Saturday, 10 June 2017

Igor Levit plays Rachmaninov

Igor Levit is a modern pianist who – so far – can do little wrong, in my eyes. I had pigeon-holed him as a supreme pianist in the classical repertoire: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert. Not a Romantic. I was therefore intrigued when a friend directed me to an off-air performance (6th June) of Levit playing Rachmaninov, one of the great late-Romantic composers. I should have reflected more; some of the very best performances of Rachmaninov's works are by the composer himself, who had no truck with icing the cake and gilding the lily when it came to playing his own works. Rachmaninov played them straight.

Levit gives a superb performance à la Rachmaninov of the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Levit is recognisably Levit in the playing, and I should have reflected in advance on his expressed love of playing variations. Superb support comes from the Bavarian State Orchestra under Kirill Petrenko, and the two ex-Russians with one of the world's top orchestras give a performance of Rachmaninov's Rhapsody that goes straight to the top 2-3 performances I can think of. I'll watch out eagerly for more opportunities to sample Igor Levit playing Rachmaninov.

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