Igor levit

Igor Levit deserved his standing ovation; Shostakovich, even more so

Music and politics don’t mix, runs the platitude. Looks a bit tattered now, doesn’t it? For Soviet musicians, of course, it wasn’t a question of whether you were interested in politics. Politics was unambiguously interested in you. Shostakovich wrote his 24 Preludes and Fugues for piano between 1950 and 1951, in the teeth of Stalin’s postwar crackdown, and in adopting the model of Bach, he seems to have been looking for a safe path forward: music that was politically neutral. He dedicated the Preludes and Fugues to the pianist Tatyana Nikolayeva, whose surprise victory at the 1950 Bach competition in Leipzig had been exploited by state propagandists. Bach himself was

Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas were his musical laboratory – here are the best recordings

If you want to understand Beethoven, listen to his piano sonatas. Without them, you’ll never grasp how the same man could write the hummable, easy-listening Septet of 1799 and the scraped dissonances of the 1825 Grosse Fuge, which even today scares Classic FM listeners. It’s the 32 sonatas, not the nine symphonies or 16 string quartets, that join the dots. The symphonies are monuments rather than a guidebook. For example, the Second doesn’t warn you that the Eroica is about to explode in your face. The quartets, meanwhile, jump from the six of Opus 18, in which Beethoven essentially pours new wine into old bottles, to the three Razumovskys of