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As well as his pianistic virtuosity and his partnership with violinist Joshua Bell, Jeremy Denk is known for his wittily titled blog, Think Denk. That the pianist is a thinker, not just an executant, is clear from this striking pairing of avant-garde works. Denk gives the complex Désordre that opens Ligeti’s Book I a riotous energy, while still maintaining clarity of line. In Touches bloquées, he conveys the composer’s satire of the étude genre, with its obsessive monotony and dryness. In this ‘strength- building’ study, a finger or two are held down silently while others play twisted patterns. Arc-en-ciel (‘Rainbow’), marked ‘with swing’, is a homage to Bill Evans. Denk realises the piece with lyric poignancy.

However, his sometimes overpowering virtuosity – and a recording with in-your- face presence – mean that Beethoven’s Op 111, programmed between the two Ligeti sets, ultimately remains earthbound. Denk is attuned to its expressive extremes, realising its huge technical demands from moment to explosive moment. But his lacks the supple, breathing quality of Pollini’s magisterial interpretation – admittedly the highest comparison.

Ligeti’s pieces are miniatures whose overall shaping is a less demanding, or at least less obvious, issue. Even here, though, Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s classic set shows how tenderness can be combined with physicality – in comparison, Denk’s interpretations come across as rather brash and one-dimensional. Book II’s 14th Etude, Coloana infinita, is omitted because the pianist can’t imagine going on after number 13 – a bizarre non-ending to an otherwise very worthwhile release.

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Piano International, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing