One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,514 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

FOGHORN Classics

Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Support us financially by purchasing this from

Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Fantasia after J. S. Bach BV 253 [14:31]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)/Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in transcription for left hand alone [13:48]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Variations in E-Flat Major on an Original Theme ‘Ghost Variations’ [11:26]
Frederic RZEWSKI (b. 1938)
A Mensch No. 3 from Dreams Part 1 [10:07]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)/Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Solemn March to the Holy Grail from Parsifal S450 [11:17]
Franz LISZT/Ferruccio BUSONI
Fantasia and Fugue on the Chorale Ad Nos, ad salutarem undam [33:26]
Richard WAGNER/Franz LISZT
Isoldens Liebestod S447 [7:47]
Ferruccio BUSONI
Berceuse No. 7 from Elegies BV 249 [5:15]
Bill EVANS (1929-1980)
Peace Piece [6:06]
Igor Levit (piano)
rec. Berlin-Dahlem, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, 2018
SONY 88985424452 [2 CDs: 114:43]

This album is a tribute to Igor Levit’s close friend, Hannes Malte Mahler, who died in a bike accident in 2016. The recital is a meditation on life and death and the protean nature of art. Many of the works are transcriptions. The towering shadows of Busoni and Liszt loom large. The secular and the sacred meld together in an uneasy cocktail, and the recital offers no easy answers to questions about grief and loss.

The recital opens with Busoni’s Fantasia after J. S. Bach written after the death of the composer’s parents and in memory of his father. It embeds a number of Bach’s chorales in a free-wheeling funeral Fantasia. Levit opens with dark, murky sonorities from the bottom the keyboard, and the playing gradually becomes more expansive. There is a freedom and naturalness about the performance, which allows the listener to move seamlessly from one Bachian chorale to another. Each of the contrapuntal episodes is beautifully characterised. Levit injects different colours into each, and summons organ sonorities from his Steinway. The work subsides and ends on a note of resignation, although the final change to the minor key brings a note of disquiet.

Brahms was in awe of Bach’s monumental D Minor Violin Chaconne. He wrote: “On a single staff for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings”. He transcribed the work almost note for note for piano left hand alone. Levit’s performance of this work is as monumental as Michelangeli’s performance of the Busoni transcription for two hands. He brings weight, depth of tone and a subtle flexibility to the line. The Chaconne rhythms propel the work, the textures and colours evolve organically, and the dramatic tension never flags. This performance is the best I have heard, superior to those by Zimerman and Trifonov.

Schumann’s Ghost Variations were written immediately before the composer’s ill-fated suicide attempt and his incarceration in a lunatic asylum. Levit brings a nobility to the opening theme, and the very painful feelings in this music are never allowed to become sentimental. The final variation is profoundly moving: Levit contrasts the frailty of the opening theme with the increasingly disturbing accompaniment which threatens to overwhelm it. This work has not been performed as much as other piano works by Schumann, so this performance by Levit certainly sets a high benchmark and is every bit as good as those by Schiff and Anderszewski.

The centrepiece of this recital is Busoni’s transcription of Liszt’s Fantasia and Fugue on ‘Ad nos, ad salutarem undam’. Liszt’s original organ work is based on a chorale from Meyerbeer’s opera La Prophéte. Busoni’s transcription for piano is one of the most technically demanding works ever written for piano, rarely performed nowadays. Levit’s performance is one of the most incendiary virtuoso displays I have ever heard. He does a wonderful job whipping up Liszt’s fiendish material in the opening movement. However, the virtuoso elements are never an end in themselves. One is always aware of a probing mind shaping the material and producing rich evolving textures and colours. In the central slow movement time seems to stand still as Levit communes with the celestial spheres. The final fugue is volcanic. One is swept away on the torrents of notes as Levit shows us his jaw-droppingly brilliant finger work. This performance by Levit has well and truly put this piece on the map, but I very much doubt if anyone else will be able to play it as well as this.

Like Busoni, Liszt was also a prolific transcriber, and he showed the orchestral capabilities of the piano with his Wagner transcriptions. The first of these to feature on this album is the Solemn March to the Holy Grail from Parsifal. Levit creates a wonderful feeling of space in his performance; the repetitive rhythmic insistence of the piece has a hypnotic feel. The other Wagner transcription is the perennially popular Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde. Levit brings an extraordinary degree of clarity to this work. One is truck by the strange beauty of the chromatic inner voices. He fuses the erotic and the spiritual into a heady cocktail, and creates a feeling of transcendence.

It seems that no Igor Levit recital would be complete without a work by Rzewski, and here he offers A Mensch from the composer’s Dreams Part 1. The word Mensch is derived from Yiddish and means a person of high integrity and honour. Rzewski wrote the work in memory of a friend of his who died, so it fits perfectly with the theme of this recording. Levit’s performance almost creates a microcosm of life, and has a solipsistic Freudian feel. Busoni’s Berceuse uses bitonality and instructs the performer to use both pedals. Levit’s performance creates a soothing of the waters, although unresolved feelings lurk in the depths.

The final work in the recital, Bill Evans’s Peace Piece, receives a glowing performance here, ending the recital on a note of peace and calm.

This is one of the most outstanding piano recitals I have ever heard. Levit has a probing and highly original musical mind which he combines with the most breathtaking virtuosity. Amazing stuff!

Robert Beattie



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat



Recordings of the Month


From Ocean’s Floor


Conner Riddle Songs

Rodzinski Sibelius

Of Innocence and Experience


Symphonies 1, 2, 3