Conductor & Piano: Jeremy Denk
Bach: Concerto in A Major for Keyboard, Strings, and Continuo, BWV 1055
Bach: Concerto in G Minor for Keyboard, Strings, and Continuo, BWV 1058
Bach: Concerto in E Major for Keyboard, Strings, and Continuo, BWV 1053
Bach: Concerto in F Minor for Keyboard, Strings, and Continuo, BWV 1056
Bach: Concerto in D Major for Keyboard, Strings, and Continuo, BWV 1054
Bach: Concerto in D Minor for Keyboard, Strings, and Continuo, BWV 1052
No matter what one thinks about big city living, there's one advantage that cannot be denied: Being able to enjoy a wide range of extraordinary live musical moments that will remain in one's memory for a very long time and, as far as I'm concerned, in this blog forever. That's how these past couple of weeks I've been lucky enough to hear three memorable piano performances by French intellectual master Pierre-Laurent Aimard in a surprisingly non-experimental recital at Carnegie Hall, established virtuoso Yefim Bronfman impeccably working his way through the Emperor at Carnegie Hall again, and last but by no means least, fearlessly imaginative pianist Jeremy Denk delectably tackling Bach's reputedly august œuvre with eleven musicians of the highly regarded Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at the wonderful Alice Tully Hall last night.
I must confess that I have sometimes thought of Baroque music as attractive, of course, but also a bit too stodgy and well-behaved for my own taste. Well, last night was definitely the time to think again as I would have been hard-pressed to point out a single moment during the concert where anything even remotely humdrum happened. With a little bit of Mozart's elegance here and a lot of Vivaldi's exuberance there, the pure genius of the prolific father of them all glowed brighter than ever.
Playing on modern instruments with a refreshing bounciness, the twelve accomplished musicians onstage breathed an irresistible new life into those six concertos for solo keyboard and orchestra, which had been primarily composed for entertainment purposes. And entertaining they sure were, with their newly highlighted unpredictable tempos, intricate passages and beguiling harmonies. The second half of the concert was dedicated to the most popular ones among them, and it was a real treat to hear those familiar pieces performed with such an inspired spin to them.
Turning his back to the audience all the better to conduct and play his top-less piano, Jeremy Denk spontaneously combined the unrestrained joie de vivre of an exalted dilettante with the bottomless expertise of a seasoned pro. Taking his musical companions and the audience for a glorious Bacchanal (Sorry. I had to) ride, he brilliantly proved that timeless works are truly relevant to all times. And a lot of fun too.