There are pianists such as Stephen Hough for whom writing is almost as important as music. Jeremy Denk, Oberlin, Indiana and Juilliard graduate and recipient of a 2013 MacArthur Genius Fellowship, is another.
Denk’s approach to the piano reveals an imaginative, inquisitive mind. To take one example: his album c.300-c.2000, on the Nonesuch label: Machaut, Ockeghem, Gesualdo, Monteverdi, Bach, Beethoven, Stockhausen, Glass . . . has there ever been another solo piano recording quite like it?
But Denk’s literary debut Every Good Boy Does Fine: A Love Story, in Music Lessons, is no less creative and insightful. Indeed, it deserves a place on the shelf of every music lover – especially the non-professional musicians amongst us.
For Denk, like Bernstein before him, has the gift of making musical analysis accessible without sounding condescending. It can even be autobiographical, another kind of analysis. Describing the final note of a Beethoven melody, he writes: “But when we arrive back – as often happens in life – home has changed. It is now a dissonance, and has to resolve away...