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Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, August 2012

This is Bruce Levingston’s third recital for Sono Luminus, and all have shown a consistent, unique artistic profile. He creates probing, deeply thoughtful interpretations of everything he encounters, and assembles recital programs which intelligently combine old favorites with new scores on which the ink is barely dry. I reviewed his second recital for MusicWeb and was generally welcoming, but this new disc, Still Sound, is better still: it brings together Pärt, Satie, Schubert, Chopin, Bolcom, and Augusta Gross in a program of great poetry and timelessness. Still Sound is indeed an apt title. Apt, too, is the New York Times quotation in Levingston’s biography: “hauntingly serene”.

We begin with two short works by Arvo Pärt, Für Alina and the Arinuschka variations, which date from the very beginning of his mature style. In their spiritual simplicity and beauty they set the tone for the full hour, and reveal Levingston’s hallmark traits: a clean, poetic sound, a varied palette of pianistic colors, and an unwillingness to rush—or even take the music at tempo in many cases. There follows a Satie Gymnopédie of such exquisite, fragile beauty that one can hardly wait to hear the Satie later in the program, at least until one falls in love with the aria-like simplicity of psychologist and composer Augusta Gross’s two miniatures, Venturing Forth Anew.

The Gross pieces are unlikely but apt preludes to a Schubert impromptu, D899 No 4, which in this context does seem unusually active and dense. The context and Levingston’s playing have the effect of revealing the simplicity of the Schubert, too, and the way in which the impromptu, like its disc-mates, creates great emotional effect with the tiniest, most elegant of ideas.

The acoustic…return to the warmer, more flattering environs of the main hall—and to the very first Chopin nocturne, here gorgeously stretched out to what must be a record 7:29. Levingston’s goal is to show again how this most romantic of music acts as a stylistic precursor to Pärt and Satie, and again he succeeds. Sure, it’s not period-authentic, or really at all typical (Arrau: 5:50) but goodness is it exquisite.

It’s a lead-in to New York Lights by William Bolcom, a paraphrase for piano of an aria from Bolcom’s opera A View from the Bridge. The booklets contain the touching backstory for the piece…Its quiet, humble beginning gives no suggestion of the fully voiced song which it will become. Afterwards, we are treated to another Satie bit (the second Gnossienne), played with a touch so soft it defies belief.

The album concludes with three more short works by Augusta Gross, of which Reflections on Air is my favorite—imagine a homage to Bach written by Debussy, though the piece is more creatively, originally shaped than any such comparison can suggest—and the third Gymnopédie of Satie, an encore which leaves me wishing for still more.

The title Still Sound works because this is indeed a collection of works which seem to slow or stop time; the hour passes as if it was both a mere instant and a lifetime. Part of that quality is due to the composers’ simplicity and often spirituality; part is due to the savvy programming; and part is due to Levingston’s extraordinary gifts as a colorist and as a performer who can hold attention rapt with the softest of playing. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

WRUV Reviews, August 2012

A collection of piano works old and new that the musician Bruce Levingston feels expresses tranquillity—”still sound”. Very lyrical. Play all! © 2012 WRUV Reviews

Laurence Vittes
Gramophone, July 2012

As the goal for this release had been so clearly defined by its predecessors, and the results so uniformly successful if slightly…it really is the cumulative power of the sequencing that represents the recording’s greatest virtue, which Levingston himself describes in his booklet-notes as the ‘magical, hypnotic qualities that lull the listener into a state of calm’.

Indeed, as if by magic, Levingston locates the pulse of each new track so unerringly and quickly that maintaining calm despite the lulling is easily done: The luminous, toy-like pieces by Pärt, interleaved with the measured formalisms of Gross…and Satie, give way graciously to the core of Schubert, Chopin—both deeply poetic in a somnolent sort of way—and the unabashedly gorgeous lyricism of Bolcom’s ‘concert paraphrase’ based on an aria from his opera A View from the Bridge, to a libretto by Arthur Miller, which played the Metropolitan Opera in 2002 after opening in Chicago at the Lyric Opera three years earlier. Ideally suited to be an encore, the music resonates lightly with Broadway and throbs with simple tonal beauty.

The pianist’s booklet-notes, with their intimate personal connections, strike the perfect tone for really hearing the music as opposed to just having it on pleasantly in the background. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Tiina Kiik
The WholeNote, June 2012

Exquisite colours and haunting cadences highlight the remarkable solo performances of American pianist Bruce Levingston in Still Sound.

Levingston is powerful in his well thought out performances of Chopin, Satie and Schubert. He has a firm grasp of technique and style here. However, he is most striking when performing more contemporary works. Arvo Pärt’s popular Für Alina and Variationen zur Gesundung von Arinuschka are breathtaking in their bell-like charm and quality of attention to the spaces between the notes.

This is a collection of reflective, personal music with which to enjoy, contemplate and unwind. © 2012 The WholeNote Read complete review

Daniel Coombs
Audiophile Audition, April 2012

This is definitely not a routine piano program and is all the more enjoyable because of it. Bruce Levingston is a gifted pianist. His touch is deft and his phrasing is artistic and sensitive. He is also someone who has already developed an excellent reputation in the contemporary music scene.

…Levingston takes the beauty and the relative technical simplicity of these masterworks [Schubert  Impromptu in Ab/Chopin Nocturne] and gives them an almost Zen-like reflective quality. The opening water-like sixteenth note cascades in the Schubert or the dreamlike quality of the Chopin make these performances compete with any other I have heard…the performances are wonderful!

The biggest pleasure in this disc…is the inclusion of some unfamiliar wonders“Variations for the Healing of Arinuschka”, begs more than one listening. What “variations” exist are in dynamic, in built in tempo…and in tone—major/minor; legato/staccato—and help to paint the picture of a tiny rural Russian village in recovery. The different speeds of both lines, together with exact pedaling instructions…seem to create a shifting of tonality within a simple structure.  In any regard, this is truly simple and lovely.

Composer William Bolcom is a pretty big name in American music and his output runs the gamut from symphonies to works like the present, New York Lights. This short little gem—just like the aria from which it is derived—perfectly evokes a sense of the early twentieth century, ethnically diverse, New York and the simplicity of that time and place.

Lastly, I enjoyed getting to know the music of composer Augusta Gross. Five of her piano works are represented here.While each of the works performed here is quite nice, my favorite was the longest; Reflections on Air.

Kudos to Bruce Levingston for putting together such a nice and completely peaceful program. There is much to admire here and this gives the listener a completely unusual and very fascinating listening experience. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

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