Top critical review
Immaculately played, but not evocative enough
on 23 April 2018
I feel like I'm missing out on something here, as I do not find myself in agreement with the plethora of positive reviews. My reaction is not an instinctive antipathy to Mr Levit's playing (I love his Diabelli variations), however I feel he dispatches the sonatas immaculately but superficially. In his late sonatas Beethoven delves into the depths of the human soul and attempts to relay its inexpressible secrets to the listener through a medium only understandable through feeling. They are works of a passionate man without place in society, but who still holds a love for humanity. Here certain words come all too easily, and secrets remain undiscovered. The works emerge here almost as bland feel-good music, without conflict and, sadly, without heart. To take one example, in the words of Edward Sackville-West the last pages of op. 111 should leave one on the shores of paradise. Here I'm enjoying a sunny summer's day on Blackpool beach. If you want a modern performance turn to Paul Lewis who truly achieves innigkeit in this movement, otherwise all the old favourites (Kempff, Arrau and co) still hold up very well. Jumping back, the Hammerklavier has an arresting first movement and a relatively good scherzo. The adagio should stop you dead though, a bleak ice-capped mountain of loneliness, and here it all flows by like a chilly Nordic stream. Similarly the last movements of op 109 and 110 slide gently through one’s consciousness, without leaving behind a trace of emotion.
Throughout, the quick movements are dispatched with tremendous energy and resolve, but the contemplative movements lack something (experience?). This was a brave first release for a pianist, but for me misses the mark.