Busoni: 10 Chorale Preludes after JS Bach; 6 Chorale Preludes after JS Bach; Brahms: Vier ernste Gesänge, Op. 121; Reger: Nachtlied, Op. 138 No. 3; Feldman: Palais de Mari
Igor Levit (piano)
Sony Classical 19439786572 49:18 mins (2 discs)
While many of us have spent most of the year in a state of suspended animation – perhaps somewhere between irritation and boredom – other more resolute specimens have managed to pull themselves together and actually do something productive. It goes without saying that Igor Levit has made himself busy by broadcasting from his apartment each day, playing pieces that both stimulate and console, as well as introducing pieces that listeners may not be familiar with. He begins with all Busoni’s piano versions of Bach’s chorales for organ, wonderful pieces of which only two are regularly performed: Ich ruf’ zu Dir and Nun kommt der Heiden Heiland. All of them are sublime, but Levit disappointed me: not drastically, but given the exalted level at which he normally operates, I had expected something even more quietly intense. My expectations of the arrangements of Brahms’s Four Serious Songs were lower, since they seem unsuitable for piano; but if you like them this way, Levit provides a superior account.
Levit provides a commentary on why he played what he did; it essentially serves as one more of his efforts to improve the lot of mankind. He hopes to bring us peace by playing Morton Feldman’s last composition, a 26-minute piece of ultra-modernism. The idea is apparently that the listener lapses into a trance-like state – though I’m afraid it was rather lost on me. Igor Levit is without question a great artist, but these discs show him attempting to be more.