This is not a “review”
Let me be clear from the start, this is not a formal “review” as I normally write them. I find it impossible to properly review all 32 sonatas, as I simply don’t have enough references for every single one of these fascinating works.
I must admit that to this day although I listen to them a lot in the complete cycles of e.g. Kempff, Arrau, Brendel, Goode, or Lewis, but there are still some of the lesser known sonatas that I really don’t know that well yet.
But I still want to bring this cycle to your attention, and am pretty sure you won’t regret checking it out.
Igor Levit has been mentioned over and over on this blog. It is no secret I’m a big fan. He’s been mentioned in the list of My Top 10 Favorite Classical Pianists, and I’ve already written about most of his recordings, be it the Bach Partitas, his Goldberg & Diabelli variations, or his recent, very personal album Life, and he’s pretty much consistently every year made the list of my top classical recordings of the year.
I’d also already mentioned his recording of the late Beethoven sonatas, the recording that put him on the map as one of the most promising young artists.
Levit decided not to re-record the late sonatas he previously released, so if you have the “old” album and now by the new box, you’ll have some redundancy.
Beethoven: The Complete Sonatas – Igor Levit (Sony 2019)
I recently had the pleasure of seeing Levit perform some of these sonatas live. At the 2019 Lucerne festival, he in a series of concerts has played all of the sonatas live, I’ve attended one of these concerts.
This was already an impressive performance. The studio recordings follow a very similar approach.
One this is for sure, Levit’s approach will never leave you bored. He often chooses quite extreme tempi, going quite slow or breathtakingly fast in some parts.
Therefore, to me this is one of the most exciting new Beethoven releases in recent years.
Gramophone agrees, giving this the Editor’s Choice, Jed Distler on Classicstoday calls it “significant and stimulating”, giving it a 10/10 rating, and most other professional reviewers agree that this is a cycle worth having.
To conclude, no formal rating from my side this time, just a very strong “check this out” message from my side, which in the days of streaming, is easier than ever. I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
Really looking forward to your opinions this time.
You can find it here (Qobuz)
5 thoughts on “Igor Levit’s Fascinating Complete Beethoven Cycle”
It has taken me quite awhile to proceed through this cycle because after each sonata I need to stop and savor what I just heard. Mr. Levit brings such effortless, rich phrasing that one could easily write pages about each minute of these 10 hours he has provided us. And yet none would do justice to this vivid performance. What a gift to discover that the lesser-known sonatas are glorious pieces of music equal to the headliners–a realization that had eluded me during many other celebrated recordings.
I feel so lucky to be alive during this man’s career.
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Thanks for your feedback Ken. And I fully agree there is much to discover in the lesser known sonatas.