C1536. GEORGES PRETRE Cond. Cleveland Orch.: Symphony #5 in E-flat (Sibelius); Nocturnes - Nuages; Fetes (Debussy); Bolero (Ravel); w.Theodore Lettvin (Pf.): Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Rachmaninoff). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-450, Live Performance, 6 March, 1969. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Georges Pretre left his mark on the history of the Paris Opera, namely by conducting great works of the French and Italian repertoires at the Palais Garnier up until the end of the 1980s.”
- Stéphane Lissner, (Director of the Paris Opera), THE NEW YORK TIMES, 5 Jan., 2017
“The American pianist Theodore Lettvin believed that joy was the secret to artistic excellence. Every concert should, he said, be ‘a joyous and beautiful experience for the audience and myself’. Given this interactive approach, it is perhaps not surprising that Lettvin spent much of his life in musical academia. He was variously associated with the University of Colorado (1955-56), the Cleveland Music School Settlement (1956-68), the New England Conservatory of Music (1968-77), the University of Michigan (1977-87) and Rutgers University in New Jersey (1987-98). He was also an important figure in the creation of Great Lakes Performing Arts Associates, an organisation that supports gifted artists from that region.
Combined with his teaching commitments was an extensive concert schedule. When Lettvin was still a child, the conductor Frederick Stock suggested that a notable career lay ahead for him. By his teens he was studying with Rudolf Serkin and Mieczyslaw Horszowski at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.
Although he will be best remembered for performances of works such as Brahms' piano concertos and Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Lettvin's repertoire was varied, and he thrived on challenges. At his audition for the piano professorship at the University of Michigan he was asked what he wanted to play, to which he retorted: ‘What do you want to hear?’ Gyorgy Sandor suggested the fiendishly difficult Prokofiev Toccata, which Lettvin delivered with panache.
At the core of his music making was a desire to create a work of beauty. ‘Beauty is in the ear of the listener, the eye of the beholder, the taste of the eater, all of these things - everything that is delicious gives pleasure’, he said shortly before his retirement in 1998.
Theodore Lettvin was the son of Solomon and Fannie Lettvin, Ukranian immigrants who settled in Chicago. By the age of five he was showing such promise under the tutelage of Howard Wells that he was selected to take part in a recital series in Chicago. Two years later he received an award from the Society of American Musicians, and at the age of 12 made his debut playing a Mendelssohn piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Frederick Stock. At 15 he won a scholarship to study at the Curtis Institute. His first radio appearance was on the Bell Telephone Hour. The 1950s and 1960s saw him touring extensively on both sides of the Atlantic. Lettvin's performing career remained undiminished. He toured throughout Europe, the Middle East, South America and the US, and gave the first American performance of Bartok's Scherzo for piano and orchestra.”
- Tim Bullamore, THE INDEPENDENT, 22 Sept., 2003