Igor Levit plays Beethoven (7 of 8)
The 32 piano sonatas in 8 concerts
Citizen – European – pianist. These concepts not only characterise Igor Levit as a public figure, but also as an artist. For him, art and society are by no means separate spheres. And he will follow this credo in his interpretations of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, which he will perform on eight separate concerts at Musikfest Berlin 2020.
Igor Levit’s history with Beethoven began 18 years ago, when the then 14-year-old first heard the “Missa solemnis” and found himself overwhelmed. Shortly afterwards, he studied one of the first sonatas by Beethoven, which was to stay with him for several years. In 2010, he undertook to perform and record all the sonatas – he had already caused quite a stir with a sensational interpretation of the “Diabelli Variations”. He finalised the complete recordings of the sonatas in 2019. In 2020, he will present these 32 pieces at the Berlin Philharmonie as part of the Musikfest Berlin.
The sonatas encompass a creative period of around a quarter of a century. Their composition began at a time when Beethoven was a celebrated piano virtuoso in Vienna – although what he truly wanted was to be recognised as a composer – and ended after the death of the woman who was perhaps his “Immortal Beloved”, in the midst of his work on the “Missa solemnis”. Beethoven covered the entire cosmos of what appeared conceivable in sonatas at the time, from the “easy” pieces, which he adapted to the taste and playing ability of their recipients, to the bold works that pushed the established limits, such as the “Hammerklavier”- or the final Sonata in C minor. Levit does not play the sonatas in the chronological order of their creation: Instead, he juxtaposes pieces of a different type from various periods of Beethoven’s work, creating pairs that have a contrast-rich relationship with each other. He wants to establish dialogues rather than a catalogue. They demand a common foundation but also, above all, evident differences. This enhances the clarity of contours and, thus, the eloquence of Beethoven’s music.