Skip To Content

For years I’ve been reading the essays and blog posts of MacArthur “genius” grant-winning pianist Jeremy Denk. Not since Leonard Bernstein has the music world had such a compelling explainer. Who else would compare a moment in the first movement of Beethoven’s Opus 31 No. 3 to a “Seinfeld” episode? Last March, I finally heard Denk play with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, performing Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 2, a piece so technically demanding that critics have called it a “knucklebuster.” When he was done, the audience leaped to its feet. On November 13, four of us were back to hear Denk in a solo program that included works by Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Before beginning, he announced that—because he suspected some of us had slept as poorly as he had that week — he’d be swapping out John Adams’ “Phyrygian Gates” for more cheering fare, including piano rags by Scott Joplin and William Bolcom. Denk, a truly physical player, can go from the lightest touch to the fastest frenzy; you literally see the music moving through him. We went in contemplating our doom and left in awed silence, our feet hardly touching the floor.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.