Jeremy Denk's New Album, "c.1300–c.2000," Due February 8 on Nonesuch Records

01.31.19
Jeremy Denk
NPR

Nonesuch Records releases pianist Jeremy Denk's c.1300–c.2000 on February 8, 2019. The two-disc album captures a program of works spanning seven centuries that Denk created and performed at venues including Lincoln Center, Wigmore Hall, and Piano aux Jacobins. "The history of so-called classical music felt closer to me now than it did when I first learned about it in college, not just more relevant, but more alive. Wouldn't it be amazing, I wondered, to experience this sweep and arc in one sitting?" For that program, Denk performed twenty-four pieces by composers ranging from Machaut to Ligeti—with Binchois, Gesualdo, Stockhausen, Philip Glass, and many others in the middle.

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It's little surprise, then, to learn that Denk's new double album sets out to present nothing less than 700 years of music history. Titled c.1300–c.2000, the collection begins with a quietly brooding song by the medieval poet and composer Guillaume de Machaut and ends, some 100 minutes later, with a whiplashing étude by György Ligeti.

Denk thinks of his centuries-long survey in terms of storytelling, or a string of "sonic snapshots" tracing music history, as he puts it in the booklet notes. "It has climaxes where everything seems to be about the miracle of creation, and it has moments of impasse, where it's not clear how things can go on, or if they even will," he writes.

The bulk of the first album contains medieval and Renaissance-era songs. In Denk's own sparse arrangements, a few of them, such as Machaut's opening "Doulz amis" (Sweet Friends) and the tender Kyrie from Josquin des Prez's Missa Pange lingua, sound surprisingly contemporary: not too far off, say, from music by jazz pianists like Fred Hersch or Keith Jarrett.

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