'Bach demands that you give it the best part of yourself'

Jeremy Denk
The Irish Times

Michael Dervan's interview with Jeremy Denk: 

Your earliest encounter with Bach? 

“Most likely a Hundred Best Hits of Classical Music album with the Air on the G String. Then one of my earliest sheet music albums was The Joy of Bach, which had a psychedelic Bach on the cover, very hippie-looking. I remember playing one arrangement very often, Come, Sweet Death. It was my father’s favourite piece. When I was seven or eight I was always playing it.”

What matters most?

“It’s partly the joy of invention. People think of Bach as this incredibly serious and learned composer. One of the things that always strikes me about him is the energy and the sense of play. Once he has an idea, he sees all the possibilities of it, and he can’t resist exploring them all – even sometimes into very strange realms. For me, along with the learned philosopher Bach there is the child Bach, playing with musical notes.”

Hardest to live without?

“Probably the Magnificat for the vocal works, and the Partitas for the keyboard works, especially the Fourth Partita.


“I tend to gravitate towards Edwin Fischer. It’s basically very beautiful and direct music-making. He’s really attuned to the unfolding of the drama.”

The Goldberg Variations in three words?

“Gigantic jazz riff.”

The Bach of the 21st century?

“Among recent composers, it seems to me that Ligeti was one of the most rigorous and thoughtful in the same way. He also liked to steal from all the styles around him and create an incredible counterpoint of voices.” 

Read the rest of the review here