New York, NY (January 3, 2018) – Pianist Igor Levit has been named the recipient of the 2018 Gilmore Artist Award. The Award was announced today by Daniel R. Gustin, Director of the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival. One of the most prestigious honors in music, the Gilmore Artist Award is presented every four years on a non-competitive basis to an exceptional pianist who, regardless of age or nationality, is a superb performing artist and a profound musician with both charisma and breadth of musicianship; who desires and can sustain a performing career as a major international concert artist and can make a real impact on music; and whose developing career can benefit from the enhancement the Award’s money and prestige provide. Mr. Levit will receive $300,000 in support of his musical and career goals over the next four years. Previous recipients of the Gilmore Artist Award are Rafał Blechacz (2014), Kirill Gerstein (2010), Ingrid Fliter (2006), Piotr Anderszewski (2002), Leif Ove Andsnes (1998), Ralf Gothóni (1994), and David Owen Norris (1991).
Mr. Levit will give his first public performance as the 2018 Gilmore Artist in an event presented by WQXR at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space on Thursday, January 4 at 7:00 p.m. ET. Hosted by American Public Media’s Fred Child, the event will include interviews with Mr. Levit, Mr. Gustin, and Pierre van der Westhuizen, who succeeds Mr. Gustin as Director of The Gilmore this year, as well as members of the Artistic Advisory Committee who chose Mr. Levit as Gilmore Artist. Mr. Levit will perform Bach’s Chaconne in D minor (transcribed by Brahms for left hand alone) and Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata. The Greene Space event will be streamed live on WQXR.org—New York City’s only classical music radio station—on WQXR’s Facebook page, and on Performance Today’s Facebook page.
“Igor Levit is not only a superb pianist but also a deeply thoughtful and insightful artist, and he made a deep impression on all of us who followed his performances over the last three years,” Mr. Gustin said. “He exemplifies the pianist that The Gilmore was formed to support. Igor will be the final Gilmore Artist chosen during my tenure as Director, and I am honored to have led an organization that has made a significant impact on so many great pianists’ lives.”
Igor Levit, 30, was born in Russia and relocated at a young age to Germany, where he still resides today. Recognized as an artist to watch as early as 2005, when he won several prizes as the youngest participant of that year’s Arthur Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv, Mr. Levit went on to gain wide acclaim for his 2013 Sony Classical recording of Beethoven’s late sonatas, praised by Alex Ross of The New Yorker for its “technical brilliance, tonal allure,” and “intellectual drive.” Since his North American debut in 2014, he has also dazzled audiences and critics in concert halls around the nation, with Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times declaring: “He is the future.” He has appeared with orchestras and in recital around the world, collaborated with such leading artists as Marina Abramović, and made additional, well-received recordings for Sony Classical, featuring works by composers from Bach to Rzewski.
Mr. Levit said, “It is a great honor to receive the Gilmore Award, and I am deeply grateful. The news almost leaves me speechless, but I feel privileged, blessed, and excited. For me, the purpose of music making and being an artist is to share—to share the past, present, and future of music with my audience as best I can. This award will help me to continue on this path and broaden the possibilities of that sharing.”
The Gilmore Artist Award is given by the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, established in 1989. Candidates for the Gilmore Artist Award are nominated confidentially by a large and diverse international assemblage of music professionals. The finalists among the candidates are then each evaluated for their career potential and musicianship in many live concert performances over a two- to three-year period by the Gilmore Director and an anonymous committee representing a variety of professions and viewpoints in the classical music world. The committee travels all over the world assessing the candidates’ concert performances over a sustained period of time, rather than judging their achievements during a concentrated period under tightly controlled conditions, as in a public competition. The Gilmore Artist receives a $50,000 cash grant to be used at the artist’s discretion and $250,000 that is typically disbursed over a four-year period for projects and activities that will enhance the artist’s musicianship and career.
In addition to Mr. Gustin, the selection committee for the 2018 Gilmore Artist Award included David Baldwin, Artistic and Executive Director of Fontana Chamber Arts in Kalamazoo, Michigan; Numa Bischof-Ullmann, Artistic and Executive Director of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra; Barry Kempton, Artistic and Executive Director of the Schubert Club, Minnesota’s oldest arts organization; Elizabeth Ostrow, an artistic planning consultant and recording producer with more than 30 years’ experience in the industry, including as former Artistic Advisor at the New York Philharmonic and Vice President of Artistic Planning for the Orchestra of St. Luke’s; and Christopher Roberts, President of Robisong Consultants and former head of Universal Music’s Classics and Jazz Division.
The Gilmore also gives Young Artist Awards, each worth $25,000, every two years to the most promising of the new generation of American pianists age 22 and younger. Between 1990 and 2018, 34 young pianists have received a Gilmore Young Artist Award, including most recently Wei Luo and Elliot Wuu.
Following the 2018 Gilmore Artist announcement and Festival in the spring, Mr. Gustin will retire as Director of the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival. Over the course of his 18-year tenure, Mr. Gustin has named five Gilmore Artists and 18 Gilmore Young Artists, and has overseen nine festivals (which he has expanded in scope significantly since his first Festival in 2002), and 22 commissions. He will be succeeded by Pierre van der Westhuizen, a seasoned arts administrator, concert pianist, and educator, who most recently served as CEO of the Cleveland International Piano Competition.
The Gilmore Festival and Awards are the legacy of Irving S. Gilmore, a Michigan businessman and philanthropist based in Kalamazoo, whose special devotion to piano music and pianists inspired the creation of the biennial Gilmore International Keyboard Festival and the Gilmore Artist and Young Artist Awards. Mr. Levit, along with former Gilmore Artists Leif Ove Andsnes, Rafał Blechacz, Ingrid Fliter, and Kirill Gerstein will appear at this year’s Gilmore International Keyboard Festival taking place April 25 through May 12, 2018 across West Michigan. More information can be found at thegilmore.org.
Hailed as “one of the essential artists of his generation” by The New York Times, Igor Levit has quickly distinguished himself as a pianist of immense technical prowess and intellectual depth. From his early success in Europe, he has gone on to build an international following through concert performances around the world, universally acclaimed recordings for Sony Classical, and even social media channels, through which he speaks out as both an artist and global citizen. His recording projects and concert programming are noted for their ambition—from his debut recording of Beethoven’s most complex piano works and a monumental, three-disc set of variation cycles by Bach, Beethoven, and Rzewski, to performance cycles of all 32 Beethoven sonatas.
Igor Levit’s 2017-18 season began with a tour to Taipei, Seoul, and Tokyo performing Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with the Bavarian State Orchestra led by Kirill Petrenko, with whom he debuted last season. The core of his concerto repertoire this season is formed by Beethoven’s last three piano concertos, which he performs with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra (Sakari Oramo), Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Jakub Hrůša), NDR Radiophilharmonie (Andrew Manze), Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (Manfred Honeck); BBC National Orchestra of Wales (Thomas Søndergård), Kammerakademie Potsdam (Antonello Manacorda), Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Manfred Honeck), and at the Gilmore Keyboard Festival. Additional engagements include a European tour in April performing Brahms’s First Piano Concerto with the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich (Lionel Bringuier) and, following his appearances at the Gilmore Festival in May, a German tour performing Mendelssohn’s First and Second Piano Concertos with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen (Florian Donderer).
In recital, Mr. Levit continues a focus on the complete Beethoven piano sonatas, which he performs as part of two separate, eight-concert cycles: the first launched last season at Brussels’ Palais des Beaux-Arts (Parts V-VIII performed this season) and the second launched this season at Munich’s Prinzregententheater (Parts I-IV performed this season). In 2016-17 he performed the full cycle at London’s Wigmore Hall. He also introduces a new recital program this season comprising works by J.S. Bach, Shostakovich, Schumann, Wagner, and Liszt. Performances take place at venues in the U.S.—in Costa Mesa, CA; La Jolla, CA; Denver, CO; and Fort Worth, TX—as well as at Wigmore Hall and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark. Further recitals include a return to his hometown to perform at the Berlin Philharmonie, his Barcelona and Stockholm recital debuts, two recitals at Wigmore Hall including a birthday performance for Frederic Rzewski, and a recital at Beethovenfest Bonn.
An exclusive recording artist for Sony Classical, Mr. Levit’s debut disc of Beethoven’s last five piano sonatas won the BBC Music Magazine Newcomer of the Year 2014 Award, the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist Award 2014, and the ECHO Klassik 2014 Award for Solo Recording of the Year (19th-Century Music/Piano). In October 2015, Sony Classical released his third solo album in cooperation with the Festival Heidelberger Frühling featuring Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, and Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated!, which was awarded the Recording of the Year and Instrumental Award at the 2016 Gramophone Classical Music Awards.
Born in Nizhny Novgorod in 1987, Mr. Levit moved with his family to Germany at age eight. He completed his piano studies at Hanover Academy of Music, Theatre and Media in 2009 with the highest academic and performance scores in the history of the institute. He has studied under the tutelage of Bernd Goetze, Karl-Heinz Kämmerling, Hans Leygraf, Matti Raekallio, and Lajos Rovatkay. As the youngest participant in the 2005 Arthur Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv, he won the Silver Prize, as well as the Prize for Best Performer of Chamber Music, the Audience Favorite Prize, and the Prize for Best Performer of Contemporary Music. In Berlin, where Mr. Levit makes his home, he plays on a Steinway D Grand Piano kindly given to him by the Trustees of Independent Opera at Sadler’s Wells. For more information about Mr. Levit, visit igorlevit.com and follow him on Twitter (@igorpianist).