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Who but Igor Levit would dare produce an album so serious, so devoid of obvious outward appeal as this? As with his previous album Life, this is an extraordinary and audacious achievement, a transcription programme the reverse of glittering showstoppers. Even in the moto perpetuo whirl of the fourth of the Bach-Busoni arrangements, Levit gives Horowitz a run for his money, and he is no less convincing in the inwardness and serenity of the tenth. In Brahms-Busoni you sense how one composer’s warmth is subsumed into the austerity of another, while in Levit’s hands Reger’s often rich and hefty textures are as lucid as they are grand. Finally there is Morton Feldman’s Palais de Mari, in which ‘a note is struck, a sound heard, then silence.’ For Feldman, ‘polyphony sucks’, and his supposed transparency and transcendence can seem too much like a blank sheet or an empty space. As for Levit, he is hardly less outspoken: ‘When I sit down and play Chopin I find it, or maybe it’s me, dumb’. One wonders what else lurks beneath his unfaltering sheen and assurance, but whether photographed beringed, smiling, in spectacles or bent double over the keyboard, he is never simply ‘another pianist’.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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