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