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Liquid delicacy. Igor Levit at the Schubertiade / theguardian review

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This year I arrived in time for the first of two recitals by the Russian-German pianist, Igor Levit: two Schubert masterpieces sandwiching the Eroica Variations of Beethoven. The Schubert pieces were studies in contrasts: the Allegretto D915 sounding almost like a fantasy, such was its freedom and looseness; the penultimate sonata, D959, more rhythmically structured. The second movement was heart-tuggingly tender.

On my final night, Igor Levit was back for the Goldberg Variations. The opening Aria was played in poetry rather than prose, and with such ever-changing ornamentation that we could almost have been listening to improvisation. Levit plays with liquid delicacy and thoughtfulness. By the time he reached the end of the painfully intense Adagio 25th variation he looked utterly drained. Somehow he dug deep to find the energy to finish the work off. The variations demand complete concentration for an audience, never mind the pianist. One measure of a great performance is how completely the figure sitting at the keyboard can spellbind the listeners. For the best part of an hour and a half Levit did just that. He is on his way to becoming a great pianist.

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And so another Schubertiade visit drew to a close. The conservatism of the environs is deceptive. Look carefully at the landscape around the villages and you'll see strikingly contemporary design and craft. Eat in the surrounding hotels and restaurants and you'll become aware this is an area with much small-scale organic food production. Many of the villages in the Bregenzerwald are powered by renewable energy. Small-c conservatism blends with rather contemporary conservation. And, while the repertoire is hardly experimental, young performers such as Levit are finding new ways of playing and thinking about the greatest of all music.