Igor Levit wins the 2019 Beethoven Prize for human rights

December 9, 2019

The International Beethoven Prize is awarded to artists who place themselves in the service of human rights, peace, freedom, combating poverty and inclusion [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/beethoven-prize-for-human-rights]. Igor Levit, 32, is hailed by critics and audiences as one of the finest pianists today, a master not only at the keyboard but also at his smartphone. His 32,000 Twitter followers look forward to his almost daily comments on social and political issues. “Racism, anti-Semitism, anti-feminism and hostility to human beings are dangerous, often life-threatening and deplorable attitudes. They do not deserve to be jazzed up to the status of legitimate opinions,” the pianist tweeted for instance in November.

Levit’s opinions have attracted much attention beyond the concert hall. At a time when only few artists take a clear political stand, such positioning runs the risk of alienating part of the public or provoking storms of online hostility. In this sense, Levit stands out. His media presence extends to television talk shows; for example, “Words, rage, contradiction — prevent hate, tolerate opinions?” was the topic of a recent TV discussion he was invited to take part in….At the national convention of Germany’s Greens Party, Igor Levit played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the official anthem of the European Union. In 2018, he returned his Echo Klassik out of protest against the Echo prize awarded to rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang, whose texts include anti-Semitic and misogynous content. But before or during concert performances, Levit will make a statement “only if absolutely necessary and if I feel an absolute emotional urgency to do so.

Levit has performed at the #Unteilbar demonstration in Berlin on behalf of social inclusion, as well as at the Fridays for Future strikes — and wears a button of the youth movement protesting climate change at concert appearances. He dedicated his recent Opus Klassik award to the victims of a terror attack in the city of Halle. In a recent interview with the newsweekly Die Zeit, Levit said, “I don’t just want to be the man striking the keys.” Critics even see a statement in his choice of repertory.

For last year’s award, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/15/venezuelan-pianist-gabriela-montero-wins-the-2018-beethoven-prize/

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