Jeremy Denk assessment – Nicely-Tempered Clavier is reshaped and illuminated afresh

When Is Bach composed the primary instalment of his Nicely-Tempered Clavier it had a easy premise. Half compositional brainteaser, half circuit coaching for performers, the e book consists of one prelude and one fugue for every of the 12 keys in western tonality of their main and minor kinds, to be performed on whichever keyboard instrument was obtainable.

That instrument positively wouldn’t have been a Steinway live performance grand piano (but to be invented in 1722). And Bach would presumably have been stunned to discover a sizeable viewers gathered in a live performance corridor – one other future innovation – to take heed to his 300-year-old set of technical workouts. Lately, although, the Nicely-Tempered Clavier is a monument: nonetheless tackled by pupil pianists, however carried out stay in its entirety solely by these with nerves of metal and a penchant for musical marathons.

American pianist Jeremy Denk has each – to not point out the fiendish approach and expressive iconoclasm you’d count on from one in every of immediately’s classical superstars. Sitting down with a fast nod to the viewers and no music, he launched energetically into the C major prelude. Is there a extra well-known rising arpeggio in classical music? But, like a lot of what adopted, acquainted phrases have been subtly reshaped in Denk’s arms and illum Thered afresh.

There have been some astonishing moments. The stark simplicity of the C sharp minor fugue, Denk eking out darkish, cavernous house inside it. His madcap acceleration from the elegiac opening of the E minor prelude to a catch-me-if-you-can end. The light rubato softening the sharp edges of the bizarre nooks and characterizet characterise the F minor fugue. And a bewitching ultimate word within the B flat main prelude, which was barely audible but rang sweetly, ab Muchtely true.

A lot of the set was quick, particulars breathtakingly neat however solely a way to a larger-scale expressive finish. A few of it was witty, all dry staccato and cheeky ornamentation. None of it was weighed down by the sort of uber-reverence that may stultify a efficiency as mammoth as this. And on the finish, Denk returned us to the beginning, the C main prelude now remodeled – easy and at peace.

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