I think this deserves a brief note. I am a big fan of Igor Levit; I think he is the most promising of the new generation of pianists and I have all of his CDs. I put up a recent post about this issue of Venezuela and music that also involved Igor Levit.The BBC has been known to go to some lengths to avoid political statements being made at the Proms, but this year, pianist Igor Levit sneaked one in before even an hour of the season had passed.The Russian-German pianist’s encore – demanded in no uncertain terms by the audience after his performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3 – was Liszt’s transcription of the Ode to Joy, the chorus to hopeful words by Friedrich Schiller that forms the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No 9.It is also, of course, the anthem of the European Union, and a worldwide musical symbol of assertive unity. If there could have been any doubt that a performer of such political awareness and responsibility as Levit meant it to be taken as such, he was wearing a small EU pin. The BBC’s cameras couldn’t miss it.
Here are some further thoughts: in the case of Venezuela, a horrific situation of an entire nation apparently committing suicide before our very eyes, it is frankly hard to see why we should ignore it. And in the case of a musician of Venezuelan nationality, we should not only allow them some leeway to express their opinions, but perhaps even listen to them. But Brexit is an entirely different situation and musicians should perhaps steer clear unless there is some compelling reason to make a statement and in this case, the Proms concert, I really don't see one.
On the other hand, perhaps all this is imaginary and dreamed up by The Guardian. After all, just because Levit played Liszt's transcription of this particular movement doesn't necessarily imply a "statement" at all, even if he was wearing an EU pin. I have a Canada pin I wear sometimes, but I don't mean to make a statement with it.
Envoi, Beethoven Piano Concerto #3: a little sample of a performance by Igor Levit and the Mannheim Philharmonic: