Tuesday 26 January 2016

Beth Levin brings a rather fine Schumann Davidsbündlertänze and an impressive Chopin Second Sonata all topped off by a very fine piece by Anders Eliason on her new recital disc for Navona Records

Beth Levin www.bethlevinpiano.com made her debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of 12. She was subsequently taught and guided by legendary pianists such as Rudolf Serkin, Leonard Shure, Dorothy Taubman and Paul Badura-Skoda who praised her as ‘a pianist of rare qualities and the highest professional calibre.’

She has appeared as a concerto soloist with numerous symphony orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Pops Orchestra, the Boston Civic Symphony and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. She has worked with noted conductors such as Arthur Fiedler, Tonu Kalam, Milton Katims, Joseph Silverstein and Benjamin Zander. Chamber music festival collaborations have brought her to the Marlboro Festival, Casals Festival, Harvard, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Ankara Music Festival and the Blue Hill Festival, collaborating with such groups such as the Gramercy Trio (founding member), the Audubon Quartet, the Vermeer Quartet and the Trio Borealis, with which she has toured extensively.

Beth Levin’s latest recording for Navona Records www.navonarecords.com , entitled Personae, features works by Schumann, Anders Eliason and Chopin.

Beth Levin brings a lovely rhythmic lift and delicacy to the opening Lebhaft of Robert Schumann’s (1810-1856) Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6 providing much variation and colour. She brings a gently flowing Innig with a subtle, gentle rubato, so effective, before a rhythmically light and buoyant Mit Humor, so full of life.

This pianist brings a lovely rubato and freedom of tempo, full of character in Ungeduldig and some wonderful phrasing with a gentle rise and fall for Einfach. The fast moving Sehr rasch brings a fine clarity with well-judged flexible tempi before Levin brings a lovely touch to Nicht schnell with much sensitivity, rather fine.

After a rhythmically well pointed Frisch, Lebhaft flows perfectly, Levin bringing a sense of carefree enjoyment. She brings a tremendous clarity to the volatile, stormy Balladenmäßig - Sehr rasch before a well-developed Einfach, thoughtfully laid out with fine tempo and dynamics. There is crisp, rhythmic phrasing and more fine rubato in Mit Humor, a real weight to Wild und lustig, with a carefully controlled, flowing central section and a beautifully gentle, flowing Zart und singend with some most lovely phrasing.

Frisch brings more of Levin’s fine rubato and rhythmically free playing with a restrained stormy character, especially fine. In Mit gutem Humor she allows a freedom as the music surges and pulls back before a gentle, perfectly judged Wie aus der Ferne where this pianist brings some most lovely moments before racing to a terrific coda. Nicht schnell is beautifully paced with a gentle rhythmic lift and a gentle coda.

All round, this is a rather fine Davidsbündlertänze.

Anders Eliason (1947-2013) http://anders-eliasson.com was one of Sweden’s finest composers. His Disegno 2 for piano rises slowly and gently from a simple opening motif through some quite lovely passages. Levin brings a fine command of this ever developing piece, often dissonant but always retaining a cool beauty. There are passages of increased volatility with a descending bell like motif before reaching a gentle coda that completed this arch like structure.

Beth Levin brings a weighty opening Grave in Frédéric Chopin’s (1810-1849) Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 35 before launching into a turbulent Doppio movimento. Again this pianist brings a very fine clarity that, combined with a fine rubato and flexible tempo, makes for an impressive performance. She provides passages of great passion and volatility giving, at times, the feel of a live performance.

The same volatility lurks behind every bar of the Scherzo in a performance of great weight with a Trio section that is the perfect, graceful counterbalance.

Levin takes a slow dignified pace for the Marche funèbre: Lento, underlined by a great feeling of despair, rising through passages of increased intensity and passion with some impressive playing. She brings a slightly withdrawn central section, slowly revealing a restrained emotion. When the main theme returns, Levin adds to the angst and power with powerful chords and trills before arriving at a restrained coda.

She concludes with a rippling, finely controlled Finale: Presto. 

Beth Levin receives a close but nicely done recording revealing a fine piano tone, made at the Peter Karl Studios in New York City and there are useful sleeve notes.

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