Igor Levit | Fantasia Review
Igor Levit’s Fantasia: Unfurling Musical Scrolls Across Centuries
by Illiam Sebitz
Greetings, fellow music lovers! For those who find themselves drawn to the rich history of classical music—feeling its pull on their minds, hearts, and ears—we stand on the precipice of something truly grandiose: a labyrinthine journey through time and music. Igor Levit’s double album Fantasia, slated for release this September, serves as a monument to musical exploration. It traverses centuries of compositional ingenuity with the same elegance and gravitas that one might associate with a literary epic.
The album opens with Johann Sebastian Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903—a canvas of maximal freedom and imagination, juxtaposed against Bach’s stringent harmonic rules. This piece embodies a Dionysian-Apollonian duality: tumultuous torrents of chromaticism set against the backdrop of a structured fugue. Levit’s fingers dance across the keyboard, melding precision with creative abandon, akin to a Cartier watchmaker or a Romantic poet.
If Bach represents the ancient Greek paragon of form and balance, then Franz Liszt and Ferruccio Busoni serve as the Romantic and Modernist sculptors who chip away at tradition to reveal harmonic complexities. Liszt’s Sonata in B minor, S. 178, carves out new harmonic structures with the ardor of a Caravaggio painting. Busoni’s Fantasia contrappuntistica, BV 256, marries bygone counterpoint with Romantic allure, and Levit guides us through this complex musical landscape with astute dynamics and articulation.
The atonality of Alban Berg represents a departure from tradition, a cry from the soul against the norms of the past. Levit’s interpretations of Berg’s Piano Sonata, Op. 1 and Klavierstück in B Minor draw us into the dissonant labyrinth of 20th-century post-tonal music. Each note serves as a conjured emotion, filling the spaces between phrases with a canvas for our imagination.
Levit intersperses these monumental works with shorter pieces, such as Alexander Siloti’s arrangement of the Air from Bach’s Suite for String Orchestra No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068, and Liszt’s transcription of Schubert’s Der Doppelgänger, S. 560, No. 12. These act as thematic bookends, reinforcing the album’s conceptual cohesion.
Fantasia offers more than just a journey; it’s an education, a pilgrimage, a transcendent odyssey through the annals of music history. Levit’s storytelling prowess across the eighty-eight keys is unparalleled. His dynamics and articulation are the heartbeat and pulse of this operatic journey, and the emotional engagement is so potent it could convert even the most hardened cynic into a believer in the power of music.
Fantasia reflects Levit’s virtuosity, acting as a vessel to present centuries of human imagination and echo the conversations musicians have had across eras. Prepare for a feast, for if music be the food of love, then we are in for a sumptuous banquet. The beautifully rendered performances in Fantasia are a prime example of the transformative power of a well-curated program. Whether you’re a novice or a sage in the complex world of classical music, Fantasia is your call to adventure. Will you heed it?
As we await the full release, the previews and singles serve as tantalizing hors d’oeuvres for what promises to be an unforgettable musical experience.
Release Date: September 29 2023
Label: Sony Classical
About the author
Born and raised in a picturesque European village, my fondness for music began during my formative years, when the charismatic tones of the recorder first filled the halls of my primary school. This early fascination escalated into my lifelong pursuit of embracing the melodious charm of the flute; I have even spent time refining my skills at a music conservatoire. As a seasoned music connoisseur, I find myself captivated by the multifaceted world of music. I enjoy writing music reviews to better enable me to explore genres as diverse as world, rock, jazz, classical, folk, and film music, each offering a unique auditory journey that enriches my life and intellect.
In my spare moments, you'll likely find me meticulously crafting my latest woodworking project, sharpening my skills with flute etudes, or inventing tales of fantasy through the art of creative writing. My eclectic interests and expertise harmonize to create a symphony of passion and curiosity that resonates within every aspect of my life as a music enthusiast.