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The grand Beethoven finale with Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Igor Levit
The musical weekends that LUCERNEFESTIVAL has added to its programming in 2020 offer concert events that stand out from the usual pattern. The curators are innovative artistic personalities with the courage to pursue unorthodox concepts. Artists like violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and pianist Igor Levit, who have been causing a sensation in today’s scene through their electrifying performances. Both share a propensity to boldly go for the jugular as they arrive at their radical interpretations. “Why play only what we understand and know?” asks Kopatchinskaja. “Better to look ahead and discover something new!” And Levit observes: “The work is sacred, but humans are free.” Both artists are also socially committed, looking beyond the horizon of their own art. Kopatchinskaja takes a stand to combat climate change, while Levit fights against anti-Semitism and supports refugees.
Their weekend together in November 2020 marks the end of the great Beethoven anniversary year, during which the music world has been celebrating the composer’s 250th birthday. These five concerts therefore explore the theme “Beethoven Farewell.” While they are dedicated to his groundbreaking legacy, they also broaden our perspective on what happened post-Beethoven with works by Leoš Janáček, Charles Ives, and György Kurtág, among others.
“Beethoven addressed himself to the fearless performer. His music demands an absurd swiftness of reaction as well as self-assurance. If you’re focused only on managing to play, it can quickly become very, very difficult. The fearless performer may be a fictional ideal. In this regard, certain passages of the Hammerklavier Sonata are utopian.”
“How do you get these old pieces to once again sound so fresh that you can still feel from today’s perspective what a rebel and innovator Beethoven was?”
“Beethoven’s music transcends the instrument and is orchestral; it makes me believe that I’m playing more than just the piano. When I play it, I turn into a trombone, into violence, despair, loneliness, and more.”
“Dear Ludwig, you titan and creator among humanity! We, the citizens of the free republics, have irrevocably encased you in concrete in our concert halls and on countless recordings as the apex of all monuments. Kneeling before your music, we repeat it like a mantra. Oh you lighthouse that blinds everyone! You were feared, but at long last you are played to death, crowned with laurel, stacked up with the rest in the graveyard of our magnificent past.”
“When I look at today’s concert scene, it seems that every year we celebrate Beethoven’s anniversary. There is a tendency to treat music as a substitute for whatever the topic is. Beethoven just comes in handy with his messages. ‘All men become brothers.’ Wonderful. No one can object to that. But a genuine engagement with text and meaning gets blurred – or, in Beethoven’s case, simply drowned out. Performing his music is no substitute for tolerance, for empathy, for truth. To play Beethoven is not enough. I’m not going to save the world with the Ninth.”