Making his Santa Barbara debut last Thursday, March 9, at the Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall, Igor Levit gave a masterful concert that featured compositions by Frederic Rzewski and Beethoven.
The audience was delighted by Levit’s rendition of Beethoven’s 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, which was featured on his third studio album and winner of Gramophone’s 2016 Instrumental Award. The performance was immediately impressive as Levit had the 33 Variations memorized, and it was apparent that there was a strong emotional connection to the composition. Fingers moved in a frenzy during the more intense variations and delicately during the softer intervals. Levit played with a dramatic flair, pausing before the beginning of each variation, leaving the audience in suspense until his energetic hands flew across the keys.
The concert’s second piece, Rzewski’s contemporary Dreams, Part II, was a more experimental piece in which each movement explored a different theme, including bells and fireflies. Austere and unique, Dreams, Part II created an interesting dichotomy against Beethoven’s 33 Variations and showcased Levit’s ability to create two different moods. Jovial by nature, Levit received a standing ovation for his performance, sharing with Santa Barbara his honest passion for the piano.