Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Mattieu Arama, and Igor Levit

Vaguely alarming, this immense deluge of highly talented young pianists and violinists. Every day seems to bring a handful of great new violinists, mainly from France, Germany, Hungary, Czech & Slovakia, Russia, Japan, Korea and China -- with a good dash of Canadians. Were there always such numbers in the past, but it was just that they never had a chance to make their names before the advent of several hundred record companies, YouTube and music downloads? Yesterday saw me listening to Matthieu Arama's début CD on which he offers a number of attractive virtuoso works by Wieniawski, Paganini, Sarasate et al, interspersed with welcome morsels from Elgar and Tchaikovsky. His technique is exemplary; the musicianship impeccable; the recording excellent. Most enjoyable. Arama is French, and hails from Bordeaux. As with pretty well all these modern virtuosi, one does not get the individuality of a Kreisler, Szigeti or Heifetz. But then, one also does not get the peculiarities of Jan Kubelik or Bronislaw Huberman, or the later precarious technique of Ruggiero Ricci.

Then on to Igor Levit, a Russian who grew up in Germany and who has now reached the advanced age of 26 years old and has been heralded as a genuine great pianist by pretty well everyone in the universe. Swayed by the crowd, I bought his début recording -- the last five piano sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven. Some début. Beethoven's later works - sonatas and string quartets - are the works of an individual who was no longer too concerned about wowing audiences, nor about catering to the foibles of sundry pianists or string players. The works are ideally interpreted by someone who eschews all posturing and external effects, and who forgets about the 18th century, critics, and audiences. Levit here is such an interpreter. I admire his concentration, his refusal to play to any gallery, his immaculate technique (of course) and his total immersion in these difficult works. I know the last sonata, Opus 111, extremely well having first acquired it in the 1950s played by Julius Katchen. Suffice it to say that, as played here by Igor Levit, all other versions I possess are quite blown away by this latest one. Marvellous playing, and marvellous musicianship. I long to hear Levit next in late Schubert.

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