Ernst Levy, Forgotten Genius, Vol. IV          (2-Marston 52072)
Item# P1130
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Ernst Levy, Forgotten Genius, Vol. IV          (2-Marston 52072)
P1130. ERNST LÉVY, Forgotten Genius, Vol. IV, A Selection of Unpublished Concert and Studio Recordings, featuring Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Brahms & Franck. 2-Marston 52072, recorded 1942-59. Transfers by Ward Marston. - 638335207223


“When Marston began the Ernst Lévy series early in the company's history, few knew this remarkable pianist and many were stunned by his artistry and deep insight into the music of Beethoven and Liszt. The series developed into a mission not only to uncover and make available additional Lévy performances, but also to expand the accepted perceptions of some of the most important works in the piano repertoire. This fourth installment will not disappoint. It comprises concert and studio recordings of Haydn, Schubert, Beethoven, and Liszt, including a virtually unknown performance of the Schubert Posthumous Sonata in A; four Haydn Sonatas recorded in Switzerland, and unreleased live performances of Beethoven’s Op. 111 and Liszt's b-minor sonata.

Lévy was more than a virtuoso pianist - though his technical prowess was staggering; he was an intellectual in the true sense of the word, and music was but one aspect of his creative life. This two-disc anthology reveals what real artistry is all about. The playing is nothing short of revelatory….Lévy's Beethoven is the pianistic equivalent of Furtwängler.... Ward Marston, that master transfer artist, has done his best with varied source materials."

- Allen Linkowski, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, May/June, 1998

“The fourth double-CD release in the Marston label’s series devoted to Ernst Levy presents live performances of works all new to the Swiss pianist/composer’s discography, plus extremely rare 1953 studio recordings of Beethoven’s Op. 109 and Liszt’s b-minor Sonata….In both instances Levy unravels Op. 109’s first movement slowly and arguably pedantically, although the 1953 Scherzo’s transitional left-hand broken octaves are a shade more muted and mysterious. By contrast, the third movement’s brisk Variation III proves somewhat cleaner and crisper in 1956, yet both third-movement recordings feature a mesmerizing, Schnabel-like breadth and repose in the theme and Variations I, II, and VI.

The 1956 Liszt sonata’s liberal tempo fluctuations, harmonic pointing of virtuosic passages (the unison octaves), and heavily underlined voicings in the ‘Fughetta’ are present in 1953 but less exaggerated, which accounts for the earlier performance’s shorter total duration. The live Haydn sonatas fare best in the dramatic, imaginatively-timed slower movements and worst in the often slapdash, hard driven ‘Allegros’.

In contrast to the Schubert A major D. 664 sonata’s transparency and poetic lilt, Levy pulls out all of the Romantic stops in Franck’s ‘Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue’. Shapely, booming bass lines provide the Prelude’s flowing impetus, and if the Chorale’s chordal climaxes peak too soon, the Fugue’s combination of unstoppable momentum and deft contrapuntal juggling left me emotionally drained yet curiously surprised at the audience’s tepid reaction.

A similar but more controlled approach characterizes Levy’s big boned, rhetorical readings of Brahms’ Op. 79 ‘Rhapsodies’. However, to hear Levy really let loose in front of an audience, check out Liszt’s b-minor ‘Ballade’, where Levy’s epic drama, whipped-up tempos, and huge sonorities fill the performing space without smothering it. Imagine Horowitz’s febrile temperament, Arrau’s full-bodied textures, and Nyiregyházi’s divine madness all rolled into one piano player for 16 intense, unbelievable minutes.

The booklet notes include a brief biography of the pianist, excerpts from Levy’s own writings, and an extended memoir by his composer/cellist son Frank Ezra Levy. Thanks to Ward Marston and his production team for continuing their advocacy of this formidable and fascinating musician.”

- Jed Distler, Classics Today

"Another important piano discovery, Ernst Lévy, remains unknown to all but the most dedicated piano buffs – he is not even mentioned in Schonberg’s book on the great pianists –these defiantly personalized performances are utterly free of convention and burn with conviction….”

- Peter G. Davis, NEW YORK, 24 Aug., 1998