Theodore Lettvin was born in Chicago on October 29, 1926. From 1930 to 1935 he studied piano with Howard Wells in Chicago, and he continued his studies with Leon Rosenbloom from 1935 to 1941. Lettvin made his debut as soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on March 15, 1939. Frederick Stock, who conducted the concert, forecast a notable future for the boy. At the age of fifteen, the young pianist won a scholarship to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where for the next seven years he studied with Rudolf Serkin and Mieczyslaw Horszowski. His career was briefly interrupted for service with the United States Navy in 1945.
After resuming his career, Lettvin soon became recognized as one of the leading American pianists of his generation. He was the recipient of several prizes including the Naumberg Award in 1948, and the Michaels Award in 1950. While touring Europe and North Africa in 1952, he was called to Brussels to take part in the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium International Competition. There he gained international honor as a laureate (leading prizewinner).
As a recitalist, Lettvin performed at London's Wigmore Hall, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, and New York's Town Hall. In addition to his recital tours, Lettvin also appeared regularly with the major orchestras of the United States. Among them are the New York Philharmonic and the orchestras of Cleveland, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Baltimore, Omaha, Seattle, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and Atlanta. He appeared at the inauguration of the New York Philharmonic Promenades in the summer of 1964 with Andre Kostelanetz, who invited him to return the following season. He also appeared with the New York Philharmonic under William Steinberg, playing the American premiere of the Bartok Scherzo for Piano and Orchestra. On television he has been seen on The Voice of Firestone, the Chicago Theatre of the Air, with the Boston Symphony, and on educational TV. His recordings have been issued on the HMV and Columbia labels.
Lettvin held numerous positions as a teacher including visiting lecturer at the University of Colorado (1956-1957), head of the piano department at the Cleveland Music School Settlement (1956-1968), professor of piano at the New England Conservatory of Music (1968-1977), the University of Michigan (1977-1987), and Rutgers (from 1987). Lettvin's teaching activities included summer festivals at Marlboro, Tanglewood, Ravinia, Saratoga, and Salzburg.
Theodore Lettvin died on August 24, 2003.
Currently, the Theodore Lettvin Collection consists of the following series:
SERIES I - SUBJECT FILES (BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, AWARDS, TEACHING ACTIVITIES)
SERIES II - PERFORMANCE FILES (1937-1984)
SERIES III - CORRESPONDENCE
SERIES IV - WRITINGS BY LETTVIN
SERIES V - PHOTOGRAPHS
SERIES VI - MISCELLANEOUS
SERIES VII - PRIVATE RECORDINGS
A detailed listing of Mr. Lettvin's private recordings held by IPAM will be supplied on request. Please contact the Curator.