Igor Levit is one of biggest swinging dicks in the classical piano game. He’s got some of the best chops of the lumberyard. He’s also one of these annoying fucks that started playing at three and seems to have grazed through all these incredible classical piano feats like it ain’t no thang. Of course, if you hear him talking about it, you get an entirely different story. He has worked. But that’s not the icon he has become. People talk about him like he’s a Greek god that rules over the piano. In the classical world, there are debates on “who is better” between him and Daniil Trifonov like other people might talk about Mohammed Ali and Bruce Lee. He has become known as a classically trained rebel. “Igor is at the Schubert Club recital? Sweet Christmas fuck, what did he do now?” or, “Igor supports a rap group? My god, what has the world become!” In other fields, this shit isn’t all that dramatic. At a Dead Kennedy show, a couple decided to have sex on stage. They did. People cheered them on. But, play Chopin too slowly and people go out of their fucking minds. These two examples are, of course, extreme. In both cases, I believe that the pursuit of art was sacrificed for something else entirely.
When it comes to awards, Igor has won it all and then some. At this point? He could play chopsticks and half the crowd would still shit their pants with bravos and bravas. In short, he’s a classical piano celebrity. But there’s a dark side to fame outside of people randomly talking about you (guilty). It’s that your personal issues become suddenly public. It’s how I know that this album is dedicated to Igor’s best friend that recently passed. It’s how I know Igor is playing out his grief with a double-disc album.
It’s difficult to assess how someone plays out their grief. I feel like if you asked any good psychiatrist, playing absolutely anything would be considered noble. Who cares if it’s any good? But this is a celebrity pianist we’re talking about. So there are people everywhere talking about how well Igor played out his grief and his feelings on this album he appropriately named Life. It includes works from Bach, Brahms, Busoni, Schumann, Liszt, Wagner, Rzewski, and Bill Evans. What I want to say is, of course it’s fucking beautiful. It’s Igor fucking Levit. The guy could play “Turkey in the Straw” and make you cry. But it’s what Igor decided to do with his grief that really makes this album stand out. Sometimes the music is dark (as it should be), other times the music is strange (as it, also, should be), but Igor ends this all with Bill Evan’s “Peace Piece”. This song is one of the most beautiful and chill piano songs ever made. Igor has shown the world, in his own way, that grief can be expressed in multiple ways. And I think the guy deserves to be commended for that.
So Bravo, Igor. Brav—to-the-motherfucking—o.