Sibelius drew inspiration from the landscape of his native Finland, and there’s definitely something elemental about his Fourth Symphony: music hewn out of bedrock and weathered by northern storms. Some say it’s his greatest work. It’s a powerful contrast to the sunlit romance and bubbling joy of Brahms’ magnificent Second Piano Concerto which fills the second half of our concert. Rory Macdonald makes a very welcome return and pianist Jeremy Denk finds something original (and surprising) in everything he touches.
Repertoire includesSibelius - Symphony No4 Brahms - Piano Concerto No2
SoloistsJeremy Denk - Piano
Conductor Rory Macdonald
Rory Macdonald stands out as one of the most engaging British conductors of his generation, leading stylish performances of a notably wide range of operatic and symphonic repertoire.
In great demand as operatic conductor, he has conducted new productions for the Royal Opera House, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera and Royal Danish Opera amongst others. Notable highlights have included Peter Grimes (Brisbane Festival), Albert Herring (Glyndebourne), The Turn of the Screw (Vienna Konzerthaus), The Rape of Lucretia (Houston Grand Opera), Carmen (Santa Fe Opera, Canadian Opera Company), Così fan tutte, Le Nozze di Figaro (Oper Frankfurt), Fra Diavolo (Opera di Roma), A Village Romeo and Juliet (Wexford Festival) and The Cunning Little Vixen (Bergen National Opera).
Engagements recently and in seasons beyond include returns to Oper Frankfurt for Le nozze di Figaro and to the Opera Theater of Saint Louis for The Magic Flute, as well as a performance with the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra, the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, debuts with the Philharmonia and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and a return to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
On the concert podium highlights include the première performances of works by notable composers including Sir James Macmillan, Carl Vine, Sally Beamish and Geoffrey Gordon, as well as guest engagements with such orchestras as the Royal Concertgebouw, Oslo Philharmonic, Bergen Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Hallé, BBC Philharmonic and BBC Scottish Symphony amongst many others.
Rory’s discography includes Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy with Nicola Benedetti (Decca), Eric Chisholm’s Piano Concertos with Danny Driver (Hyperion), The Beauty Stone by Arthur Sullivan (Chandos) and Thomas Wilson’s Third and Fourth Symphonies with the RSNO which was released in 2019 on Linn Records to critical acclaim, and similarly with symphonies No2 and 5 in 2020.
Piano Jeremy Denk
Jeremy Denk is one of America’s foremost pianists, proclaimed by the New York Times ‘a pianist you want to hear no matter what he performs’. Winner of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, and the Avery Fisher Prize, he has also been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Denk has appeared many times at Carnegie Hall and in recent years has worked with such orchestras as Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and Cleveland Orchestra. His memoir Every Good Boy Does Fine will be published by Penguin Random House in March 2022.
In the 2021-22 Season, Denk appears with the Cleveland Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, and Seattle Symphony performing John Adams’ “Must the Devil Have All The Great Tunes?”. He also returns to the San Francisco Symphony to perform Messiaen under Esa-Pekka Salonen, and tours internationally as soloist with Les Violons du Roy. Meanwhile, he continues a major multi-season focus on the music of Bach with performances of Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier at the Barbican Centre, Celebrity Series of Boston, Stanford Live, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the 92Y in New York City, at the Bath Festival in the UK, and the Lammermuir Festival in Scotland, where Denk is artist-in-residence. He also returns to play-direct the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, with whom he recently released a new Mozart Concerti album on Nonesuch Records. The disc was praised by the Guardian for its “questing intelligence and energy”.
In 2019-20, until the COVID-19 pandemic led to the shutdown of performances, Denk toured Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 extensively, and was to have performances culminate with Lincoln Center in New York and the Barbican in London. He returned to Carnegie Hall to perform Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and made his solo debut at the Royal Festival Hall with the London Philharmonic performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. He also made his solo recital debut at the Boulez Saal in Berlin performing works by Bach, Ligeti, Berg, and Schumann, and returned to the Piano aux Jacobins Festival in France, as well as London’s Wigmore Hall. Further performances abroad included his debut with the Bournemouth Symphony, his returns to the City of Birmingham Symphony and the Piano Espoo Festival in Finland, and recitals of the complete Ives Violin Sonatas with Stefan Jackiw.
Denk is also known for his original and insightful writing on music, which Alex Ross praises for its “arresting sensitivity and wit.” He wrote the libretto for a comic opera presented by Carnegie Hall, Cal Performances, and the Aspen Festival, and his writing has appeared in the New Yorker, the New Republic, The Guardian, and on the front page of the New York Times Book Review. One of his New Yorker contributions, “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” forms the basis of a book for publication in March 2022 by Penguin Random House in the US, and in May 2022 by Macmillan in the UK.
Denk’s recording of the Goldberg Variations for Nonesuch Records reached No. 1 on the Billboard Classical Charts. His recording of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111 paired with Ligeti’s Études was named one of the best discs of the year by the New Yorker, NPR, and the Washington Post, and his account of the Beethoven sonata was selected by BBC Radio 3’s Building a Library as the best available version recorded on modern piano. Denk has a long-standing attachment to the music of American visionary Charles Ives, and his recording of Ives’s two piano sonatas also featured in many “best of the year” lists. His recording c.1300-c.2000 was released in 2018 with music ranging from Guillaume de Machaut, Gilles Binchois and Carlo Gesualdo, to Stockhausen, Ligeti and Glass. His latest album of Mozart piano concertos, performed with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, was released in September 2021 on Nonesuch Records.
Jeremy Denk is a graduate of Oberlin College, Indiana University, and the Juilliard School. He lives in New York City.