Robert Levin

Piano

"Levin lives Mozart throughout his entire body, and for every second of the score...he plays the music as if he's writing it himself - for the first time"

Hilary Finch, The Times

"The Second Piano Concerto was also given a magnificent performance. Levin’s playing was a model of classicism for this early Beethoven work"

Jonathan Richmond, Boston Globe

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Robert Levin has performed through­­out the world, appearing with major orchestras on the Steinway and with leading period instrument orchestras on early pianos. Renowned for his impro­vised cadenzas in Classical period repertoire, Robert Levin has made recordings of a wide range of repertoire for numerous labels, including Bach’s complete keyboard concertos, the six English Suites and both books of the Well-Tempered Clavier (Hänssler Edition Bachakademie); a Mozart concerto cycle with Chris­topher Hogwood, Richard Egarr, Boyan Cicic, Laurence Cummings, and the Academy of An­cient Music for Decca/Oiseau Lyre and AAM; the Beethoven concertos with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Roman­tique for DG Archiv; the complete piano music of Dutilleux for ECM; Bernard Rands’ Preludes and Impromptu for Bridge; and the complete Beethoven sonatas and variations for fortepiano and ’cello with Steven Isserlis for Hyperion.  Recent releases include the six Bach Partitas (Grand Prix International du Disque) the complete Schubert piano trios with Noah Bendix-Balgley and Peter Wiley (Le Palais des Dégustateurs), and the complete Mozart sonatas on Mozart’s Walter piano (ECM).

A passionate advocate of new music, Robert Levin has commissioned and premiered numerous of works.  He has long partnership with violist Kim Kashkashian and appears frequently with his wife, pianist Ya-Fei Chuang, in duo recitals and with orchestra, and with cellist Steven Isserlis. A noted Mozart scholar, Mr. Levin’s completions of Mozart’s Requiem, C-minor Mass, and other unfinished works have been recorded and performed throughout the world. He is President of the International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition (Leipzig, Germany) and was awarded the Bach Medal of the City of Leipzig in 2018.  From 1993 to 2013 he was Dwight P. Robinson, Jr. Professor of the Humanities at Harvard Uni­versity and is presently Visiting Professor at The Juilliard School and and the Sibelius Academy, and International Chair at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

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Mozart Piano Concertos No.5 & Church Sonata No.17 (CD)

AAM, June 2023

Levin's reconstruction of No.51 from Nannerl's notebook brings a depth to this very early work. ... Levin's choice of organ ... for the K175 D major concerto assists his enchanting reimagining of Mozart's first newly composed keyboard concerto. AAM are on top form with lean string lines and uplifting wind and brass sonorities.

...Levin's incisive harpsichord ... and the warmth of AAM's strings make for a more enriching listening experience.

Ingrid Pearson, BBC Music Magazine *****

Mozart Concertos no. 21 & 24 (CD)

AAM, March 2023

The fervor, the flame, the desire is palpable... Levin is the world's boldest in celebrating Mozart's instrumental vocality.

Le Devoir *****

... marvellously satisfying performances that are always full of surprises.

Levin is the leading exponent in recreating the Mozart style on the spot...these performances have plenty of character...

The remaining four discs are eagerly awaited.

Richard Fairman, Financial Times *****

Levin’s playing is what reveals the coyness and delicacy of Mozart’s writing throughout, with pristine articulation and inquisitive phrases... Levin’s cadenza captures the style and character of the work...

Azusa Ueno, The Classic Review

There can be few keyboard players more thoroughly drenched in Mozartian style than Levin, and his incursions - thoughtful, cheeky, inventive, resourceful - are always true to the spirit of the music.

David Threasher, Gramophone Magazine

The piano dances and sparkles under Levin's featherlight touch... Levin springs surprises in many elaborations and decorations... the cadenzas are extremely witty... a light toned eloquence that is very touching.

Nicholas Kenyon, BBC Music Magazine *****

Immediately, the comfortable rapport between Levin and the AAM (and Egarr) is absolutely evident, and Levin’s innate understanding of every note Mozart wrote springs out of the speakers. Incidentally, there are notes Mozart didn’t write, too – Levin’s long argued for improvisation as being as intrinsic part of Mozart’s music, and he’s totally convincing with the brief asides he adds in.

…the real highlight here is Levin’s reading of the sublime slow movement. It’s gentle, lyrical, but also understated, like a conversation with a good friend.

Paul Ballam-Cross, Limelight Magazine

‘Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – The Piano Sonatas on Mozart’s Fortepiano’ ECM Records

released on 16/09/2022

(…) And boy does it show, with Levin’s fluent, improvisational yet scrupulously historically informed approach evident in every bar of these highly engaging, often surprising accounts.

(…) Such as No 8 in A Minor K310: in Levin’s hands so exciting, visceral even. No 12 in F K332, colourful and dramatic and adorned with those improvised embellishments that Levin lavishes with such care and taste throughout, such that they are never superfluous and always expressive of structure as much as feeling.(…) I was moved to ecstasy.

Will Yeoman, The Limelight Magazine ****​*

You might think the instrument’s modest size and sound would restrict expression, yet the reverse seems true: Levin zooms in fearlessly, placing the music’s emotion and narrative progression centre stage.

The crucial factor is the profound understanding, sophistication and sense of joy with which he delves into the personality of the composer, not just that of his piano. (...) Each note is inhabited with vitality, each phrase urgent with meaningful expression.

Levin gives his own expertise in improvisation its head during repeats and restatements – already virtuosic music blossoms out with dazzling splashes of fresh fingerpaint, extending to audacious amplifications of detail in melodic lines and harmonies. Would Mozart have had so much fun with them? I reckon so.

The whole project is a stunner. Without neglecting faithfulness to the letter, Levin prioritises faithfulness to the spirit. This treasurable set may cast crucial light not only on these sonatas, but also on how we consider the very nature of historical performance.

Jessica Duchen, The BBC Music Magazine *****

Levin imbues this repertoire with vibrant life and deep meaning at every turn, not to mention his astonishing embellishments on repeats.

Levin’s completions of three unfinished or fragmentary Mozart sonata movements are so convincingly idiomatic that you’d never be the wiser.

In short, Robert Levin’s Mozart sonata cycle is a testament to his painstaking yet practical scholarship, intelligent musicianship, and total command of the keyboard. (...) Even if you already own one or two or more Mozart sonata cycles, make plenty of room for Levin’s insightful artistry. You won’t regret it.

Jed Distler, Classics Today

The brilliant Robert Levin (...) embarks on one of the most musical, spontaneous sets of sonatas that can be imagined.

Levin has a superb grasp of not only sources but also the power of gesture.

Levin’s timing of Mozart’s gestures is perfect, as is his realization of orchestratiomal equivalencies.

Documentation is spotless, an education in itself, while presentation is of the very highest echelon.

Levin presents us with an immense achievement, one that without doubt will illuminate, educate and, best of all, nourish the soul, all caught in perfectly judged sound.

Colin Clarke, Fanfare Magazine *****

He’s not shy about exploiting the potential to its fullest, and pushing the instrument to the limits of its expressive and tonal possibilities.

Levin’s rich ornamentation has attracted considerable attention. I find it entirely convincing, giving these performances an oratorical, in-the-moment electricity, as the speaker explores his subject with extemporaneous insight, elaboration and emphasis.

He has said his goal was to leave no clue as to where his pen took up and Mozart’s left off, and he has succeeded. The results are seamless, and satisfying.

Philip Kennicott, Gramophone

Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3

Scottish Chamber Orchestra (November 2017)

The result was edge-of-your-seat stuff, sometimes raising a smile, often raising eyebrows, but carried through with utter conviction and brilliant, sometimes rather hard-edged clarity. 

David Kettle, The Scotsman ****​

Robert Levin, who has just celebrated his 70th birthday, brought his renowned erudition to the solo part, as well as the flair of his own improvised cadenzas, always staying clearly within the embrace of Beethoven’s own themes.

Keith Bruce, The Herald ****​

Alte Oper Recital

Mozart Saal, Frankfurt

Erfolgreich Musik machen und erfolgreich über sie reden können wenige. Ein solcher Universalkünstler, bekannt auch als Vollender berühmter Fragmente wie etwa Mozarts Requiem, ist der Pianist Robert Levin.

Gerhard Schroth, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Hilary Hahn Recitals

European and US Tour (March 2017)

A Mozart sonata, K. 481, followed. Again it was Levin whose dynamism collared our ears… it was clear that our musicians were enjoying a conversation.

…Levin’s solo turn followed in Hans Peter Türk’s Träume, another welcome UK premiere. Its angular opening line suggested an academic fugue was coming. Yet bell sounds and free-flowing fingers soon whisked us into a reflective world much more suited to the music’s purpose as a memorial for the composer’s late wife.

The final proof of Hahn’s rebirth came in Schubert’s Rondo, D. 895. For thrust and snap she and Levin were now equal, prancing together, jubilant in attack. The applause rang out; the encores arrived, topped off by Lili Boulanger’s Cortège and Nocturne, easing us beautifully into the night. This was a very enjoyable second half.

Geoff Brown, The Times ****

Levin was a full partner, with Hahn a lyrical presence (the slow movement [of the Kreutzer Sonata] seemed downright magical).

Olin Chism, Fort Worth Star Telegram

Their joint recital Saturday night at Jordan Hall as part of the Celebrity Series brought the best of both worlds… Levin brought dexterous technique and fine touch to both works. In the third movement of the Bach sonata, which featured Levin by himself, his phrases swirled elegantly in a singing, almost fruity tone…

Many of the Mozart’s violin sonatas are juvenilia, but K. 481 is a mature work rich in flowering melody. In Saturday’s performance, the first movement had moments of drama, with Hahn and Levin traversing both the delicate and dark themes with finesse. Levin was the focus of the second movement as he conjured soft phrases with clean, pure tone.

Long and rapturous applause brought Hahn and Levin back to the stage for three encores. These short works revealed yet again that Hahn and Levin are a duo of rare and sensitive musicality.

Aaron Keebaugh, Boston Classical Review

Mozart’s Sonata in E-Flat Major was outstanding. A Mozart scholar and expert improviser in the Classical style, Levin played with a tender sort of assertiveness. Clear, connected phrases flowed like a transparent sheet of water blooming from a fountain… Three encores followed… After each, Hahn and Levin bowed to each other, and then to the audience, standing together as equals.

Zoë Madonna, The Boston Globe

Hilary Hahn Recitals

US Tour (October 2016)

The Bach and the Mozart are true duets, in which the piano and violin have equal roles, and Levin made an arresting partner. Both players sounded so spontaneous that it seemed miraculous they were so perfectly coordinated. The Bach was as fluid and swift as rushing water, and the Mozart sounded as contemporary as the Abril.

Anne Midgette, The Washington Post

Levin was a consummate accompanist, never overwhelming Hahn’s solo lines or forcing her to make herself heard. She sounded, as a result, completely at ease throughout the evening.

Charles T. Downey, Washington Classical Review

Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (October 2016)

Levin’s solo work in the concerto was marked not only by nimble technique and expressive clarity, but by the deep knowledge of the period that gives his every performance such a sense of linguistic mastery. At the most obvious level, that enables him to improvise his own cadenzas — the showy, unaccompanied flourishes that come right before the conclusion of nearly every movement — just as Beethoven and his contemporaries would have done, and to do so firmly within the bounds of Beethoven’s musical grammar and vocabulary.

Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Gate

Stuttgart Radio Orchestra

BBC Proms (July 2016)

The really thrilling bit came in the cadenzas, the point where the soloist is supposed to show off. Most pianists make use of Beethoven’s written-out cadenzas; Levin made up his own, full of thunderous arpeggios and cliff-hanging high trills. Would Sir Roger and the orchestra know when they were coming to an end? Would Robert Levin himself know? Fortunately it all came out right in the end… this Prom was a lesson in how familiar things can be made exciting and risky, as if they were created yesterday… to witness it was riveting.

Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph *****

Academy of Ancient Music

Barbican Centre (February 2015)

He managed the piano’s light exchanges with the orchestra beautifully, and found the all the depth and emotion of this, the longest of Mozart’s concertos [Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major]. This performance became not about the period instruments themselves, but about what the instruments revealed in the music.

John Allison, The Telegraph ****

Robert Levin’s Concert Repertoire

J. S BACH

Brandenburg Concerto No. 5
Triple Concerto BWV 1044
Complete concertos for 1-4 keyboards  

BEETHOVEN

Complete piano concertos


Rondo WoO 6
Choral Fantasy, Op. 80
Triple Concerto, Op. 56 

BRAHMS

Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 15 

FRANCK

Variations symphoniques 

HARBISON

Piano Concerto

MENDELSSOHN

Piano Concertos in A minor


No.1, Op. 25
No. 2, Op. 40
Capriccio brilliant; Concertos for 2 pianos  

MOZART

Complete piano concertos and rondos 

POULENC

Concerto for 2 Pianos

SCHUMANN

Complete works for piano and orchestra 

STRAVINSKY

Concerto for Piano and Winds

WYNER

Piano Concerto (Chiavi in mano), dedicated to RL

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