Igor Levit plays Bach, Beethoven, Rzewski

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Igor Levit plays Bach, Beethoven, Rzewski


Presto Disc of the Week

16th October 2015

Gramophone Awards 2016

Record of the Year

Gramophone Awards 2016

Winner - Instrumental

Gramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - November 2015

Building a Library

Also Recommended - June 2017

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - January 2016



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Release date:

9th Oct 2015




3 hours 12 minutes


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Igor Levit plays Bach, Beethoven, Rzewski

Bach, J S:

Goldberg Variations, BWV988


Diabelli Variations, Op. 120


The People United Will Never Be Defeated!

Igor Levit (piano)

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Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

Following his landmark recordings, "Beethoven - The Late Piano Sonatas" and "Bach - Partitas", both of which has won him international acclaim, Igor Levit is now tackling another three major works: Bach's Goldberg Variations, Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, and Frederic Rzewski's Variations on "The People United Will Never Be Defeated".

It is testament to Igor Levit's invention and the command of his repertoire that in one release he is able to combine arguably two of history’s greatest sets of variations for the keyboard, complete alongside a classic of late 20th century piano music by contemporary composer Frederic Rzewski.

Levit comes with great pedigree when it comes to recording the works of Bach and Beethoven, with his 2013 Beethoven disc winning him the BBC Music Magazine Newcomer of the Year 2014 Award, the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist Award 2014 and the ECHO 2014 for Solo Recording of the Year. His second recording, J.S. Bach’s Six Partitas in 2014, was Gramophone’s Disc of the Month.

Johann Sebastian Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988


Var. 1 a 1 Clav.

Var. 2 a 1 Clav.

Var. 3 - Canone all' Unisono a 1 Clav.

Var. 4 a 1 Clav.

Var. 5 a 1 ovvero 2 Clav.

Var. 6 - Canone alla Seconda a 1 Clav.

Var. 7 a 1 ovvero 2 Clav. Al tempo di Giga

Var. 8 a 2 Clav.

Var. 9 - Canone alla Terza a 1 Clav.

Var. 10 - Fughetta a 1 Clav.

Var. 11 a 2 Clav.

Var. 12 - Canone alla Quarta

Var. 13 a 2 Clav.

Var. 14 a 2 Clav.

Var. 15 - Canone alla Quinta a 1 Clav. Andante

Var. 16 - Ouverture a 1 Clav.

Var. 17 a 2 Clav.

Var. 18 - Canone alla Sesta a 1 Clav.

Var. 19 a 1 Clav.

Var. 20 a 2 Clav.

Var. 21 - Canone alla Settima

Var. 22 a 1 Clav. Alla breve

Var. 23 a 2 Clav.

Var. 24 - Canone all' Ottava a 1 Clav.

Var. 25 a 2 Clav.

Var. 26 a 2 Clav.

Var. 27 - Canone alla Nona a 2 Clav.

Var. 28 a 2 Clav.

Var. 29 a 1 ovvero 2 Clav.

Var. 30 - Quodlibet a 1 Clav.

Aria da capo

Ludwig van Beethoven: Diabelli Variations - 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120

Tema. Vivace

Var. 1 - Alla Marcia maestoso

Var. 2 - Poco allegro

Var. 3 - L'istesso tempo

Var. 4 - Un poco più vivace

Var. 5 - Allegro vivace

Var. 6 - Allegro ma non troppo e serioso

Var. 7 - Un poco più allegro

Var. 8 - Piu vivace

Var. 9 - Allegro pesante e risoluto

Var. 10 - Presto

Var. 11 - Allegretto

Var. 12 - Un poco più moto

Var. 13 - Vivace

Var. 14 - Grave e maestoso

Var. 15 - Presto scherzando

Var. 16 - Allegro

Var. 17

Var. 18 - Poco moderato

Var. 19 - Presto

Var. 20 - Andante

Var. 21 - Allegro con brio, Meno allegro, Tempo I

Var. 22 - Allegro molto (alla "Notte e giorno faticar" di Mozart)

Var. 23 - Allegro assai

Var. 24 - Fughetta. Andante

Var. 25 - Allegro

Var. 26

Var. 27 - Vivace

Var. 28 - Allegro

Var. 29 - Adagio ma non troppo

Var. 30 - Andante, sempre cantabile

Var. 31 - Largo, molto espressivo

Var. 32 - Fuga. Allegro, Poco adagio

Var. 33 - Tempo di Menuetto moderato (ma non tirarsi dietro)

Frederic Rzewski: The People United Will Never Be Defeated! - 36 Variations on ¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!

Thema. With determination

Var. 1 - Weaving, delicate but firm

Var. 2 - With firmness

Var. 3 - Slightly slower, with expressive nuances

Var. 4 - Marcato, with determination

Var. 5 - Dreamlike, frozen, a little slower, Tempo

Var. 6 - Same tempo as beginning, Slower, Tempo, Slower

Var. 7 - Tempo (Lightly, impatiently)

Var. 8 - With agility, not too much pedal, crisp

Var. 9 - Evenly

Var. 10 - Comodo, recklessly

Var. 11 - Tempo I. Like fragments of an absent melody, in strict time

Var. 12

Var. 13

Var. 14 - A bit faster, optimistically

Var. 15 - Flexible, like an improvisation

Var. 16 - Same tempo as preceding, with fluctuations, much pedal, expansive, with a victorious feeling

Var. 17 - Left hand strictly. Right hand freely, roughly in space

Var. 18

Var. 19 - With energy

Var. 20 - Crisp, precise

Var. 21 - Relentless, uncompromising

Var. 22 - Very expressionate

Var. 23 - As fast as possible, with some rubato

Var. 24

Var. 25

Var. 26 - In a militant manner

Var. 27 - Tenderly, with a hopeful expression, Cadenza, Fiercely

Var. 28

Var. 29

Var. 30

Var. 31

Var. 32

Var. 33

Var. 34

Var. 35

Var. 36 - Improvisation

Thema. Tempo I

Presto Classical

Katherine Cooper

16th October 2015

“If [the Rzewski] sounds potentially sprawling on paper, in Levit's hands it acquires remarkable coherence and a granite-like majesty...his variety of touch and colours [in the Goldbergs] is such that after the first four variations I found myself checking the booklet to make sure that there wasn't more than one instrument involved: there are sections which sound almost fortepiano-like in their clarity.”

The Guardian

14th October 2015


“few [recordings of the Rzewski] match Levit’s combination of supreme, sometimes breathtaking accuracy and his sustained intensity. The same sense of freshness and discovery runs through his Diabelli Variations...one of the most impressive aspects of the performance as a whole is how Levit holds the different aspects of this massive work in balance”

Gramophone Magazine

November 2015

“There is, if you care to rationalise, a Russian depth of sound and eloquence of phrasing, tempered by Germanic intellectual grasp...Levit’s musical personality is as integrated and mature as his technique. And both of these are placed at the service of the music’s glory rather than his own.”

The Times

4th December 2015


“[Levit] has the technical virtuosity and insight to make a magnificent display of the [Rzewski] variations...Even if you don’t subscribe to the agitprop politics, enjoy the immense sweep of one of the late 20th century’s greatest piano works...He characterises [the Diabellis] with rambunctious glee, brilliantly incisive and as nimble as a cat on a high wire, while keeping the music’s overall arch in sight...One imagines Beethoven playing it like this — in his dreams, anyway.”

New York Times

2nd December 2015

“It’s a bold move, placing Mr. Rzewski’s 36 variations on “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” as an equal partner to Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Beethoven’s Diabellis...Yet this urbane, consuming playing makes the argument persuasive. The Bach and Beethoven are very fine: clean and mature. The Rzewski is inspired...The piano and the man playing it become comrades at arms.”

The Telegraph

24th November 2015


“In his recording of Bach's variations, Levit moves between Glenn Gould-like velocity, a sharp sense of period style and a delicacy of nuance and pedalling that evokes a different sort of tradition...As for Rzewski's great variations, Levit's attention to detail and tender lyricism reveal the music's nobility, as well as its anger and blistering energy. In all, this boxed set is a tremendous achievement.”

BBC Music Magazine

January 2016


“The [Goldberg] Aria sings without affectation as if to emphasise that what follows isn't about the theme but what happens to it...Unstarchy too is Levit's approach to Beethoven's Diabelli Variations...As for the Rzewski, never has 1970s agitprop sounded so compelling...Levit squares up to the exhilarating mix with pitch-perfect acuity and aplomb...Whatever follows, hang on tight: it should prove quite a ride.”

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