Igor Levit confronts Tristan;  an ideal John Adams primer

Igor Levit confronts Tristan; an ideal John Adams primer

• Never try to guess the Russian-German pianist Igor Levit. Love and death are the twin flames of his new double album. In contrast to last year’s polychromatic presentation On DSCHits new Tristan (Sony) has a monochromatic sobriety. The unifying theme is the legend of Tristan made famous by Wagner and explored by others, in homage and inspiration.

As you might expect, Levit’s choices are bold, a record largely occupied by the six movements of Hans Werner Henze Tristan (1974). This neglected opera, full of allusions and tender sensuality, is written for piano, electronic tapes and orchestra, here the Leipzig Gewandhaus conducted by Franz Welser-Möst. Bridging the Henze with Wagner’s Prelude Tristan and Isolde (arr. Zoltán Kocsis), Levit highlights the dissonant enigma that is Mahler’s 10th Symphony Adagio, in Ronald Stevenson’s transcription. The Transcendental Etude n. Liszt’s 11, “Harmonies du soir”, with its crimped, harp-like left hand and song-like right-hand chords, explodes into brightness and then subsides into a dark and tranquil ending, the perfect ending of the disc.

Also look at the upcoming book of Levit with Florian Zinnecker: Concert in the house (Polity), based on the block concerts that Levit played in his Berlin apartment, winning a passionate audience around the world.

• As a resident artist of the Tonhalle-Orchester Zurichthe American composer John Adams (b 1947) worked closely with this orchestra and its conductor Paavo Järvi, helping them prepare his music. The result, simply called John Adams (Alpha Classics), features four contrasting works: Slonimsky’s headset (1995), pulsating and vivid, written for the opening of Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall; My father knew Charles Ives (2003), the touching triptych evoking the childhood of Adams’ New England marching band; Tromba Lontana (1986), a short and noisy fanfare; and Lollapalooza (1995), explosive and rhythmic, written as a gift for Simon Rattle’s 40th birthday, first performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. This short compendium is an ideal starting point for any listener who wishes to experience the rich orchestral vocabulary of this prolific composer.

Or tune in tomorrow night (Sunday) at 10pm UK time to watch Adams’ latest work, Antony and Cleopatrain a live stream (£ 23.50) from the San Francisco Opera, where it premiered earlier this month.

• Live from Glasgow City Hall: Ryan Wigglesworth leads the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in a new work by Jonathan Woolgar, plus Ravel’s Dafni and Chloé and Messiaen Poems for Mi with soprano Sophie Bevan. Thursday, 7:30 pm, Radio 3 / BBC Sounds.

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