The Amazing Mr Levit

Some thoughts on the remarkable Mr Levit.
Having heard such good reports about Igor Levit from musicians whose opinions I trust completely I was very keen to be able to hear this young pianist for myself.
His Beethoven Sonata series in the Wigmore hall where musical integrity and real musicianship are paramount requirements for a very discerning audience was sold out .
A hall where artists of the quality of Andras Schiff,Angela Hewitt,Graham Johnson,Stephen Isserlis,Paul Lewis reign may give an indication of the unique values that are upheld in this hallowed hall by the democratic Mr Gilhooly.
A hall that has gone from strength to strength ,never compromising its fundamental principles ,since that famous series in 1976 devised by William Lyne to try to stop this much loved hall from being knocked down and redeveloped.
I well remember Artur Rubinstein after beseeching the audience at his last appearance in public not to allow them to pull the hall down where he had started and finished his career.
Now almost blind he opened the doors to his adoring public to say a last farewell. He may have been blind but not too blind to notice the beautiful Lauren Bacall that had come backstage to embrace her hero.
Mr Levit obviously very much the flavour of the month and having heard recently varied reports of his “Emperor” with the LSO I was very pleased to see that the BBC were transmitting live his final recital of the last three Beethoven Sonatas.
Armed with a radio ,wine and the Henle Urtext I awaited in the leafy glades of Kew on a wonderful balmy night for the first magical strains of op.109.
Having much experience of the PR boys promotion of the most remarkably talented musicians but often at variants with my own musical values.
So on/off knob prominently at the ready!
Was it not Igor Pogorelich,one of the greatest young pianists the world has known ,who had the jury of the Chopin Competition fighting amongst themselves .
Martha Argerich walked out in protest that such a pianist could be eliminated from an International Competition where this contestant could undoubtedly play better than any of the distinguished jury members.
Should a competition be judged on musical integrity or on phenomenal pianistic capability?
Are competitions a fair judge of true artistry.
None of the Wigmore Hall stars has run off with a Gold Medal from International competitions yet they are applauded worldwide.
This created a scandal that infact launched Pogorelich onto the world stage where the public could decide for themselves depending on their values also helped by his film star good looks that had a great appeal for a less discerning public.
Lang lang too has an appeal for a vast public and although he is not always able to maintain his musical principles he has brought music to the masses .
These are in fact entertainers and not necessarily to be confused with great interpreters whose sole aim is to transmit the composers wishes.
Occasionally we are treated to an artist that can combine both.
In my day and for many others of my generation this was epitomised in Artur Rubinstein.
Having heard recently much admired and lauded pianists such as Bozhanov and Trpceski.
Amazing as they are we beg to differ on musical matters.
Was it not Deutsche Grammophon who sent to Perlemuter for some words of praise for the launch of the extraordinary recording of Pogorelich playing some major works of Ravel with whom Perlemuter had studied.
“Quesque c’est que ca” exclaimed Perlemuter who had spent a lifetime studying and worrying over interpretative details in the scores.
I need not have worried for here from Levit was extraordinarily accomplished playing. Scrupulous attention to the composers indications and a super human sense of colour and a musicianship that had one referring to the score to check details that were truly there in works that one has heard many times before.
Hardly a false note in the entire 75 minutes of this pinnacle of the pianistic repertoire.
A wonderful way to spend a summer evening and I put the fact that there did not seem to be much magic or atmosphere down to the fact that the radio produces canned not fresh food as Gilels was fond of saying.
However a much esteemed friend and indeed a world authority on all there is to know of pianists alive or dead said the following wise and measured words that confirmed my feeling of why was I so moved by Perahia`s op 111 the other night when here there was not just the last sonata on it’s own but the last three but I remained astonished but totally unmoved.
“Struggle” was the word that put meaning back into an uneasy feeling where words failed me.
“Look Chris “,he said “I sat through the second performance at ten , a repeat of the 7.30 performance that had been added due to great public demand.
I was amazed and astonished by the remarkable technical and musical command .
I kept thinking of how amazing it was to play these three works so perfectly for the second time in the same evening.
A quick cup of tea between performances and he could play them all over again.
But Chris I remember in the 70`s the monumental performance of Claudio Arrau where together we had scaled the heights of this musical pinnacle.
We came out totally exhausted and satisfied that we had been through a draining,unforgettable musical experience together.
Never for a second was there time to think of the remarkable musical and technical prowess of this master.
Mr Levit on the other hand could have repeated them all night long.
“Water off a remarkable duck`s back indeed”.
How do you teach struggle?
What is soul?
It is the domain of the truly great to look on in amazement at what they are moulding in their hands.
Only time and experience of life will tell.
We are indeed in the hands of the Gods.
In the meantime play on Mr Levit I too shall be there to follow your remarkable career

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