Raymond Lewenthal was born in San Antonio. Texas, of Russian-French parentage in 1923 (although some erroneous references to a birth year of 1926 can be found). After spending several years as a child movie actor in Hollywood, Lewenthal studied the piano there with Lydia Cherkassky, mother and teacher of the renowned pianist Shura Cherkassky. In 1945 he won all three of the major competitions then being held in California: The Young Artist Competition at UCLA (judged by Bruno Walter), the Young Artist Contest of Occidental College, and the Gainsborough Award in San Francisco. He continued his studies at Juilliard as a full scholarship student of Olga Samaroff-Stokowski. Later Lewenthal worked in Europe with Alfred Cortot and with Guido Agosti.
Lewenthal made his debut in 1948 with Dimitri Mitropoulos and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The occasion marked the first time a soloist had been invited to play the Prokofiev Third Concerto under Mitropoulos's direction, that being a work which the conductor was famous for playing himself. The success of this performance was followed a few weeks later by Lewenthal's New York recital debut. These events launched his North American career, which flourished until it came to a sudden halt in 1953; while walking through New York's Central Park, Lewenthal was attacked by a gang of hoodlums and suffered broken bones in his hands and arms. After a slow physical and psychological recovery, Lewenthal moved abroad and withdrew from the concert stage except for occasional touring and recording in Europe and South America. During this time he began his research on the mysterious French Romantic composer, Charles-Valentin Alkan, with the intention of writing an exhaustive study of Alkan's life and music. (Lewenthal's Alkan book remained unpublished at the time of his death.)
His first return to the public was through a two-hour broadcast for WBAI in New York, on which he played Alkan's works and discussed his life. The response to this program was overwhelming and brought a request from G. Schirmer to prepare an edition of Alkan's piano music. Encouraged by the reception, Lewenthal played a recital including Alkan's music in Town Hall, New York, in September 1964 - his first public appearance there in 12 years. This led to an RCA recording of Alkan's music which was met with critical raves, and then a three-concert Liszt Cycle in New York and London, among many other performances. Lewenthal came to be considered the leader of the "Romantic Revival, " reintroducing solo and chamber works by many important but neglected 19th-century composers such as Moscheles, Goetz, Herz, Hummel, Henselt, Scharwenka, Rubinstein, Reubke, Field, Dussek, et al, as well as reviving unjustly slighted works by famous composers. He also took an active role in such events as the Romantic Festival at Butler University (Indianapolis) and The Newport (Rhode Island) Music Festival. Lewenthal taught at the Mannes College of Music and The Tanglewood Summer Festival, and was a faculty member of the Manhattan School of Music for number of years beginning in the mid-1970s.
Lewenthal's recordings include releases for Westminster, Reader's Digest, RCA Victor, Columbia/CBS, and Angel. In addition to his Schirmer edition of selected Alkan piano works. Lewenthal also prepared for the same publisher an anthology called Piano Music for One Hand and another collection of Encores of Famous Pianists, both containing extensive notes and commentary.
After living for many years in a small apartment at 51 East 78th Street in Manhattan, Lewenthal moved to Hudson, NY, where he spent his last years in semi-seclusion, his concert activity significantly reduced owing to a chronic heart condition. He died on November 21, 1988, at the age of 65.
SERIES I - PERFORMANCE FILES (Boxes 1 - 8)
Here are found programs, reviews, advertisements, promotional materials and like documents that are related to specific performances of Lewenthal. Consistent with the filing system used by Lewenthal himself, the materials are grouped geographically by state within the US and by country outside of the US; each of these two files is arranged in alphabetical order. As a cross-reference, a chronological table of the concerts has been compiled, and this is appended to the aforementioned listings. Additional materials are found in Series II - Scrapbooks and Series VI - Festival Files.
SERIES II - SCRAPBOOKS (Boxes 9 & 10)
This series consists of ten scrapbooks and loose pages compiled by Lewenthal.
SERIES III - PHOTOGRAPHS (Boxes 10 - 12)
Here are found two photo albums, compiled by Lewenthal, and other photographs.
SERIES IV - RECORDING FILES (Box 13)
This series consists of reviews, advertisements and promotional materials that are related to commercial sound recordings made by Lewenthal. No Lewenthal recordings, as such, are included in this series.
SERIES V - CORRESPONDENCE (Box 14 & 15)
This series is divided into two categories:
- General correspondence, including business, social and fan letters
- Olga Samaroff-Stokowski correspondence
SERIES VI - FESTIVAL FILES (Box 15)
This series consists of brochures, programs, correspondence, and similar materials pertaining to (1) The Newport Music Festival in Newport, RI, and (2) the Romantic Festivals at Butler University in Indianapolis, IN.
SERIES VII - MISCELLANEOUS
Here are found various documents that have been divided into the following subseries:
Subseries 1: Alkan Research (Boxes 16 & 17)
- These are materials related to Lewenthal's research on Charles-Valentin Alkan; generally correspondence with various institutions, libraries and individuals in order to gather information. Also included are letters concerning Olivier Yovtchev and the dispute between him and Lewenthal.
Subseries 2: Various Projects (Box 17)
Here are found materials related to various projects Lewenthal had taken up. They are:
- Franz Liszt
- Paderewski, a chapter of a planned book
- William Kapell, unpublished article
- Manuscripts, correspondence, clippings, etc.
Subseries 3: Other Writings by Lewenthal (Boxes 18 & 19)
This subseries consists of miscellaneous writings by Lewenthal, such as program notes, record liner notes, articles, radio scripts, etc.
Subseries 4: Articles (Box 20)
Here are found newspaper and magazine articles about Lewenthal, about other people, and other general clippings.
Subseries 5: Concert Managements (Boxes 21 & 22)
This subseries contains materials related to the management of Lewenthal's concerts. They are organized chronologically by agent.
Subseries 6: Other Documents (Boxes 22 & 23) Here are found documents that have been divided into the following categories: Samaroff-Related Materials, Teaching, Adjudication, Radio/TV Broadcasts, Published Music Editions, Regarding Other Artists, Oversized Materials, etc.
SERIES VIII - MICROFILMS (Box 24)
These are microfilms of music manuscripts, correspondence, etc.
SERIES IX - TAPES (Boxes 25-31)
This series is divided into three categories:
- Lewenthal's concert and recital tapes
- Lewenthal's rehearsal tapes
- Tapes of Lewenthal's lessons & classes
SERIES X - SCORES (Boxes 32-45)
This series consists of published scores and music manuscripts (or photocopies thereof) owned by Lewenthal. Scores listed in this Finding Aid are divided into the following groups:
- Solo piano music (containing Lewenthal's own annotations/fingerings) [FA p. 81]
- Piano concertos (also with Lewenthal's markings) [FA p.87]
- Multiple hands music [FA p. 89]
- Two piano music [FA p. 93]
- Violin & piano music [FA p. 96]
- Cello & piano music [FA p. 103]
- Other chamber music [FA p. 105]
- Music of Alkan [FA p. 116]
Further scores are located in the IPAM Score Collection. The latter is accessible via a separate card catalog, and all Lewenthal scores therein are identified by the designation "From the Raymond Lewenthal Collection."
SERIES XI - BOOKS (Boxes 46-49)
Located here are books on music (in English, French, German, Italian, and Russian) which belonged to Lewenthal.