02 Igor LevitFantasia
Igor Levit
Sony 19658811642 (igor-levit.com)

Notated improvisatory style has been a facet of western music as far back as the Renaissance and this two-disc Sony recording simply titled Fantasia featuring pianist Igor Levit in an attractive exploration of piano repertoire following this principle spanning a 300-year period. The Russian-born soloist began his musical studies at the Salzburg Mozarteum and in 2005, was the winner of the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv.

An arrangement of the Air from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No.3 may seem an unusual opening for a recording of music focusing on extemporization, but Levit’s interpretation is refined and understated. In contrast is the renowned Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue BWV903, very much a bravura piece of formidable invention. Levit delivers a compelling and well-balanced performance, his phrasing always clearly articulated. Even more challenging is the Piano Sonata in B Minor by Liszt, a composition of herculean difficulties. Levit is seemingly unfazed by the technical challenges and easily fashions the ever-contrasting moods into a cohesive whole.

Disc two opens with Berg’s angular and at times unsetting Piano Sonata Op.1, a fine example of his early style. Nevertheless, the magnum opus of the disc and the set itself is Busoni’s 34-minute Fantasia Contrappuntistica. The piece is truly substantial in scope and borrows from several musical styles involving a subdued and introspective opening, a complex Bach-like fugue followed by a dramatic section with dissonant chordal progressions leading to an unexpectedly quiet conclusion. Kudos to Levit for tackling this oddity and making the most of it. 

The inclusion of shorter pieces such as Liszt’s Der Doppelganger and Busoni’s Nuit de Noel further contribute to a well-balanced program.

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