The brilliant pianist Jeremy Denk has initiated a relationship with Nonesuch Records, and celebrated their first release – a Ligeti-Beethoven recital – with an event this evening at Le Poisson Rouge, the Greenwich Village hot spot for music.
The recording showed up at J&R Music last week, and as a big-time Denk fan I had to acquire it, even though I knew I would be hearing him play must of the album tonight. It is good, really good, so good that when I returned home this evening I gave the Etudes from the Second Book a second spin – these were the ones he didn't play tonight.
The recordings has an interesting and effective layout: Ligeti's First Book of Etudes followed by Beethoven's Piano Sonata, Op. 111, followed by the Second Book of Etudes (minus the last one that Ligeti wrote). Ligeti's "wildness" places Beethoven's "wildness" in vivid relief, and when the second book starts up after the quiet ending of Beethoven, the flow is quite natural.
At tonight's event, Denk played the First Book of Etudes, interspersing a "mystery number" prior to the last of them. I didn't recognize the mystery number, which sounded to me a little like Scarlatti heard through a late romantic prism (Busoni?), but then afterwards he announced that it was a Liszt transcription of a Bach piece. Figures! Then he played the Beethoven, and one of the Ligeti etudes from Book II as an encore.
I can highly recommend the recording. It is addictive! And anyone turned on by this pianist has to have his marvelous self-produced recording of the Ives Piano Sonatas as well.