TAFTO 2008 Contribution: Jeremy Denk

I have a terrible confession to make. When I was 13 or so, I loved to watch chess tournaments on PBS. Shelby Lyman, I believe, was the host of these programs, and they were surprisingly campy. On the particular fateful day that I’m thinking of, for instance, Tim Rice (frequent librettist for Andrew Lloyd-Webber) appeared as guest authority, on the basis of his musical “Chess.” I not only watched, but taped, this program; puberty was wreaking havoc on my judgement. Right afterwards, a Verdi opera, Falstaff, came on; I let the VCR record this too. Of course I didn’t know from Falstaff, but whoa dude! I was entranced, delighted, smitten; I sat, glued, inches from the grainy screen, and watched while my mother yelled at me to vacuum my room or something; and when the final fugue happened and all the characters in the last joyous bars vanished from the stage leaving merely the empty forest landscape, leaving the impression that it had all been a beautiful dream … well, I was beside myself, a happy happy tween. 84-year-old Verdi had come, perhaps in the nick of time, to rescue 13-year-old me from associates of Andrew Lloyd Webber.