One very good reason to buy this new classical album
Jeremy Denk's new album c.1300-c.2000 received what can only be described as a stinker of a review in the Gramophone. According to reviewer Michelle Assay c.1300-c.2000 has...
"passed into the zone marked ‘futile’...almost the entire first disc makes little sense...the result sounds little better than clever monochrome doodling...we get into the objections of having the history of classical music told via a few works by a few great white men...the conceptual flaws of the project remain glaring...[Jeremy Denk] says that his aim is to tell a story rather than to be didactic; either way he falls short".Let me explain why that review is a very good reason for every reader to at least audition this new album. We live in an age of hypermediation. Music is mediated into playlists and mixtapes that fit neatly into our comfort zones. Self-important critics and radio presenters interpose themselves between listener and music. Social media - now a primary information source - is covertly mediated by algorithms and filter bubbles which guarantee that our musical prejudices and preconceptions will only be reinforced.
Such is the relentless domination of these intermediaries that a new and significant phenomenon is emerging - intermediary dissonance. For a small but growing group - which includes this writer - excessive hype by intermediaries of a composer or performer - e.g. how a conductor is saving classical music - is a clear 'avoid at all costs' signal. Conversely an excessively negative review - "this project has passed into the zone marked ‘futile’" - is a 'most definitely worth exploring' signal.
'Early adopters' are those who embrace new techno-cultural trends ahead of the wave. But another new force, again small but growing, is emerging - 'early rejecters'. These free thinkers swim against the techno-cultural tide mindlessly surfed by the intermediaries. The emerging power of the 'early rejecters' is shown by the backlash against the virtual experience of music streaming. This triggered the spectacular rejuvenation of the vinyl market: a significant development scorned by the cultural commentators and still largely ignored by the blinkered classical industry.
The Gramophone once had authority. But there is now a saying that musicians who can, do; while those who can't, write for the Gramophone. I have no aspirations, yet alone qualifications, to be a critic. But as a humble early rejecter who is severely afflicted by intermediary dissonance, this is my review of Jeremy Denk's c.1300-c.2000.
It is debatable whether the classical discography needs another complete recording of Beethoven’s Op 111 sonata. But there is a more convincing argument that classical music needs prejudices and preconceptions to be challenged, and pianist Jeremy Denk's impeccable artistic credentials grant him the creative license to do just that with his overarching new project c.1300-c.2000.No review samples used in this post. Post-upload amendments are not picked up on RSS feeds. To see the latest version of a post please visit the Overgrown Path website. New Overgrown Path posts are available via RSS/email by entering your email address in the right-hand sidebar. Any copyrighted material is included for critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).
Another reading of the Op 111 sonata is unlikely to bring fresh insights to this masterpiece. But juxtaposing it with transcriptions of Machaut and Binchois, as Jeremy Denk does, opens up rewarding new perspectives. In his seminal The Hero with a Thousand Faces Joseph Campbell leads us on an exploration of the role across the ages of the archetypal hero in the world of myths. Similarly, in c1300-c2000 Jeremy Denk leads us on an exploration of the role of the archetypal composing hero in the world of classical masterpieces. But don't take my word or that of any other biased intermediary. Please at least listen to this remarkable new album and make up your own mind - sample via this link.