A Genius at the Barbican

Jeremy Denk at Milton Court
I have listened to Jeremy Denk’s fascinating interviews on the radio and heard such good reports about the arrival and discovery in London of this extraordinary communicator of searing intelligence .
Similar to the arrival of another great presence in recent times at the Wigmore Hall .
That of Igor Levit.
Pure genius of course amazing capacity to present us the entire piano repertoire as it has never before been done so easily.
One asks  – no demands- where have they been all this time  arriving out of the blue it would seem and taking the intelligenza of London by storm?
Jeremy Denk was giving the final performance in his Residency at the Barbican.
It was good to see so many young musicians in the audience even Jayson Gillham winner of the Montreal Competition and fast making a name for himself- relatively of course- but not at the speed of light of these two master musicians.
His rather improvisatory approach was best suited to 20 of Prokofiev Visions op 22 that opened the recital.
Picturesque images vividly played with all the colour and fantasy that brought these miniature masterpieces to life as Rubinstein had in his historic Carnegie Hall recitals many years ago.
The performances by Richter and Gilels of course have passed into legend but  these little miniatures are very rarely played these days.
All the sonatas and the 2nd Concerto too played endlessly and so easily these days .
It was refreshing to hear such beautifully shaped performances of these little gems.
A change of programme had brought us the monumental last sonata of Schubert in place of the promised Fantasie op 17 by Schumann.
The Schumann would have been a fascinating choice as it was to have been played after the Liszt arrangement of Beethoven’s “An die ferne Geliebte” .
It is quoted in the final heartrending pages of the first movement of the piece that Schumann had written as an outpouring of love for his Clara .
“The most passionate thing I have ever composed- a profound lament for you .”
So as Jeremy Denk announced there would be three works on the programme .
Prokofiev,Beethoven op 109 and Schubert D.960.
His effortless playing of these two monuments of the piano literature lead to some rather uneasy performances where the very backbone of these masterpieces was missing on his long searching journey of discovery.
Some wonderful things but all sounding so easy and untroubled.
Even the beautiful Intermezzo in A by Brahms offered as an encore to a public demanding even more!
Effortless is something you could have never said about Curzon,Arrau or Serkin who would sweat blood and tears over every note .
The audience too would come out of their recitals as exhausted as they.
But uplifted and transformed by what they had experienced.
With these two newly arrived “Geni” it is all so wonderfully effortless.
Amazed by their capacity to consume and play the entire piano repertoire without a hair out of place.
Searingly intelligent performances.
Total command of the instrument .
A few months ago igor levit performed the last three Beethoven Sonatas at the end of his marathon Beethoven Cycle at the Wigmore Hall .
First performance at 19.30 and another identical at 22 due to public demand.
All broadcast live.
Absolute perfection.
 Arrau could never have done that.
It would have killed Curzon
……….but…………………..!!!!?????
Different times of course.
The era of jet setting and communications at the speed of light.
Pity this music was not written for this fast food era that we are obliged to”live” in.
I am sure the genius of Beethoven or Schubert would have risen to the challenge too.
“Hats off gentlemen .A Genius”.
Schumann jumped off the bridge at the end and Beethoven took a hammer to break up the piano in frustration …………
Not these boys ….we live in a different era ……….or do we?

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