Thursday, Jan 30th, 2014
by: George Trudeau

Jeremy Denk presented the world premiere of “Sonata” by Brad Mehldau last night at Penn State University. I really liked the work on first hearing and Jeremy shared with me and others that he thinks highly of it and looks forward to future performances. The title that we had been given of “Fantasy” actually describes the work better I think. When Jeremy introduced the work from the stage he said that Brad had gone through a number of title changes and arrived finally with “Sonata.” Jeremy did speak in an interview about the 10 minute composition, describing it as a “kind of a brooding jazz vamp that starts out with a bit of a classical lament with a descending bass line and after various travails and things becomes a very beautiful blues.” That sums it up pretty well.

I’m sure you all know that Jeremy is very thoughtful and deliberate about what he programs. He is still working through what makes sense to program with the Mehldau. Last night he began with Mozart K.533, followed that with Schumann Davidsbündlertänze. Following intermission was the Mehldau and then Schumann Caranaval. I thought the program worked well. He eloquently introduced each piece to the audience who were completely enthralled from beginning to end, an extraordinary treat! The encore was Bach Goldberg Var. 13, simply, beautifully and tastefully presented.

We were fortunate to have Jeremy with us for a few days. He gave a wonderful master class at our School of Music, spent time with students in our honors college, striking a perfect note with them as he talked about his undergraduate years and what the liberal arts meant to him. He also participated in a “Classical Coffeehouse” program, a new series this year we’re presenting in partnership with our Alumni Association in their facility. We’ve hooked in two student organizations to take ownership and publicize the program, help with setup, greet attendees and even introduce the artists. Jeremy was perfect, speaking about the works (Mozart, Ligeti and Schumann), illustrating them from the piano and then…treating the students and others to incredible performances. I’ve attached a couple of pictures.

I suppose you can tell I’m a big fan of Jeremy’s having first presented him in 1999. It’s so great to see him get the success and recognition he’s receiving…well-earned to say the least! And we’re all right there supporting him with the Mehldau commission. Hope you all get a chance to hear it!

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