Jeremy Denk

Bach: Partitas Nos. 3, 4, 6

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American pianist Jeremy Denk has gained notice for an unusually well-written and often funny blog (search for Think Denk) and for often difficult programming: he once played Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" Sonata and Ives' "Concord" Sonata together in the same evening. He has often championed contemporary music. Here, recording for the small Azica label in the classical music-rich city of Cleveland, OH, Denk sticks closer to the middle of the road with a fine trio of Bach partitas that will appeal to listeners who want a piano version, and a pianistic version, but may be averse to the high-calorie, defiantly neo-Romantic Bach readings that have been making the rounds. Denk uses articulation, and uses it inventively, to shape his dance movements more often than he uses the pedal, which is reserved mostly for climactic passages and for big sustained-note movements like the Allemande of the Partita No. 4 for keyboard in D major, BWV 828, where Denk achieves a sustained lyricism. The articulations are fresh, and there may be a few that rub some listeners the wrong way, but Denk has the lively quality, suggestive of approaching the music for the first time, that's so important in Bach; the focus is on the counterpoint throughout, and the left hand never gets lost in the mix. The most important thing is that you always feel like you're listening to Bach, not proto-Chopin. Recommended.

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