Levit and Barenboim with Mendelssohn | EUROtoday

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AWhen Igor Levit performed Ludwig van Beethoven's piano sonatas in Salzburg in the summertime of 2020, Alice Harnoncourt additionally listened to him by way of broadcast in close by Sankt Georgen. She was simply as completed as a pianist and as a violinist and commented on Levit's interpretation after we met in her home: “Yes, he plays very well, but he could breathe a little more. Young people simply don’t know what breathing means in music anymore.”

This impression is now bolstered within the new recording of a number of “Songs without Words” by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, which Levit launched in a spontaneous response to the Hamas terrorist assault towards Israeli Jews on October 7, 2023, with the intention to use the proceeds from this to help the counseling middle to help anti-Semitic violence and discrimination OFEK eV and the Kreuzberg Initiative towards Anti-Semitism KlgA eV. The first tune in E main Op. 19 No. 1 merely runs via: uniform and quick, extra allegro than andante, completely balanced within the hierarchy of voices, however with out caesura, with out breath. If the piano sound itself wasn't so sensitively shaded, you wouldn't suspect there was a residing individual behind it.

How rather more vigorous, private and empathetic this music sounds within the previous recording with pianist Maria Israiljewna Grinberg! She had misplaced her father and her husband because of Stalin's anti-Semitic terror. And when within the Soviet Union, after the Six-Day War, Israel was solely known as “the aggressor,” she launched herself to strangers with owl-like shyness: “Allow me, Maria Aggressorovna.”

Image: Sony

In Levit's recording, solely the three gondola songs with their gently hazy sound and leaden melancholy are actually fascinating, as is the encore, the “Chanson de la folle au bord de la mer” by Charles-Valentin Alkan. Here Levit offers the apathy a ghostly expressive high quality, whereas Mendelssohn's different songs with out phrases present no hint of impulsiveness, spontaneity or devotion to the lyrical second. In his foreword to the CD, Levit writes that he spent the weeks after the assault “in a mixture of speechlessness and total paralysis.” But Mendelssohn's artwork is not at all the manifestation of an apathetic soul?!

The violinist Michael Barenboim and his spouse, the pianist Natalia Pegarkova-Barenboim, have additionally recorded a number of Mendelssohn's “Songs without Words” – albeit in October 2022: within the congenial association by the violinist Ferdinand David, who’s concertmaster of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig belonged to Mendelssohn's closest circle of mates and colleagues. For the “Duetto” Op. 38 No. 6, the hymn-like tune in A flat main that Mendelssohn gave his bride Cécile Jeanrenaud as an engagement present, the Barenboim couple takes nearly twice so long as Levit: over 4 minutes as an alternative of simply over two. Finally the music is sung with calm and inside participation! The Adagio non troppo in E main op. 30 No. 3 and the Adagio of the “Evening Song” op. 53 No. 4 are additionally islands of respiration, lingering and contemplation for the Barenboims.

Image: LINN Records

In doing so, they refute the anti-Semitic prejudice that Mendelssohn couldn’t have written gradual music – by which he meant “real, German depth of feeling” – as a result of the nervous restlessness in his life and work lay over him just like the curse of Ahasuerus, the eternally homeless Jew . In the E flat main tune from Op. 53, which trembles with trembling anticipation, one might in fact additionally think about that they might have much less steadiness and extra emphasis on the extremely lovely ninth chords, in order that they – additionally designed as melodic climaxes – would develop extra luminosity. Perhaps singing your self or reciting lyrics out loud would show you how to acquire expertise of structuring with respiration, caesura and emphasis, even in songs with out phrases. However, the “Spring Song” op. 62 is kind of magical with the delicately plucked accompaniment of the piano and a violin that, sighing in a whisper, flirts as if unintentionally.

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Charles-Valentin Alkan: Songs with out phrases, Igor Levit (piano). Sony Classical 19658878982 (Sony)
Felix Mendelssohn: Songs with out phrases Michael Barenboim (violin), Natalia Pegarkova-Barenboim (piano). Linn Records CKD 696 (Outhere)