Igor Levit launches his Beethoven cycle at Wigmore Hall

Igor Levit is, along with Daniil Trifonov, the pianist du jour. Lauded for his disc of the Goldberg Variations and Diabelli Variations and Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated, and with a slew of critical superlatives for his debut disc of late Beethoven piano sonatas, Levit is a pianist who concerns himself with the most serious edifices of piano literature, while Trifonov tends towards the more romantic virtuoso repertoire.

Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas represent the loftiest Himalayan peaks of the repertoire, both in terms of the arc of their composition (three distinct periods which mirror significant stages in the composer’s life, artistically and emotionally), and the demands these works place on the pianist. The complete Beethoven cycle, a performance of all the piano sonatas, usually over eight concerts, is a Herculean task, not to be undertaken lightly. It fully tests the mettle of any performer, but the perennial appeal of presenting these works in a cycle is a mark of their significance and the special reverence they have accrued.

On Wednesday night, Igor Levit embarked on his Beethoven sonatas cycle at the Wigmore Hall, bringing his intelligent and distinctive approach to these great works. 

Read my full review here 

(Photo © Igor Levit)


  1. Hearing so many phenomenal pianists as you do, Frances, don’t you baulk at the ‘pianist du jour’ phenomenon? It seems to be ironic, for instance, that a short time before he got the big Gramophone award, Trifonov turned in a horrifying performance of a Mozart piano concerto. Horses for courses, I guess, but even in this rep there are so many equal giants. I’m told Llyr Williams’s Beethoven cycle is just as gripping, so I look forward to hearing two different instalments within a few days of each other.

    • Yes I do rather, David. I went to hear Levit purely out of curiosity. I heard him in Beethoven’s last 3 at QEH in 2013 and was rather underwhelmed so I wanted to see how he has developed. There’s no doubting he’s a fine and intelligent pianist but I just felt his Beethoven was a little too “obvious”, too over-interpreted for my taste.

      A pity that a lot of critics laid into Trifonov for his Mozart Prom and that one concert might be enough to turn people off him. I hope not but it’s an indication of the fickleness of the international concert circuit and those who follow it.

      I am hoping to get to some of Lyr Williams’ Beethoven – and I look forward to your thoughts on him and Levit

      • I think laying into the Triff for that Mozart was fair game – no-one’s dissed his Liszt so it just shows that not all pianists ‘get’ the entire rep, and why should they? Another reason why it’s worth keeping an entire stable of top contemporary pianists in view and choosing who does what best…

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