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Classical Pianist Jeremy Denk Awarded $625,000 MacArthur Genius Grant

By James Inverne on Sep 25, 2013 12:06 PM EDT

It's always nice to be hailed as a genius (I presume, it's never actually happened to me). The MacArthur Foundation makes this claim, or rather it is made for them, on a regular basis for the fortunate recipients of its fellowships, which are generally known as their "genius grants." And part of the grants' in-built kudos, no doubt, comes from its lavish gift, which this year is increased to $625,000. Among the 2013 awardees are the New York-based pianist Jeremy Denk.

Denk, 43, was perhaps first best-known for his long-time partnership with the superstar violinist Joshua Bell. But his star has risen as he has enjoyed much acclaim in recent years for his solo work and some splendidly incisive, thought-provoking articles. The MacArthur Foundation said in a release that he was receiving his award as, "Writer and concert pianist who combines his skills to help readers and listeners to better appreciate classical music."

For a nice insight into Denk's working practices, have a look at this excellent 2012 NPR video of his practice routine.

The grants are decided upon by an anonymous group, and recipients know nothing about it until they're told they've received one. Previous classical musicians to have won include: Conlon Nancarrow, Milton Babbitt, John Harbison, Bright Sheng, Osvaldo Golijov, Marin Alsop, Dawn Upshaw, Alisa Weilerstein, Leila Josefowicz and Sebastian Ruth. Some classical musicologists and music writers have also won, notably Alex Ross for his book The Rest Is Noise in 2008.

And if you want to catch Jeremy Denk in concert, he's a busy artist, so there are lots of opportunities--especially in the United States. October 2013 will see him playing Bach's Goldberg Variations in Chicago, then in November he plays Mozart concerti with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra both in their hometown and, later in the month, at Carnegie Hall in New York. Also in Champaign, Ill. The end of that month finds him playing Mozart again at Saint Paul, while early December has him in Cincinnati.

See more details at his website.

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TagsJeremy Denk, MacArthur Foundation, Joshua Bell, NPR Music, Milton Babbitt, Marin Alsop, Alex Ross, Bach, Goldberg Variations, Mozart, San Francisco Symphony, Carnegie Hall