Prom 60, Royal Albert Hall, review: Jeremy Denk and the San Francisco Symphony brilliantly revive Henry Cowell

09.03.15
Jeremy Denk
The Independent

Yet another coup for Proms director Edward Blakeman: composed in 1928, but only now getting its first Proms airing, Henry Cowell’s Piano Concerto proved a revelation. 

Pianist Jeremy Denk and the San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas’s direction gave this work the best possible run, and it really is extraordinary in that the soloist spends most of the time hitting the keyboard with his forearms and elbows, thus producing Cowell’s trademark note-clusters. One might have expected the result to be shambolic, but the reverse was the case: with the orchestra playing tonally and the piano in seeming opposition, the result was a highly organised and strikingly lyrical work. Denk’s encore – The Allcotts by Charles Ives, who was one of Cowell’s supporters – rounded things off with a breath of New England charm.
 
Read the rest of the review here