Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest pianists of the early twenty-first century, Igor Levit was born in Gorky in 1987 but moved to Hanover in 1995, where he subsequently studied at the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien. He made his recording debut on Sony Classical in 2013, with the last four Beethoven sonatas; the album was greeted with widespread critical acclaim, with BBC Music Magazine declaring that ‘those who are searching for perfection can stop here…revelatory experiences like this don’t come often in a lifetime’ and Gramophone describing the recording as ‘a debut of true significance’. Levit won the newcomer of the Year at the 2014 BBC Music Magazine Awards in recognition of the recording; his third album (a triptych of variations by Bach, Beethoven and Rzewski) was Recording of the Year at the 2016 Gramophone Awards, and in 2018 he won the instrumental category of the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards.
Passionate and outspoken about political issues, Levit caused controversy in 2017 when he performed Liszt’s transcription of the ‘Ode to Joy’ from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (adopted as the anthem of the European Union) as an unscripted encore at the first night of the BBC Proms, following a performance of the Third Piano Concerto - the concert was the first Prom since the Brexit referendum.
Further Reading: Igor Levit
Igor Levit explores music of transfiguration and transcendence in his Life Album, an eclectic recital of Bach-via-Busoni and Wagner-via-Liszt.
Katherine listens to three sets of variations from the formidable Russian-German pianist Igor Levit.