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Igor Levit's 'Life' is an elegiac, loving memorial / San Francisco Chronicle

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The title of pianist Igor Levit's magisterial new release is a misnomer, at least in part. Its main subject is actually death - the pain of it, the mystery, the search for solace or meaning in the aftermath of a loved one's departure (the record was inspired by a close friend's sudden death in a bicycle accident). But just as death casts a single life into relief - highlighting some parts, obscuring or reinterpreting others - Levit's program, consisting primarily of hand-me-downs and transcriptions, explores the way musical meaning changes over time. Brahms reshapes the Bach Chaconne for piano left hand; Liszt illuminates the "Liebestod" from Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde"; Busoni transcribes Liszt riffing on Meyerbeer.

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