Saturday, December 16, 2017

Bartok? Levy?? Two Names at the Opposite Ends of Recognition...

Bela Bartok was, of course, one of the creative giants of the 20th century; seated comfortably alongside Stravinsky, Shostakovitch  and  a small number of the other  leading composers of that period.
How about another Bartok - Peter Bartok?  Peter was  one of the sons of the Hungarian composer. This Bartok also left his mark, which I will explain to you later.
And who is this man named Levy? First name Ernst?
Let us move back to the 1950's, and the esteemed college M.I.T., and its wonderful Kresge Auditorium. A musicologist and pianist from Switzerland was on its faculty, and did much important work in this school. He had been known primarily due to his singular book dealing with tonal harmony, out of which emerged a process we call Negative Harmony, which had its base  on a treatise written in Germany in the 19th century.
There was another aspect of this rather frail looking fellow which I bring to you now, as so little is remembered about Ernst Levy; and that is, he was  a pianist of almost indescribable power and message.
Peter Bartok,  a sound engineer living in Florida, was also (logically!) a most astute follower of things musical, and recognized the gifts in the shape of Ernst Levy.
Recognizing the acoustics of Kresge, the school surrounding it, and his friendship with the pianist, he set up a brief series of recordings of Levy performances at Kresge.
Look for a few LP's (they're  becoming quite popular again!)  with a label  titled Unicorn - these are the Bartok/Levy recordings, BEFORE  digital techniques, and become absolutely  enthralled at the quality and presence  of sound emanating.
Then start paying attention to Ernst Levy...
Horowitz took note of this man, and there were others as well  who considered  the playing they  witnessed  as  some of the most powerful and unique readings they had ever heard.  This man was considered by a number of leading pianists every bit their equal in ability and message.
His Liszt Sonata, and late Beethoven - there were some who considered  Levy's approach as; well, "different." Too iconoclastic, etc. -
It IS a different view; no question.
But a view  to be aware of, from  my view.
A man, pretty much unknown today; but with a powerful statement to make through great pianism.
What do you think?

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