Robert Schumann Davidsbündlertänze (Pp. 6); Anders Eliasson Disegno 2 for piano; Frédéric Chopin Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor (Op. 35) – Beth Levin: pf.
“You’ve got to learn your instrument. Then you practice, practice, practice. And then you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.” These words, or other to that effect have been ascribed to jazz legend Charlie Parker and they apply most appropriately to Beth Levin’s Schumann, Eliasson and Chopin. While the pianist has obviously scrutinised the programme with a fine-tooth comb, she basically hangs loose and flies free, letting the detailed niceties fall into place without sounding the least bit studied or calibrated. It’s a performance, not a lecture.
The Schumann Davidsbündlertänze (Op. 6) is an eighteen-part composition comprising short pieces specifically titled to describe the vividness of the moods and manners in which they must be rendered by the performer. Some are on the slow side (dragging? Never!) And there are others that sprint from the starting gate, buoyed by perky left-hand accents. If VI does not sustain its opening pace, other cross-handed numbers fuse light ‘harpsichord’ touch with unabashed pianist bravura. Note too the Chopin Sonata No.2 in B-Flat Minor’s inflected embellishments, the woodwind-like left hand articulation and in the Eliasson, the pianist’s flexible, vocally-oriented phrasing of the Disegno long-limbed cantabile lines. And going back to Chopin for a minute, note her gorgeously tinted three-part texture throughout the sonata.
In contrast to interpretations that seek unity and continuity through rigorously considered relationships (in pieces like this, Levin apparently aims to reveal each composer’s work by emphasising its individual character. You especially hear this in the Schumann and the Chopin, abetted by appropriately grandiose octave reinforcements, and in the unorthodox elongating of certain chords. In sum, Beth Levin is a fresh voice whose ingenious pianism and genuine musicality warrants placement in the top tier of classical music.