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Jeremy Denk Talks to NPR's "Fresh Air" About His New Album, "Ligeti/Beethoven"

Jeremy Denk: "Ligeti/Beethoven" [cover]

Jeremy Denk, whose Nonesuch Records debut album, Ligeti/Beethoven, was released last week to critical acclaim, will be the guest on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross today. Denk talks with Gross about the new album, which features Ligeti’s Piano Études, Books One and Two, and Beethoven’s Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111. NPR Music, which had earlier chosen the album for a First Listen, said: "Denk plays masterfully, opening up each puzzle box in turn with vitality, wit and absolute assurance."

"Ligeti took the piano to places it had never been before, and makes demands of the pianist and the mind that had never been made before," Denk tells Gross. "But all of it is derived from ideas from earlier piano etudes and his love of the great piano repertoire."

He goes on to explain the unique challenges presented by the études.

"I did nothing else," he says of setting down to learn the pieces. "The amount of fingering, the amount of mental focus—Ligeti's deliberately written things that are going to screw with your mind in one way or another. And you have to develop new mental muscles, because he's really fascinated with simultaneous different rhythmic groupings going on, so in a way, you have to divide your body and mind into two parts."

Of the Beethoven, Denk tells Gross: "The last Beethoven sonata seems to me [to be] one of the most profound musical journeys to infinity ever made ... The whole piece seems to want to bring us from a present moment into this timeless space where everything is continuous and endless."

Tune in to your local NPR station to hear Fresh Air and listen online at npr.org, where the show will be available this evening.

To pick up a copy of Ligeti/Beethoven, head to the Nonesuch Store, where CD orders include an instant download of the album at checkout; it is also available to purchase as MP3s and FLAC lossless files.

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