Igor Levit is young, talented and not an easily-definable pianist.
It’s common practice in the classical-music world — and an often annoying one — to introduce young soloists by reeling off a litany of their competition prizes, strung together like a list of battles won.
But Igor Levit has been winning attention in the cutthroat arena of virtuoso pianists through a remarkable chorus of critical praise for his searching intellect and maturity of purpose — qualities that don’t necessarily shine at competitions.
Reviewing his Southern California debut last year, Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed proclaimed: “He is the future.”
Born near the end of the Soviet Union to a Jewish-Russian family in Nizhny Novgorod, Levit started learning piano from his mother at the age of 3. The family settled in Hanover when he was 8, and Levit continues to make his home in Germany. Just last month, he relocated to Berlin.
Along with the competition fixation, pianophiles are especially notorious for trying to establish pedigrees. Does he identify more with the “Russian School” or with German traditions, given his training at the Hanover Academy of Music?
Levit bristles at attempts to categorize and classify. “Politically I think we are, unfortunately, seeing a great deal of nationalism again,” he said by phone from Germany. “But the 21st century is not about that. If there is a school here or there, I couldn’t care less about that.”
Levit can point to an impressive set of laurels — four awards at the Arthur Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv, for example, where he was the youngest contestant to date. Yet what stands out when you first encounter his work is an uncompromising sense of engagement, of communicating ideas of vital importance today no matter when they were composed.
“The music I feel closest to is the music which is about us and our struggles as humans,” Levit said. For his current tour, the pianist has chosen composers he is convinced illustrate what the Twittersphere likes to call “relatability.” At Meany, he will play J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 4, Schubert’s “Moments Musicaux,” Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata (Op. 31, no. 2) and the powerhouse Seventh Sonata of Prokofiev. read more at seattletimes.com