This, on paper, mouth-watering release, http://www.colinscolumn.com/igor-levit-new-album-tristan-released-9th-sep/, proves, upon listening, to be an altogether special experience, which opens with the best-known Liebestraum of Liszt, No.3, played with sweetness and passion by Igor Levit. This is followed by Hans Werner Henze’s fifty-minute Tristan (1973), a continuous work for piano, orchestra and tape, utterly compelling in its atmosphere, suggestion, incident and drama, Levit, the piano part has some beautiful expressionism, in collaboration with the immaculately prepared Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted by Franz Welser-Möst, spectral, theatrical and climactic (and listen out for a quotation from Brahms’s First Symphony – track four, 7:32-7:44 – not sure why it’s there though, and it returns), the tape part effective if enigmatic, as is the work as a whole, and volatile, and searing at times, and maybe aleatoric in a couple of places.
CD2 starts with the Prelude to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (Henze quotes from Act III), transcribed for piano by Zoltán Kocsis, spare essentials gathering sonority and volume to uninhibited fortissimo, quite haunting, as is Ronald Stevenson’s faithful arrangement of the first-movement Adagio from Mahler’s Tenth Symphony, Levit alone for twenty-eight minutes with Mahler’s final musical thoughts, albeit, given the Symphony as a whole, unfinished ones; the multi-note climax is alarming, the closing measures desolate if poignant. (For Sony, Levit has coupled Stevenson’s ambitious and fecund eighty-minute Passacaglia on DSCH and Shostakovich’s Twenty-Four Preludes and Fugues – three discs I have listened to, and one day words will hopefully follow.) Finally, on the current release, ‘Harmonies du soir’ from Liszt’s Transcendental Studies, scented mysteries of the night unfolded with a sensitive touch and with a powerful climax.
Classy sound – Kammermusiksaal in the Berlin Philharmonie (September 2020) or the Gewandhaus (November 2019) – and a seven-page booklet essay in English and in German. Sony Classical 19439943482 (2 CDs).