IIs he really inspiring or still exhausted? Anyway, on the poster of No Fear, the documentary about it that has now come out, well-known pianist Igor Levitt hangs atop a grand piano in a somewhat iconic pose with his forehead touching his notes.
Of course, this is a frozen moment, diametrically opposite at the time, unrecognizable as sad or happy. But he portrays the 35-year-old, now beloved by his fans for his open-minded personality as well as for his art, once again as the subject of unreserved admiration, even idiocy. Although he acts like he wants to avoid it.
Regina Schilling is responsible for these slow, rhythmic, accurate two-hour cinematic, which recently made a name for itself with the sobering documentary about “Kollenkampf’s Shoes” and all our TV memories of the ’70s, which later won more than just a Grimm Award.
But of course she also faces the problem of documentaries today with a living creature: they don’t want to comment and categorize. She just wants to show up. And when an artist opens his work for more than a year, it usually turns out to be a rather uncritical, poorly emphasized portrait of saints, the usual “inspiring” portrait of an “exceptional” artist.
But that’s also because Schilling can’t really decide on focus. It could have started at the end of 2019 and quickly slipped into the middle of the pandemic including lockdown, at 52 home concerts Igor Levitt performed via Twitter and Instagram without any technical filter in his Berlin music room (there is a book about that).
Or the man’s intimate friendship with Andreas Neubronner, the sound engineer he trusts. Or as for Levitt’s mood today, always oscillating between fearlessness and fearlessness, as a sometimes skeptical, sometimes self-confident artist, as an introverted showrunner and then having to instantly turn every emotion into a Twitter post.
Or maybe Schilling just talked to Igor Levitt about music and then watched him play how sexy you do it here for nine unbroken minutes with Beethoven’s third movement and the Alstein Sonata.
So it has become a bit of everything, an imperfect variety. Long-sighted and fair-skinned, Igor Levitt returned to his usual mix of monk and madonna of sorrows. Many of his words and emotions were not tested for the first time. Especially since it can be more complex and multifaceted than its public images convey.
Almost forgotten classic of “The Sound of Marbles”
Fortunately, there are recordings of that, as well as concerts. On his new double album “Tristan”, Igor Levitt embarks on a wrong path. Because if you think of Wagner here, you know of course that there are no original piano works by “Tristan,” only arrangements. Levit plays the order of the first introduction, given by Zoltán Kocsics, who unfortunately passed away at a very young age. With that, Levit opens the second part in a somewhat sober way, focusing on complex harmonies rather than plunging into oblivion.
After the show, which also features a dream of a quick third love by Wagner’s father-in-law Franz Liszt, the main work is an unexpected alteration of “Tristan” – the 50-minute piano orchestral tape composed by Hans Werner Heinz. In it, Henze coldly, distant, but with a warm heart, explores and reinvents the famous “Action in Three Acts” sound world in many Préludes in 1973.
It has not been recorded since the first technically insufficient recording today. As a live recording with the Gewandhaus orchestra conducted by Franz Welser-Most, this became a fine, exhilarating, and quickly successful reappraisal of this almost forgotten classic sound of “The Voice of Marbles” (Henze).
This album—a rather dry Adagio album of Mahler’s tenth symphonies on the order of Ronald Stevenson (Levitt recently presented his breakthrough album Passacaglia on DSCH) and Liszt’s subtle “Harmonies du Soir”—proves once again Igor Levitt’s double talent as a repertoire feeder and then as the sovereign translator of his discoveries.
The optics of this entirely calm and deliberately spaced album are kept in utterly elegant nocturnal anthracite, and also have an impact on the auditory impression: as an ascetic and serene exploration of sometimes complex, uncooled, but simmering emotions. And Igor Levitt can do it. Much.
Liszt, Heinz, Wagner, Mahler: Tristan (Sony)