Activism plays a big role in this pianist's repertoire

Felix Broede/Sony Classical

While certain classical artists publicly — and sometimes ardently — support music education or other charitable causes, most keep their politics to themselves. But not famed Russian-German pianist Igor Levit, who has been very upfront about his views.

“It was an absolute must for me. I’ve always been engaged, and it’s only getting stronger,” said the Berlin-based resident, who will present a recital Jan. 16 as part of the Symphony Center Presents Piano Series.

Enter Levit’s website, and three descriptors greet viewers first: “Citizen. European. Pianist.” “They are at the core of who I am and what I do,” he said. 

Part of what is driving his political ardor now are growing anti-democratic forces in Germany and neighboring countries like Hungary and Poland. “You see developments that are very, very dangerous to society,” he said. “It’s not the only topic, but it is my most important one.”

Levit has spoken out strongly on Twitter and elsewhere about anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism, drawing both death threats and a prestigious honor in 2020 from the International Auschwitz Committee. 

In December, Olaf Scholz was named chancellor of Germany after a national election in September. He replaces Angela Merkel, who served in the country’s head post for 16 years and became one of the world’s best-known and most influential leaders.

Levit, a member of the Alliance 90/The Greens Party, which received 14.8 percent of the vote and has become part of the governing coalition, felt it was time for a new government, and he is pleased that one is finally in place and that it is pro-democratic.

“You never hear a phrase coming out of my mouth like, ‘A new day has come,’” he said. “I am a realist. Yes, I am maybe not excited, but I am relieved that new faces and new ideas have come into our government.”

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