new. Denk fans are likely to be quite pleased with this latest chapter.