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Beth Levin, concert pianist

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First Presbyterian Church of Stamford

1101 Bedford Street

Stamford, CT 06905

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The Drozdoff Society presents a recital by the legendary American concert pianist, Beth Levin.

The Program

Handel: Suite No. 4 in D Minor, HWV 437
Beethoven: Sonata No. 29 in B-Flat Major, Op. 106 - "Hammerklavier"

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Here is Donald Isler's review of Ms. Levin's recent performance of this program in New York City:

Donald Isler
July 14 at 3:34 PM
Review I wrote for the Classical Music Guide of Beth Levin's piano recital last night.

Beth Levin, Pianist
Bargemusic
July 13th, 2018

Handel: Suite No. 4 in D Minor, HWV 437
Beethoven: Sonata No. 29 in B-Flat Major, Op. 106 - "Hammerklavier"

Beth Levin was originally a child prodigy who debuted with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of twelve. Her teachers included Rudolph Serkin, Leonard Shure, Paul Badura-Skoda and Dorothy Taubman. She has made recordings of the Goldberg Variations of Bach and Beethoven's Diabelli Variations while always maintaining an involvement in contemporary music. David Del Tredici and Andrew Rudin have written works for her, and she has also played the music of Henryk Gorecki, Scott Wheeler, Mohammed Farouz and Michael Rose. She plays chamber music as well as challenging solo programs, such as one featuring the last three Beethoven sonatas, which I heard her perform several years ago. She is received with enthusiasm when she first appears on stage by a devoted group of admirers.

Ms. Levin is incapable of playing a phrase without emotional content, or thought. She has an impressive technique but doesn't call attention to it; it's there at the service of the music.

The Handel Suite, most of which I hadn't heard before, started with a grand flourish, and the performance utilized a very wide dynamic range. No, this is not how one would play it on a harpsichord, anymore than the Bach performances of the great Edwin Fischer were for anything but the modern piano! Some of this work was played with great energy (and one was made aware of Ms. Levin's excellent articulation) whereas other places were beautiful in an almost spiritual way, and one noticed her fine control of soft playing. Some of it also had an improvisatory nature.

The Hammerklavier Sonata, which was played with hardly a pause after the Handel, was, as I learned afterwards, her first performance of this huge work. It was admirable in many ways.

The first movement struck me as unusually slow, and in fact it was twelve minutes long, even without the repeat. This made me think of the conductor, Otto Klemperer, who was known for his slow tempi, which, however, gave the listener the opportunity to hear so many of the music's details. And, indeed, Ms. Levin told me, that's what she had in mind. I found this an interesting outlook, and noted that the playing was powerful and very expressive. The second movement was played at more like the "standard" tempo for that movement, sounding quite jaunty, except for the beginning of the B-Flat Minor section, which was ferocious!

The third movement is not easy to hold together but Ms. Levin succeeded. It was played slowly but not too slowly, and featured much contrast, such as elegant fingerwork in the quasi-filigree right hand part, and a lovely, rocking "barcarolle-like" G Major section. The introduction to the last movement was very slow, but the fugue was taken at a good clip. It was powerfully played, technically and sound-wise, except for the beautifully played soft sections, such as where the music resumes in D Major after a series of rests.

There were no encores, but: What CAN you play after the Hammerklavier?!

Donald Isler

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BIOGRAPHY
Beth Levin

Brooklyn-based pianist Beth Levin is celebrated as a bold interpreter of challenging works, from the Romantic canon to leading modernist composers. The New York Times praised her “fire and originality,” while The New Yorker called her playing “revelatory.” Fanfare described Levin’s artistry as “fierce in its power,” with “a huge range of colors.”

Debuting as a child prodigy with the Philadelphia Orchestra at age twelve, Levin was subsequently taught and guided by legendary pianists such as Rudolf Serkin, Leonard Shure and Dorothy Taubman, Another of her teachers, Paul Badura-Skoda, praised Levin as “a pianist of rare qualities and the highest professional caliber.” Her deep well of experience allows an intuitive connection to the great pianistic traditions, to Bach, to Mozart, to Beethoven.

Critics hail the immediacy of her performances. “Levin plays with a rare percussive audacity, making notes and phrases that usually rush by in the background stand out in high relief,” writes Richard Brody in The New York Times. “Her choice of adventure over suaveness,” stated David Patrick Stearns of the Philadelphia Inquirer, “created a sense of barely controlled improvisation.”

Levin 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 also worked with noted conductors such as Arthur Fiedler, Tonu Kalam, Milton Katims, Joseph Silverstein and Benjamin Zander.

Chamber music festival collaborations have brought Levin 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. Her solo performances have been broadcast on National Public Radio, WGBH (Boston), WFMT (Chicago) and WNYC, WNYE and WQXR (New York).

Among Levin’s recent albums include Bright Circle: Schubert, Brahms, Del Tredici, on Navona Records; Personae: Chopin, Eliasson, Schumann, released on the Parma label, and Inward Voice: Schumann, Eliasson, Schubert, from Aldila. Wrote Henry Fogel in Fanfare, reviewing Bright Circle: “Levin’s performance is a blend of power and grace, wit and warmth, grandeur and intimacy. It is worthy of standing alongside that of her teacher [Rudolf Serkin].” Tiara Ataii in Music and Vision, reviewing Personae: “Levin’s performance is near perfection, maintaining intensity in each note and crystalline tone in every register.”

Two live performance recordings have been extremely well praised: Bach’s Goldberg �Variations and Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations , both released by Centaur Records. Steve Smith of The New York Times described her interpretation of Diabelli “consistently fascinating,” while Robert Levine of Stereophile Magazine termed it “stunning.” Of Levin’s Goldberg Variations, Peter Burwasser of Fanfare Magazine stated that “she is in love with the notes....with always the sense that she is exploring Bach’s genius.”

For all her devotion to the Romantic canon, Levin remains committed to the performance of the music of our time, interpreting composers such as Henryk Gorecki, Scott Wheeler, Mohammed Farouz and Michael Rose, among many others. Her closest collaborators have been the composers David Del Tredici and Andrew Rudin, both of whom have written works for her.

Ms. Levin is presented by Cherny Concert & Artist Management Ltd.

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First Presbyterian Church of Stamford

1101 Bedford Street

Stamford, CT 06905

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