Speed and Sulfur - Dmitri Levkovich
For two weeks each year, the International Keyboard Institute and Festival (IKIF) creates a dream fortnight for piano lovers, drawn to wall-to-wall performances in the intimate recital hall at Mannes College The New School for Music. On July 23, the young Dmitri Levkovich sailed through a difficult program that might have flummoxed lesser talents. Originally from the Ukraine and the son of two concert pianists who later emigrated to Israel and Canada, Levkovich studied at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute before arriving at the Cleveland Institute of Music to work with the renowned Sergei Babayan.
As evidenced by his opening, Chopin’s Barcarole, Op. 60 and Sonata No. 2, Mr. Levkovich has no shortage of technique. The final two movements of the sonata were especially effective; the “Marche funèbre” had appropriate gravitas, and the treacherous unisons of the finale were executed with mind and fingers seemingly unfazed by the score’s difficulty.
But perhaps best on the first half was Scriabin’s Ninth Sonata, the “Black Mass,” which began delicately, even tentatively—giving no warning of the grotesque torrents that would come flooding in later. Despite the Ninth’s dense midsection, the pianist gave the inner lines their due. Overall the tempo seemed slightly quicker than usual, yet the pianist was still able to maintain a sulfurous mood. Barely pausing for breath, he tore into Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23 (“Appassionata”), ultimately giving it a monumental cast. The final Allegro ma no troppo - Presto was adroitly phrased, with carefully considered details.
To close the evening, the pianist plunged into Stravinsky’s Trois mouvements de Petrouchka, with the “Danse russe” at a stingingly fast tempo. “Chez Pétrouchka” and “La semaine grasse” were mercifully a tad slower, yet vivacious and packed with color. As a gentler encore, Levkovich offered a thoughtful, beautifully spun-out Rachmaninoff Prelude in G Major, Op. 32, No. 5.