Maria Lettberg / Ariane Mitiagh / RSO Berlin
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Born in Ukraine, Zara Alexandrovna Levina (1906-76) witnessed two world wars and the Russian Revolution, as well as the collapse and totalitarian reconstruction of her homeland. She lived under the constant pressure of state censorship, particularly in the 1920s and 30s. Remarkably, she succeeded in maintaining her unmistakable musical voice in the face of such overwhelming difficulties. Thirty years separate the composition of her two piano concertos. The first carries echoes of the grand Romantic piano concerto tradition, with its virtuosity and orchestration respectively calling to mind Rachmaninov and Rimsky- Korsakov. The second was written a year before Levina's death from chronic heart disease and is consequently more introspective and enigmatic. She died in Moscow in 1976, a well respected and much-performed composer, beloved of professional musicians and the public alike.