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Igor Levit is clearly a pianist who relishes a challenge. Following his 2013 debut recording of Beethoven’s late sonatas, which won him many plaudits, he’s now chosen to explore the Bach Partitas, and his playing again deserves the highest praise. Levit has acknowledged that, in preparing such daunting projects, he ‘had to struggle with every note’, but added that, with Bach’s music in particular, he had positively ‘enjoyed the struggle’. There are no audible traces of struggle here, except perhaps in the numerous subtle touches and overall fluency that bespeak a close familiarity with musical detail. However, his keen sense of enjoyment is very evident and fuels a performance that sounds consistently fresh and engaging.

The CD notes quote a letter by Robert Schumann that refers to the ‘logical, poetic and humoristic’ facets of Bach’s music. These are traits to which Levit seems especially attuned. He’s alert to Bach’s abstruse whimsy in the tricky C minor Capriccio and elusive G major Tempo di Minuetto. He brings out the logic in the intricate counterpoint of the G major and E minor Gigues, maintaining both clarity of line and rhythmic panache. He’s sensitive to Bach’s poeticism, from anguished soul-searching in the E minor Sarabande to the dreamy enchantment of the D major Allemande. Levit perhaps flirts with Romanticism in the latter, lingering for two to three minutes longer than, say, Hewitt, Perahia or Schiff, but it works beautifully – and, at 27, he’s probably allowed a little youthful indiscretion.

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