All products and recordings are chosen independently by our editorial team. This review contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission for purchases made. Please read our affiliates FAQ page to find out more.

On DSCH (Igor Levit)

Igor Levit (piano) (Sony Classical)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugue; R Stevenson: Passacaglia on DSCH
Igor Levit (piano)
Sony Classical 19439809212   231:14 mins (3 discs)


If Igor Levit were a climber, I imagine he would endeavour to conquer El Capitan’s sheer face or the savage K2 in winter. The 34-year-old pianist is fearless, determined and fired up by monumental challenges. Think late Beethoven and vast sets of variations. His latest solo offering is if anything yet more ambitious: Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, clocking in at around two and a half hours, followed by Ronald Stevenson’s extraordinary Passacaglia on DSCH, for which you’ll need the best part of 90 minutes.

Yet the first surprise of this album – which you will absolutely want to hear – is the subtlety and intimacy of Levit’s playing. He unerringly draws out the emotions in each of Shostakovich’s miniatures, which were inspired by Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavierand written at a fraught time for the Soviet composer. From the gentle lull of the opening Prelude in C major to the gathering force of the final Fugue No. 24 in D minor, Levit’s lucid approach pays dividends.

In the Passacaglia on DSCH, the Scottish composer (also pacifist, communist and vegetarian) turns Shostakovich’s four-note musical monogram into a gargantuan three-part epic. Stevenson’s ancestors in terms of wild pianistic virtuosity are Liszt and Alkan, the movements encompass models from Baroque sarabande to Scottish pibroch, fanfare to fandango, nocturne to triple fugue, and his material is unrelenting, fierce and remarkable. Only a handful of pianists have scaled the heights of Stevenson’s tour de force. Levit does so in unforgettable style.


Rebecca Franks