Friday, 27 November 2015

Bach - Partitas - Levit

Rating: 4/5

A little over-interpreted for me

I like this recording but I can't quite share the unbridled enthusiasm of many reviewers.  The music itself is fabulous, of course, but I have some personal reservations about Levit's approach.

In many ways this is brilliant.  Igor Levit is a superb pianist with impeccable technique and a real ability to bring music to life and it is plain that many people have responded with genuine enthusiasm to his playing here.  For my taste, though, it is a little on the over-expressive side at times.  Bach shouldn't be just mechanical by any means, but that great pulse which beats throughout his music should be respected, I think, and his magnificent musical architecture allowed to stand without too much being laid over it.  For me, Levit rather overdoes the interpretative flourishes and gestures sometimes in a way which detracts from the music rather than adds to it, so I'm hearing rather too much Levit and not quite enough Bach. 

(I have a similar problem with Pletnev's playing of Scarlatti.  Levit's Bach seems to me to be another example of a very fine pianist bringing a little too much Romantic interpretation into Baroque music where it doesn't quite fit.)

At this level of excellence these things are largely a matter of personal taste so don't let me put you off.  Many knowledgeable people whose judgement I respect greatly love this, and you may, too.  Personally, I'll be sticking to my loved piano recordings by Angela Hewitt and Murray Perahia and by Trevor Pinnock on the harpsichord, and I'll only be giving this a very occasional outing, I suspect.

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