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Pianist Denk brings music, personality to UNLV

Make music.

Make conversation.

Make conversation about music.

Audiences get it all when Jeremy Denk comes out to play.

“Sometimes there’s a lingo surrounding classical music that’s off-putting and academic-sounding,” says the classical pianist. “I try to counteract that.”

Explanations and insights accompany a visit from Denk, whose next stop is the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on Saturday, teaming with the Utah Symphony at Artemus W. Ham Hall.

“Sometimes I find the program notes inadequate so I try to add to them. This music is where I live, it’s home, and I don’t think it should be thought of as strange or difficult. Even when it’s challenging music — and I often play very challenging music — I think it should be, and is, accessible.”

Opening UNLV’s Charles Vanda Master Series, Denk and the Utah gang will perform Mendelssohn’s “The Hebrides,” Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 1” and Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 8.”

Described by music critics as “dramatically satisfying” and “one of the best pianists of his generation,” Denk is also known as one of the most expressive onstage and informal online, where his popular blog, “Think Denk” (jeremydenk.net/blog) is widely read by those in the music press, and often written with a puckish sense of humor.

“I’m pretty irreverent,” he says, but it’s all in the service of closing that gaping chasm that can separate classical musicians from listeners.

“People often feel comfortable talking about anything but the music because it’s very hard to talk about music,” Denk says about patrons he encounters after performances, who often focus on his warmly engaging explanations and his obvious passion, rather than what he played.

“Even musicians will tell you how difficult it is for them to talk about the music they’re playing. I wish we were less removed from it because there’s a tremendous amount to tell you about incredible masterpieces.”

Tickets are $35, $50 and $75 and can be purchased by calling 895-2787 or visiting pac.unlv.edu.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

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