It has just been announced that Jeremy Denk – “one of his generation’s most eloquent and thoughtful interpreters” (New York Times) – has won the 2014 Avery Fisher Prize, one of classical music’s most coveted honors. Selected for his artistic excellence and outstanding contributions to the music world, the pianist, who is also a former Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, will be formally recognized at an invitational ceremony on Thursday, May 29, at Lincoln Center. Denk has also been named as the newest Artistic Partner of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, where his three-year tenure will begin in the 2014-15 season.
As the New York Times observes, in a feature titled “String of High Notes for Pianist,” the two announcements crown a sensational season for Denk, who won both a 2013 MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship and Musical America’s 2014 Instrumentalist of the Year last fall. At Carnegie Hall with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, he proved himself a “superb soloist …, exuding personality, teasing out humor with widely varied touch and articulation” (New York Times), while his recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations topped the Billboard classical chart and was named one of the “Best of 2013” by the New Yorker and the New York Times. In June he looks forward to serving as Music Director of the 68th annual Ojai Music Festival, at which, besides performing and curating, he will oversee the world premiere of a new opera, The Classical Style, with music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky and a libretto by Denk himself, who describes it as “a love letter to Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, and a satire of classical pomp.” The pianist’s blog, Think Denk, is widely read and enjoyed both within and outside the industry, and he has made witty and personal contributions to the New Yorker, the New York Times Review of Books, Newsweek, the New Republic, and the website of NPR Music. The New Yorker recently published a personal history that will form the basis of Denk’s forthcoming memoir, Every Good Boy Does Fine, to be published by Random House in the 2015-16 season. As the Washington Post observes, he is “one of the most interesting pianists around.”
Denk’s partnership with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) marks his first such appointment with an orchestra. In their first season together, he and the SPCO look forward to playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 and works by Bach and Janácek. Over the next three years, his work with the SPCO will include recording Bach and Stravinsky on Nonesuch Records in addition to giving live chamber and concerto performances, collaborating with vocal artists, and premiering new commissions by both emerging and established American composers. In the 2016-17 season, Denk and the SPCO will tour North America under the auspices of Opus 3 Artists.
Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Avery Fisher Artist Program was established in 1974 by the late Avery Fisher as part of a major gift to Lincoln Center, and serves as a monument to his philanthropy and love of music. Awarded to outstanding U.S. instrumentalists and, since 2004, chamber ensembles as well, the Avery Fisher Prize comes with a monetary compensation of $75,000. Previous recipients include such illustrious names as Lynn Harrell, Murray Perahia, Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Richard Goode, Yefim Bronfman, Joshua Bell, Gil Shaham, and the Emerson and Kronos Quartets.