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Igor Levit’s double album “Encounter” seeks sounds that give inner strength and support for the soul. In works by Bach to Max Reger, based on poignant vocal compositions, the desire for encounters and human togetherness is given expression – at a time when isolation is the order of the day. The result is a very personal recital. The 33-year-old once again steps beyond the limits of pure piano repertoire: in the Busoni transcriptions of Bach’s chorale preludes and the late Brahms, which are rarely heard as complete cycles, Levit assumes the role of an organist who fills vast church spaces. In Johannes Brahms’s Vier ernste Gesänge, he lends instrumental eloquence to overcoming the torments of fearing death. On the other hand, the gentle shimmer produced from its very few notes makes Morton Feldman's extremely quiet work for piano, Palais de Mari (1986), the epitome of a sensuous, transcendental realm of possibilities. The repertoire presented by Levit here reflects the album’s title. The works create a community of experience for many individuals forced to maintain distance from one another. They establish contact with religious and inward spirituality. In addition, the inner connections between the composers and their respective aesthetics make “Encounter” a journey offering astonishing discoveries, even on ostensibly familiar terrain.



It takes some expert pianism to pull off Bach’s 10 Chorale Preludes for organ, transcribed for piano by Busoni. The pianist needs to articulate and differ the pedal line from the hands while bringing forth the main chorale theme within the accompaniment. Levit is extremely sensitive to timbres and colors, which he conjures from his instrument. There is almost a perfect balance between the baroque grandeur, consistency of rhythm, and warm romanticism.

The Reger transcriptions are especially convincing; The thick layers of piano Reger implements in the score come through as dark and retrospective. The closing “Palais de Mari” by Feldman is commendable for Levit’s ability to concentrate and maintain a hushed pianissimo over long stretches of time.

The piano, a fine Steinway D, is recorded closely and more intimately than Levit’s recent productions for Sony Classical, which suites the interpretations and makes us fully appreciate the multilayered sound image, even in the quietest moments. This fascinating recital works best when listening to in one sit, joining a journey of spirituality, sombreness, and solitude.

– The Classic Review

Nothing Levit plays is ever ordinary, even when the music is familiar, which most of this isn’t. Take Brahms’s Op 122 chorale preludes; these too are heard in Busoni’s arrangements, every one a decorative and contemplative beauty, although they tickled me less than Busoni’s sensitively flamboyant reimaginings of Bach...By the end of Encounter I knew exactly what Levit’s lockdown goals were, for I’d reached them myself: quietness, balm, closure, peace.

– Sunday Times (UK)
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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 2
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Sony Masterworks
    • UPC/Barcode: 194397865721
    • Item Number: 19439786572