Igor Levit

Beethoven: The Late Piano Sonatas, Opp. 101, 106, 109, 110, 111

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Igor Levit makes his debut on Sony in the last six piano sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven, a part of the repertoire that is usually reserved for mature artists, not rising stars. Yet in spite of some signs of youthful enthusiasm, and a possible loss of objectivity from playing these pieces on a busy recital schedule, Levit has a good feeling for Beethoven's late style, and his 2013 release is a promising beginning for his recording career. The excessive use of rubato is something Levit should watch, because too much alteration of the tempo dissipates Beethoven's energy, and even though these sonatas have their moments of reverie and trance-like passages that can be interpreted as mystical experiences, too much elasticity can make them seem like idle daydreams, or worse, forgetfulness. On the whole, though, Levit shows his thorough mastery of the notes, and he can handle Beethoven's myriad syncopations and unconventional counterpoint with great agility. Ultimately, what proves Levit's preparedness for playing these sonatas has less to do with his technical abilities and more to do with his expression and understanding of Beethoven's rarefied sound world. Levit has captured the otherworldly quality that is a hallmark of the late works, and he grasps the forms that give the music meaning, whether in the labored fugues or the sublime variations. It will be interesting to see if Levit revisits these sonatas at a future date, if only to discover how he will grow with them, which he surely will. Sony's recording is up close and personal, so the occasionally faint dynamics are entirely Levit's doing.

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