Ernst Levy Collection
Born in Basel, Switzerland on November 18, 1895, Ernst Levy's early training
included studies with French virtuoso Raoul Pugno and with Egon Petri. Composer
Hans Huber was also an important early influence. By 1916, Levy was teaching at
the Basel Conservatory alongside Huber.
Four years later, Levy set up residence in Paris and, after spending some
time as a pianist and teacher, he founded the Choeur Philharmonique in 1928.
Among the works given their Paris permieres under Levy's direction were Brahms'
"Ein Deutsches Requiem" and Liszt's oratorio "Christus." In 1935, Levy and
Choeur Philharmonique recorded Liszt's "Missa Choralis" for the Polydor label,
the first recording ever made of one of Liszt's sacred choral works.
Political conditions in Europe during the 1930s brought Levy, a Jew, to the
U.S., where he held professorships at several major institutions, including the
New England Conservatory, Bennington College, the University of Chicago, the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Brooklyn College. Levy's teaching of
piano and composition, and his abilities as a choral and orchestral conductor,
kept him fully occupied during his American years; this period also saw a
remarkable output of works that ultimately embraced fifteen symphonies and an
impressive quantity of chamber and choral music. It was during this time that
Levy presented occasional recitals as pianist and made a series of recordings on
the U.S. Unicorn label. Most of Levy's recordings are now available on compact
discs issued by Marston Records. He retired from academia in 1966 and spent his
remaining fifteen years in Switzerland.
As a composer, Levy's idiom was not identifiable with any school or
tradition. He was a firm believer in the viability of tonality (as opposed to
dodecaphony), and he constantly sought new vistas within the parameters of tonal
music. He went so far as to study the writings of Pythagoras and the
mathematical similarities between musical scales and start distances explored by
Keppler. Levy measured the south tower of the Chartres cathedral to determine
the relative proportions of the tower's architectural elements and published his
findings on the subject as an appendix to the book, "The Gothic Cathedral:
Origins of Gothic Architecture and the Medieval Concept of Order," by Otto Georg
Von Simson in 1956. Levy concluded that the entire cathedral was a fully
calculated, deliberate representation, "full of symbols, and full of
musicality." Levy died in 1981.
SERIES I - Concert Programs
SERIES II - Photographs
SERIES III - Correspondence
SERIES IV - Academic (Non-Musical)
SERIES V - Recordings
10 am to 3 pm
Monday through Thursday
9 am to 5 pm
Monday through Friday
Donald Manildi, Curator
International Piano Archives at Maryland
Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library
8115 Alumni Dr.
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742 USA