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The blogger who plays Beethoven

Jdenk Last night, I was lucky enough to hear pianist Jeremy Denk play Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" Sonata at Holy Trinity Church, in a concert presented by the Ramsi P. Tick Memorial Concert Series.

What a piece this is, and what a performance Denk gave. Funny thing is, though, I kept getting a weird feeling as I watched and listened. That is because I kept picturing Denk in his apartment surrounded by empty Styrofoam containers and Chinese food cartons.

Because every once in a while I peek at Denk's blog. He calls it Think Denk (in German, "Denk" means "think"). The blog is very funny, even though I do not agree with him politically and even though he writes in his blog only about once a month. Well, learning the "Hammerklavier" can keep you pretty busy. Denk is going to play this wild and woolly sonata on Nov. 11 at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Recital Hall.

In his blog, Denk refers pretty regularly to his slob, single-guy lifestyle. "Journey of a Thousand Pop Tarts: The Posting of a Concert Pianist," ran one recent headline in his blog. Nachos are mentioned as often as Brahms and Schubert. Now here he was, sitting down at that beautiful Steinway at Holy Trinity. How am I not going to think about those nachos and Pop Tarts? It is like telling yourself not to think about a brown cow. You can't help it!

This is a new experience, reading a musician's blog and getting the odd feeling that you, well, know him. It is an experience we are going to be having more and more often. We will have to get used to it.

A behind-the-scenes note about Denk that I did not have room to write in the review: He practices obsessively, hour after hour. The folks who run the Tick series whispered that he was practicing all day, up until a half an hour before the performance. Then we heard him practicing at intermission, too. He was playing the treacherous beginning of the "Hammerklavier."

I am not the only one to wonder how much practicing is too much. There have been very great pianists who believed that it was beneficial to limit yourself, so you could keep your head clear and your playing fresh. Denk didn't seem to have a problem in that department but you never know, the stress of so much intense work could eventually catch up with him. I hope he makes it a priority to take some time out to breathe.

Perhaps that way he would have more time to blog.

Denk's blog is read widely in the classical music world because of its blend of humor and scholarship. Has anyone else checked it out?

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

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