Igor Levit at Wigmore Hall – Schubert & Liszt

Schubert, arr. Liszt
Sei mir gegrüsst
Moments musicaux, D780
Années de pèlerinage: Deuxième Année, Italie – Après une lecture du Dante (Fantasia quasi sonata)

Igor Levit (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 4 March, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Igor Levit. ©Felix BroedeIgor Levit began this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert with one of Liszt’s elaborate but respectful arrangements of Schubert Lieder. Sei mir gegrüsst has some grand gestures, not least arpeggios, but Levit controlled the melodic line with poise. The Russian pianist, now living in Germany, makes a protracted pause before playing, an approach that benefited the Schubert. Much of this music can be appreciated as an intimate conversation. Levit created a dialogue with the audience that added a contrary ‘and yet’ whenever the music switched from a major to minor key. The faster phrases in the first piece became a little cluttered, but Levit caught its precarious composure. The two pieces in A flat were notable for the space and embrace afforded their melodies. The brief F minor was less than Allegro vivo and given with relatively little dynamic variation, but the phrases retained their shape. The C sharp minor, was well studied, its links to Bach explored in one continuous sweep and its central section poetic and limpid. Levit marked himself out as a Schubert interpreter of distinction.

His Liszt was impressive, too, for all the right reasons – restraint in the pianissimo passages of the ‘Dante’ Sonata offering a keen sense of drama early on. His pacing felt just right, despite being on the fast side. The tritone intervals dominated from the outset but the second theme emerged with equal importance, initially fragile but growing to a massive peroration. Levit’s dynamic shading and technical control were the main features, shunning the bluster and cold virtuosity that often gets afforded to Liszt’s music. The calm after the storm followed in an encore, ‘Hommage à Rameau’ from Book I of Debussy’s Images, Levit again taking his time to express fully each phrase.

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