Text Box: PIAnist autographs
Text Box: HARMONIE AUTOGRAPHS AND MUSIC INC.

MUSIC AUTOGRAPHS & ANTIQUARIAN
Text Box: MUSIC AUTOGRAPHS AND EPHEMERA BOUGHT AND SOLD

Phone: 212-860-5541

 

Price: $250.00

FINE CONDITION

ERNST LÉVY– PIANIST & COMPOSER

Autographed sentiment of thanks to Berlin critic and musicologist Dr. Arno Huth on a 8.25” x 10.5” linen textured stock correspondence paper. We offer with a 5” x 7” semi-gloss sepia tone photograph for display.

Lévy (1895 - 1981) was one of the most original pianists of the 20th Century.  His originality led him to the cult status he holds today and his autographs happen to be exceedingly rare.  In our business which is pianist-centric, this is only the second time we have offered a Lévy in over 20 years.

The pianist made his first appearance as a prodigy with orchestra performing the Haydn Piano  Concerto # 11 in D major. He was trained at the Basel Conservatory by pianist Egon Petri and the Swiss composer and conservatory director, Hans Huber. He then went on to Paris to study with Raoul Pugno.  Pugno was also a revelatory pianist, so they were an excellent fit. After study with Pugno, he was hired in 1917 to return to Basel to be the Director of the piano master class program. Lévy moved to Paris in 1921 where he set himself up as a concert pianist, pedagogue and composer.  In addition to his other duties, in 1928 he founded the Choeur Philharmonique in Paris where he served as music director and conductor.  The Choeur shared Lévy’s special interest in the works of Brahms and Liszt.

Lévy and his family left France for the United States in the Fall of 1941, after France had been overrun by Germany. He came with an appointment as Professor of piano, composition and conducting at the New England Conservatory in Boston.  He remained there for the duration of the War, moving to Bennington College in Vermont where he taught from 1946-1951, then on to The University of Chicago from 1951-1954, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1954-1959 and Brooklyn College from 1959-1966.  His frequent changes of institutions was due to his desire to marry instrumental teaching with philosophy, musicology and theory.  Though he was eventually successful at the University of Chicago, it was not until the end of his tenure there; the university administrations typically disapproved of the concept. He retired from teaching in 1966 and returned to Switzerland for the remainder of his life. 

Lévy was a polymath and iconoclast, a virtuoso pianist, a philosopher, a prolific composer, pedagogue, alpinist and a master carpenter.  He excelled at virtually anything he set his mind to accomplishing and the only thing that potentially curtailed his career a bit were two world wars in which he did no participate as he was Swiss. 

As a pianist, Lévy’s recitals were rare and therefore well attended. His recordings were looked upon as something special and preceded his live performances for many who attended his recitals.  Like Sofronitsky, he was a recitalist and his approach was considered revelatory and deliberate.  The pianists’ particular concentration was Romantic piano literature, mostly Beethoven and Liszt, however, his discography, recitals and concerts also included music by Brahms, Franck, Haydn, Mozart, Schumann and Schubert, as well as his own compositions.  His recording of Liszt’s “Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude” is considered by many of the cognoscenti, the greatest performance of the work on records.  His Beethoven sonatas are also particularly revered for their originality.  But to me, his performance of the Liszt B Minor Sonata on Unicorn Records is one of the single greatest recordings of the work. The reading is romantic, deliberate, ethereal and technically brilliant as he makes the piano sing like an orchestra; likely as Liszt would have approached it himself.  His teacher, Egon Petri’s various recordings of the work as great as they are, do not touch this Lévy reading.  Ward Marston has released 5 sets of the pianists solo piano recordings.

Lévy as a composer was extremely prolific, 15 symphonies, though all but three are in a single movement. (Following Liszt and Weber’s model)  Written between 1920 and 1965, most were recorded, some fairly recently, but rarely played anywhere in the world.  He wrote early on as an extension of romanticism, but as he aged, the works became more complex and modern, however, never atonal.  He was a believer in whole tone music.  He also composed four suites for orchestra, concertos for trumpet, bassoon, violin and cello.  A large amount of chamber music, both solo instrumental with piano and other configurations including quartets, quintets etc.  He wrote solo piano music including seven piano sonatas and three violin sonatas.  The bulk of his other works were songs and 9 cantatas.  Lévy wrote his compositions to please himself, rather than commissioned works to please the powers that be.  His work as pianist and professor supported his family.

A truly scarce autograph of a remarkable pianist and also composer.