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A Monument for Beethoven

Yoav Levanon (piano) (Warner Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

A Monument for Beethoven
Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor; Grande Étude de Paganini No. 3 ‘La Campanella’; Mendelssohn: Variations sérieuses, Op. 54; R Schumann: Fantasie in C; Chopin: Prelude No. 25 in C sharp minor
Yoav Levanon (piano)
Warner Classics 9029642552   81:59 mins

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For his debut recording, Yoav Levanon has created a monument for Beethoven. The title refers to the bronze statue of the German composer erected in Bonn in 1845, originally mooted for the 75th anniversary of his birth. Yet it’s the spirit of Liszt that brings this programme to life, opening with the mighty B minor Sonata: the virtuoso, after all, galvanised the monument’s fundraising campaign. There’s a temptation to wonder how far the album idea was inspired by the Israeli-French pianist’s naturally Lisztian looks. It’s certainly played up on the front cover, with his swept-back dark hair, pale face, and silk cravat, while the booklet photoshoot goes all out in recreating a scene from the Romantic hero’s life.

Levanon is undaunted by Liszt’s Sonata, giving a performance of heroic sweep. A powerful player, the 18-year-old is nimble and articulate in the virtuoso passages, dramatic with the rhetorical flourishes, tender and lyrical when required. For the most part, he lands the music’s emotional climaxes, though in the final third his grip of its architecture loosens. Liszt dedicated the piece to Schumann, reciprocating the honour bestowed on him in the Fantasie in C, written to help raise funds for the monument. Levanon is an assured and elegant Schumann player, yet there’s room to find more spontaneity and fire. His approach pays off best in Mendelssohn’s Variations sérieuses in D minor, Op. 54, also composed for the fundraiser. Elsewhere, we sample his crystalline Chopin playing in the C sharp minor Prelude No. 25, and both poetry and caprice in Liszt’s La Campanella.

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Rebecca Franks