Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pianist Igor Levit this Saturday: "He is the future."

It's no secret that pianists are very popular at Spivey Hall, and that our audiences enjoy discovering rising stars in recital as well as the most accomplished and lauded masters. When choosing artists for the Spivey Series, I often travel to hear emerging artists in person, to test my instincts about what I've learned through reading, recordings, and recommendations. Ultimately, I need to be enthusiastic myself in order to explain to Spivey Hall patrons why they too should be excited to hear a young artist perform.

So, several years ago, on a multi-stop listening trip through northern Europe, I found my way to Braunschweig, Germany to hear a Sunday matinee by pianist Igor Levit, whose playing was beginning to garner a great deal of serious attention from critics. It wasn't an easy trip because of flight connections and then a drive out of the Hannover airport with road construction that prevented me going east towards Braunschweig on the Autobahn, taking me in circles a few times to find my way. And then more construction snarls had me wondering if I'd make it in time for the recital.

Thanks to a good car that zipped along when traffic moved again, I did make it. And my efforts were rewarded. Because Igor Levit gave a magical performance of Beethoven's final three piano sonatas that ascended into those other-worldly spheres in which the spirit of Beethoven evokes the eternal. I was mesmerized, and came away thinking, "Yes...this is it. This is the real thing."

"He is the future," proclaims the Los Angeles Times of Igor Levit. But he is also right here, right now, enjoying a tremendous rise in the arc of his career through recordings and performances that continue to garner attention and awe. It was considered audacious by some that he release the late Beethoven Sonatas as his first recording for SONY -- repertoire that some pianists wait years to perform in public, let alone commit to disc.  Then came the Bach Partitas, and now a set of variations including Frederick Rzewski's incredibly demanding The People United Will Never Be Defeated (which Spivey Hall audiences had heard performed by Ursula Oppens not long, who commissioned and premiered the piece) plus Beethoven's Diabelli Variations.

Clearly, Igor Levit was making bold choices to forge a career in a highly individual way. It has captured the imagination not just of the critics (including extraordinary assessments from The New Yorker and The New York Times) but also of audiences. Not a few Spivey Hall patrons read about Igor Levit's recent staged performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations at the New York Armory, which added an extra dimension of wonder about his Spivey Hall debut this Saturday.

There is one ardent Spivey Hall music lover who has from time to time asked me, when young artists new to Atlanta make memorable debuts in the Spivey Series that sometimes don't capture his attention with the just his name and a description in our season book, "Why didn't you tell me this would be so impressive?" -- especially when after the recital, there is such a buzz that lasts for days, sometimes weeks.

Okay, here it is:  Yes, there's a lot going on this Saturday evening, particularly in music in Atlanta. And I always want people to attend performances by all the artists we present at Spivey Hall. But I'm telling you now:  This is a debut not to be missed. Come hear Bach's Fourth Partita, Beethoven's "Tempest" Sonata, Schubert's Moments musicaux, and Prokofiev's massive, propulsive, highly dramatic "War" Sonata No. 7 -- an excellent program by which to discover the depth and degree of Igor Levit's talents. You will be glad you did.  "A major new pianist has arrived," proclaimed The New York Times -- and you can hear him for yourself at Spivey Hall this Saturday, February 20, at 7:30 PM.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Metropolian Opera National Council Southeast Region Auditions results

To the winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Southeast Region Auditions, held yesterday (Sunday, February 7, 2016) at Spivey Hall, congratulations!
Brian Vu – Age 26 – Baritone (North Carolina)
Lauren Feider – Age 23 – Soprano (Florida)
Aleksandra Romano – Age 27 – Mezzo-soprano (South Carolina)
Matthew Reese – Age 27 – Countertenor (North Carolina)
Alan Higgs – Age 28 – Bass-Baritone (Georgia)