Bach, Beethoven, Rzewski / Igor Levit
Gramophone Magazine's 2016 Recording of the Year!
Following his landmark recordings, Beethoven – The Late Piano Sonatas, and Bach Partitas, both of which won international acclaim, on his new album, Bach-Beethoven-Rzewski, virtuoso pianist Igor Levit is now tackling the three greatest sets of keyboard variations. The new album features Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, long considered acid tests of the performer’s art, along with Frederic Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated, based on the Chilean revolutionary song ¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!, that has the reputation of being nearly unplayable. Bach-Beethoven-Rzewski will be released as a three-CD box set with a limited-edition slipcase.
The vaulting artistic ambitions of Russo-German pianist Igor Levit were already proclaimed by his first two albums. The response from the international media was as broad as it was universally ecstatic. Alex Ross of The New Yorker proclaimed, “After a few minutes, I was transfixed. He was playing with technical brilliance, tonal allure, intellectual drive and an elusive quality that the Germans indicate with the word Innigkeit, or inwardness.” Today, after a few years on the international scene, this young artist has emerged as one of the leading pianists of our time, combining supreme interpretative earnestness with sparkling technique and extraordinary versatility.
Igor Levit’s late Beethoven sonatas (11/13) and Bach Partitas (10/14) on Sony Classical have already made bold declarations of his pianistic and artistic prowess. Now he confirms his appetite for the big entrance with three monuments to variation form.
Certainly he can muster all the athleticism, velocity and finesse of a competition winner ready to burst on to the international scene. But like the rarest of that breed, his playing already has a far-seeing quality that raises him to the status of the thinking virtuoso.
Frederic Rzewski can hardly complain at daunting comparisons with Bach and
Beethoven, since his variation set The People United Will Never Be Defeated! so conspicuously invites them. Levit's recording comes with an wide range of color and attack, and an almost tangible sense of mission. Levit’s ‘Improvisation’ (an option allowed by the composer before the final reappearance of the theme) has a summative power that surpasses even Hamelin's.
Likewise, his Diabelli Variations features playing of unfailing concentration and insight. To say that Levit can withstand comparison with Kovacevich’s 1968 recording, as well as Anderszewski's and Schiff's, is the highest praise.
Levit’s Goldberg Variations range themselves more naturally alongside the patrician intelligence of a Perahia than with the sui generis extremes of a Glenn Gould.
Should a finer piano recording comes my way this year I shall be delighted, but frankly also astonished.
After acclaimed accounts of Beethoven’s last sonatas and Bach’s partitas, Mr. Levit shows no sign of slowing down. In this smart set, Bach’s “Goldbergs,” Beethoven’s “Diabellis” and Frederic Rzewski’s “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” become a triptych of three centuries of pianistic history: a total of 99 variations, each played with intellectual rigor and uncommon fire.
- New York Times
Release Date: October 30, 2015
Catalog Number: 88875060962
Label: Sony Music Entertainment
Number of Discs: 3
Composer: Frederic Rzewski, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer: Igor Levit