Thursday, October 8, 2020

Wigmore Hall, London

Reviewed from live BBC Radio 3 broadcast… Igor Levit opened with the six of Brahms’s eleven for-organ Chorale Preludes (Opus 122, his final music) that were sensitively arranged by Busoni – pieces that confide Brahms’s most-intimate feelings, played with compassion by Levit.

He ended with Brahms’s Four Serious Songs (Opus 121), as transcribed by Max Reger. Of course the vocal part is subsumed (I greatly admire Robert Holl’s Hyperion recording with Graham Johnson), but the music, of depth and emotion, still carries its thrall thanks to Reger’s expertise, a composer in need of greater attention, Busoni similarly, to which Levit looked beyond the notes for an edifying experience.

As centrepiece, Beethoven’s ‘Pathétique’ Sonata (Opus 13), Levit arresting and probing in the slow introduction, dazzlingly fleet but not superficial (if by a hairsbreadth) in the Allegro di molto e con brio (never mind that a few notes didn’t quite make it), eloquently countered by the following Adagio cantabile, lightly touched, and a Finale, a mere Allegro, to which Levit added his own molto, energised if slightly scrambled. (Levit has recorded LvB’s thirty-two Sonatas for Sony Classical.)

This recital was given before a Covid-regulated audience. If Levit added an encore, Radio 3 didn’t stay for it.