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Encounter / Igor Levit

Bach / Brahms
Release Date: 09/11/2020 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 978657  
Composer:  Ferruccio BusoniJohannes BrahmsMax RegerMorton Feldman
Performer:  Igor Levit
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Igor Levit’s double album “Encounter” seeks sounds that give inner strength and support for the soul. In works by Bach to Max Reger, based on poignant vocal compositions, the desire for encounters and human togetherness is given expression – at a time when isolation is the order of the day. The result is a very personal recital. The 33-year-old once again steps beyond the limits of pure piano repertoire: in the Busoni transcriptions of Bach’s chorale preludes and the late Brahms, which are rarely heard as complete cycles, Levit assumes the role of an organist who fills vast church spaces. In Johannes Brahms’s Vier ernste Gesänge, he lends instrumental eloquence to overcoming the torments of fearing death. On the other hand, the gentle Read more shimmer produced from its very few notes makes Morton Feldman's extremely quiet work for piano, Palais de Mari (1986), the epitome of a sensuous, transcendental realm of possibilities. The repertoire presented by Levit here reflects the album’s title. The works create a community of experience for many individuals forced to maintain distance from one another. They establish contact with religious and inward spirituality. In addition, the inner connections between the composers and their respective aesthetics make “Encounter” a journey offering astonishing discoveries, even on ostensibly familiar terrain.



It takes some expert pianism to pull off Bach’s 10 Chorale Preludes for organ, transcribed for piano by Busoni. The pianist needs to articulate and differ the pedal line from the hands while bringing forth the main chorale theme within the accompaniment. Levit is extremely sensitive to timbres and colors, which he conjures from his instrument. There is almost a perfect balance between the baroque grandeur, consistency of rhythm, and warm romanticism.

The Reger transcriptions are especially convincing; The thick layers of piano Reger implements in the score come through as dark and retrospective. The closing “Palais de Mari” by Feldman is commendable for Levit’s ability to concentrate and maintain a hushed pianissimo over long stretches of time.

The piano, a fine Steinway D, is recorded closely and more intimately than Levit’s recent productions for Sony Classical, which suites the interpretations and makes us fully appreciate the multilayered sound image, even in the quietest moments. This fascinating recital works best when listening to in one sit, joining a journey of spirituality, sombreness, and solitude.

– The Classic Review

Nothing Levit plays is ever ordinary, even when the music is familiar, which most of this isn’t. Take Brahms’s Op 122 chorale preludes; these too are heard in Busoni’s arrangements, every one a decorative and contemplative beauty, although they tickled me less than Busoni’s sensitively flamboyant reimaginings of Bach...By the end of Encounter I knew exactly what Levit’s lockdown goals were, for I’d reached them myself: quietness, balm, closure, peace.

– Sunday Times (UK) Read less

Works on This Recording

Chorale Preludes (10), transcriptions for piano (after J. S. Bach), KiV B27 by Ferruccio Busoni
Performer:  Igor Levit (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1898 
Chorale Preludes (6), transcriptions for piano (after Johannes Brahms Op. 122), KiV B50 by Ferruccio Busoni
Performer:  Igor Levit (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1902 
Serious Songs (4), Op. 121 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Igor Levit (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Austria 
Sacred Songs (8) for Chorus, Op. 138: no 3, Nachtlied by Max Reger
Performer:  Igor Levit (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1914; Germany 
Palais de Mari by Morton Feldman
Performer:  Igor Levit (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1986; USA 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Concerts from the Lockdown September 25, 2020 By Michael P. (San Francisco, CA) See All My Reviews "As soon as the Coronavirus lockdown began in Germany, the excellent and thoughtful pianist Igor Levit began a series of House Concerts from his living room in Berlin, streaming via Twitter. What began as an off-the cuff Tweet turned into a series of 52 consecutive evening performances, beginning every evening at 7 p.m. Berlin time. He often decided what to play shortly before the start time, and he played whatever he was in the mood for, from Bach to Beethoven, Busoni, Rzewski, Feldman and others. The president of Germany even invited him to give one of the concerts from the Schloss Bellevue, his home, in Berlin. This album, Encounter, is an outgrowth of those house concerts, bringing together a wonderful collection of pieces, many of which are transcriptions by Busoni—whom Levit holds in high esteem—and Reger. The recital concludes with Morton Feldman's last work for piano, Palais de Mari. This is all unusual repertoire, seldom heard on the concert hall. All the pieces are sensitively played and the recording is a joy to listen to, a tailor-made reflection of the precarious and uncertain times in which it was recorded." Report Abuse
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