“When I got home, I did what I usually do, which is to throw a thought into the public arena without thinking about any consequences. I went on Twitter and said, ‘O.K., I’m going to play for you guys tonight at my place.’ After having tweeted that, I realized, Hang on—I’ve never streamed anything, I know shit about streaming, I don’t even know if Twitter allows thirty minutes of streaming, I have no camera stand. I had a total panic. I was sending messages to friends:
‘Do you know how streaming works?’ And this tweet was already out there. It was a catastrophe. I ran to the last electronics store that was still open, and got some stuff for twenty-four euros.”
I saw Levit’s tweet and tuned in. The setting was familiar, because I had met with him there the previous summer. He lives in a spacious, airy, sparely decorated apartment in the Mitte neighborhood of Berlin, with plate-glass windows overlooking a park. His instrument is a 1923 Steinway B that once belonged to the great Swiss pianist Edwin Fischer. At 7 p.m., Levit pressed the Record button on his smartphone and trotted in front of his newly acquired home-Webcasting equipment, dressed casually in a black-and-gray pullover shirt and black pants. He gave a brief introduction, in German and English:
“It’s a sad time, it’s a weird time, but acting is better than doing nothing. Let’s bring the house concert into the twenty-first century.”
He then tore into Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata, in a fashion typical of him—precipitate, purposeful, intricately nuanced. It was an imposing structure aglow with feeling.
On May 4th, Levit streamed his fifty-second concert—his last, for the time being. “I need to take a break and recalibrate,” he told me. “I mean, I haven’t read a book in four weeks.” This phase of his career had been disorienting. He had gained even greater visibility, yet he was isolated in his apartment, fearful of what an extended shutdown will mean for cultural life. (He has had several girlfriends, but is currently unattached.) Levit went on,
“I mean, one journalist said that I was creating ‘fireplace moments for the nation.’ For God’s sake! All I wanted to do was to share something, do something, instead of just sitting in my apartment and watching everything crumble.”
One day, Levit sent me a text saying,
“Maybe for the first time do I understand what it means to speak of music as something life-keeping. It really keeps me alive. . . . I don’t care if it’s wrong or right, whatever B.S. that means, just as long as I can actually press down the black and white keys. I’ve never, never been freer than now. Never. And I am in tears half the day. Very, very dark. And yet. The existential must of music-making really becomes bigger and bigger by the minute.”
source: The New Yorker
Igor Levit Is Like No Other Pianist
He’s a political activist. His repertory is vast. And, during Germany’s shutdown, he streamed more than fifty performances from home. It’s made him question what a concert can be.