File Under Best CDs of 2013
Jeremy Denk, piano
Pianist Jeremy Denk is a versatile and thoughtful artist. But any pianist, no matter how prodigious his or her skills, must view recording the Goldberg Variations as a Mount Parnassus type of achievement. So many fine recordings already exist – do we need more? Denk’s rendition suggests there is room aplenty for new interpretations of this late work by J.S. Bach.
I recently played several versions of the piece for students of mine who were studying it. They were all impressed by Glenn Gould’s virtuosity, but suggested that he sounded like “a client of Walter White” in terms of tempo choices. Like me, they instead found Denk’s tempi to be “Goldilocks choices:” just right. He is sensitive to the overall pacing of the suite and provides the piece with a long range trajectory that allows for moments of delicacy and others in which the counterpoint flies fast and furious. There is a rhythmic suppleness to his playing that is most attractive. Another reason this is a “Goldilocks choice”: Denk is not trying to fool you into hearing a harpsichord, but his piano-playing is informed by period practice. That won’t make some of the more intransigent purists on either side happy, but to me it sounds “just right.”