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Igor Levit@Barbican brings thought, colour and feeling to every phrase of Shostakovich 24 Preludes and Fugues / theartsdesk

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"Citizen. European. Pianist," declares Russian-born, Berlin-based Igor Levit on the front page of his website. One should add, since he wouldn't, Mensch and master of giants. High-level human integrity seems a given when great pianists essay epics: certainly true of Elisabeth Leonskaja and Imogen Cooper tackling respective sonata trilogies by Beethoven and Schubert, or András Schiff in Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier. Last night was on that level. Questions may linger over the nature of Shostakovich's many-headed hydra of a homage to Bach, but none about Levit's expressive intent and execution in every phrase.

Levit let nothing escape his rigorous but always expressive focus. That made the relatively few outbursts of violence, above all in the whirlwind of the D flat major Fugue, and the cumulative fugues at the end of each set of 12 - Shostakovich clearly divides up his sequence, making a new pure beginning with the F sharp major Prelude and Fugue of No. 13 - all the more overwhelming. Any sense of technical bursting at the seams was reined in with the pianist's intense rhythmic sense, and very rarely did he resort to the sustaining pedal to help with welters of sound.

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