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Igor Levit. Intense at Wigmore Hall / The Independent

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Igor Levit is a much-admired young pianist famed for the boldness of his musical imagination, and this unusual programme allowed him to meld the music of JS Bach with that of his celebrated arranger Ferrucio Busoni in a way which exalted them both. But first he played a charming little Passacaglia by Bach's precursor Johann Caspar Keril, to focus our minds on the variation form which was going to frame the evening.   

The purity of the voices in Bach's ‘Ricercar a 3' from his Musical Offering was pushed to an intense expressiveness, and the three ‘Contrapuncti' from The Art of Fugue grew steadily in majesty, with passion surging through their scrunching dissonances. Busoni's arrangements of Bach's preludes, fugues, and chorales combined reverent fidelity to the originals with adventurous exploration, as we saw first with his Fantasia after JS Bach BV253 and then – with Herculean power – with his extraordinary Fantasia contrappuntistica. And if this latter work makes the listener's brain reel with its labyrinthine form and wandering tonality, it makes massive demands on the performer. 

Levit did it full justice, with a performance which brought out its intellectual astringency, but the unaffected melodiousness of the encore – a Bach-Busoni chorale - was still a relief.

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