Beginning with the 2014-15 season, Denk will work with the SPCO for three years on performances, collaborations with vocal artists, new commissions by American composers and a North American tour.
The appointment is "a dream come true," said Denk, reached Monday in Boston. He likened the experience to "a sort of laboratory experiment, trying out different programming ideas, creating new combinations of pieces, exploring repertoire I don't normally get to."
Denk, 43, has performed many times with the SPCO, most recently this season, playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25 and the Brahms' Piano Quintet. He said he is looking forward to the luxury of spending time with the musicians.
As a guest artist, "these concerts are like going on a series of blind dates," Denk said. "Just as you're finally beginning to understand and feel comfortable with the other person, you have to leave. There's something wonderful and comforting about forming this kind of long-term musical friendship."
Denk might justifiably be called a current It Guy of classical music. He has recently run up a string of accolades, including a 2013 MacArthur "genius grant."
He was named 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year for 2013 by Musical America, and it was announced Monday that he won the $75,000 Avery Fisher Prize, an award that recognizes outstanding achievement and excellence in music. Previous recipients include Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell and Yo-Yo Ma.
Also in 2013, Denk's recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations on the Nonesuch label rose to No. 1 on Billboard's classical chart. The SPCO plans to make a recording with Denk of works by Bach and Stravinsky.
Denk, who lives in New York City, was in Boston workshopping "The Classical Style," a comic opera he wrote with composer Steven Stucky that will receive its premiere in June at the Ojai Music Festival in California, which Denk is directing this year.
He is also writing a memoir for Random House based on an essay he wrote for the New Yorker.