Piano recitals with Marc-André Hamelin, Igor Levit, Leif Ove Andsnes and Maurizio Pollini

Keyboard Wizards

Whether Philharmonic newcomers or guest artists of many years standing – one thing unites the pianists of the Piano concert series: Despite their superior technical skills, they never rely on superficial virtuosity and brilliance. Rather, they understand how to wrest new, unfamiliar perspectives from the music and to deeply move their audiences with their playing. The best example is the Montreal-born Marc-André Hamelin. Although he is regarded as a great virtuoso with a fondness for difficult, rarely performed works, he also has the reputation of being an out-and-out romantic. And so in his piano recital he performs Franz Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B Minor, one of the technically most challenging works of the 19th century, together with atmospheric pieces from the piano cycle On an Overgrown Path by Leoš Janáček, and Ravel’s mysterious Gaspard de la nuit. And not only that: With his latest work Barcarolle, Hamelin also reveals himself as a composer.

Compelling virtuosity, rousing expression

Unlike the Canadian pianist who has already been invited to perform three times by the Berliner Philharmoniker – most recently in October 2011 as soloist in Karol Szymanowski’s Symphonie concertante – Igor Levit is a philharmonic debutant. The young German-Russian, who was born in Novgorod in 1987 and has lived in Germany since he was eight, first attracted attention when, in 2005, he won four prizes at the International Arthur Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv, as well as second prize at the International Maria Callas Grand Prix in Athens and the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan. Although Levit only recently completed his piano studies in Hanover – with the highest score that the university has ever awarded – he can already look back on a remarkable career. His trademark: Programmes which feature a vast range of repertoire. For his debut recital in Berlin, the works range from the Baroque composer Georg Muffat to Ludwig van Beethoven, Wagner transcriptions by Franz Liszt, and Liszt transcriptions by Ferruccio Busoni, to the contemporary Frederic Rzewski.

Old friends of the Berliner Philharmoniker

Leif Ove Andsnes, on the other hand, focuses on a single composer in his piano recital: Ludwig van Beethoven. Among other things, he will perform his expressive F minor Sonata, known as the Appassionata. The Norwegian-born pianist played together with the Berliner Philharmoniker for the first time as a just 22-year-old in a performance of Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in 1992. The collaboration with the orchestra which invited him repeatedly in the following years as a performer for concertos by Britten, Bartók, Schumann, Rachmaninov and Brahms, culminated in the 2010/2011 season, when Leif Ove Andsnes not only proved his soloist skills as pianist in residence, but also as a sensitive chamber musician. However, the doyen among the artists of the Piano series is Maurizio Pollini. In 1970, the intensive musical friendship between orchestra and pianist began with a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto. Pollini, an artistic associate of Claudio Abbado, is a regular guest in the orchestra’s concerts. At eighteen years of age, he won the 1960 Chopin Competition in Warsaw, and although he has been regarded since then as a specialist in the works of the Polish composer, he also proved to be an excellent interpreter of Beethoven and a passionate advocate of modern and contemporary piano music.

Maurizio Pollini (Photo: Philippe Gontier/DG)
Leif Ove Andsnes (Photo: EMI Classics/Lorenzo Agius)
Igor Levit (Photo: Felix Broede)
Marc-André Hamelin (Photo: Sim Canetty Clarke)

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