Paavo Järvi and Igor Levit perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5
06 Mar 2021
Ludwig van Beethoven
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 5 in E flat major, op. 73 (39 min.)
Igor Levit piano
Symphony No. 6 in E flat minor, op. 111 (42 min.)
Paavo Järvi and Igor Levit in conversation (14 min.)
Paavo Järvi in conversation with Raphael Haeger (15 min.)
As is well known, the onset of hearing loss and later almost complete deafness did not prevent Beethoven from composing numerous masterpieces, but it did prevent him from completing further piano concertos after his Fifth. After all, Beethoven wrote these works primarily for his own performances as a pianist. Beethoven himself performed the Fourth Piano Concerto, while his master pupil Carl Czerny was the soloist at the premiere of his Fifth. The concerto, written in the heroic key of E flat major, is a worthy conclusion to the series of works. The passion and turmoil of the outer movements, which frame one of Beethoven’s most intimate slow movements, have always been associated with the political situation of the time in which it was written: the war between Austria and France led to the occupation of Vienna by Napoleon’s troops in 1809. Following a concert together at the Baden-Baden Easter Festival in 2015, Igor Levit, one of the leading Beethoven interpreters today, now appears for the first time with the Philharmoniker in Berlin as the soloist in this work.
When Sergei Prokofiev finally returned from abroad to his by then Soviet-ruled homeland in 1936, he was welcomed with full honours, hailed as the greatest composer, and awarded several Stalin prizes. However, with the mercilessly enforced doctrine of “socialist realism”, the situation also changed for him. While the premiere of the Sixth Symphony in 1947 had nevertheless been successful, a little later it was given the usual label of “formalism” by the cultural bureaucracy and condemned as “chaotic”. The verdict has undoubtedly contributed to the symphony’s shadowy existence in the concert hall to this day. In this concert, the Berliner Philharmoniker perform this unusually expressive and dramaturgically captivating composition under the baton of Paavo Järvi, who has appeared regularly with the orchestra for many years.
Paavo Järvi was born in Tallinn in 1962 and studied percussion and conducting at the conservatory in his home town. In 1980 he emigrated to the USA and completed his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and – with Leonard Bernstein – at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute. After positions at the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi was chief conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 2001 to 2011, where he still has ties as “Music Director Laureate”. In 2004, he took over the artistic direction of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, and from 2006 to 2013 he has also been chief conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, and from 2010 until 2016 he was music director of the Orchestre de Paris. Since the 2015/2016 season he is chief conductor the NHK Symphony Orchestra, and in 2019 he has taken on the same role with the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. The Estonian, who has been honoured with numerous awards, is also a welcome guest at renowned orchestras such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra London, the Munich and the New York Philharmonic. He regularly appears with the Berliner Philharmoniker, where he made his debut in February 2000 and last conducted concerts in January 2020 with Berlioz`s Symphoniefantastique and the premiere of Hans Abrahamsen’s Horn Concerto.
Igor Levit sets benchmarks with his technical brilliance, sophistication of tone and intellectual penetration of works; moreover, he is known for his socio-political engagement. Born in 1987 in Gorki (now Nizhny Novgorod), Russia, he moved with his family to Hanover in 1995. In 2005, as the youngest participant in the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv, he received four prizes. Igor Levit completed his piano studies at the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media with the highest mark ever achieved. In his piano recitals – at the Kölner Philharmonie, the Musikverein in Vienna, Wigmore Hall in London, and at festivals such as the Ruhr Piano Festival, the Rheingau Music Festival and in Lucerne – he devotes himself particularly to the great piano cycles as well as Beethoven’s sonata works, which he also presented at Musikfest Berlin in September 2020. As a concert soloist, Levit has appeared with the Budapest Festival Orchestra (Iván Fischer), the Cleveland Orchestra (Franz Welser-Möst), the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Vienna Philharmonic and the WDR Sinfonieorchester (Krzysztof Urbański), among others. He performed for the first time with the Berliner Philharmoniker in April 2015 as part of the Easter Festival in Baden-Baden with Schumann’s A minor Piano Concerto under the baton of Riccardo Chailly. In 2019, Igor Levit was appointed professor of piano at his alma mater, the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media.