Ernst Levy, Vol. 4
Forgotten Genius: A Selection of Unpublished Concert and Studio Recordings

52072-2 (2 CDs)  | $ 36.00


Ernst Levy, Vol. 4
When Marston began the Ernst Levy 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 Levy 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, Franck, Beethoven, Brahms, and Liszt, including a virtually unknown performance of the Schubert Posthumous Sonata in A and a previously unreleased 1959 stereo-recorded performance of Liszt's B Minor Ballade.

CD 1 (78:34)

Sonata in G (Hob. XVI/6)
1.Allegro 2:31
2.Menuetto - Trio2:04
4.Finale. Allegro molto1:18
 Basel, Switzerland; 1952 
Sonata in A (Hob. XVI/30)
5.Allegro 3:53
6.Adagio 1:28
7.Tempo di menuetto 4:49
 Basel, Switzerland; 1952 
Sonata in E Minor (Hob. XVI/34)
8.Presto 3:19
9.Adagio 4:37
10.Finale. Molto vivace 3:32
 Cambridge, Massachusetts; 25 March 1955 
Sonata in C (Hob. XVI/48)
11.Andante con espressione 7:20
12.Rondo. Presto 3:30
 Cambridge, Massachusetts; 25 March 1955 
Sonata in A (D. 664)
13.Allegro moderato5:49
 Cambridge, Massachusetts; 6 April 1952 
Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue
 Cambridge, Massachusetts; 14 November 1954 

CD 2 (79:51)

Sonata No. 30 in E, op. 109
1.Vivace, ma non troppo 4:27
3.Gesangvoll, mit innigster Empfindung13:29
 Cambridge, Massachusetts; 25 January 1953, studio recording 
Rhapsodies, Op. 79
4.No. 1 in B Minor8:33
5.No. 2 in G Minor6:52
 Cambridge, Massachusetts; 14 November 1954 
Piano Sonata in B Minor (S. 178)
6.Lento assai - Allegro energico10:54
7.Andante sostenuto6:31
8.Allegro energico10:41
 Cambridge, Massachusetts; 25 January 1953, studio recording 
9.Ballade No. 2 in B Minor (S. 171)15:52
 Cambridge, Massachusetts; 22 March 1959 


Producers: Scott Kessler and Ward Marston

Audio Conservation: Ward Marston

Audio Assistance: J. Richard Harris

Booklet notes: Jonathan Summers

Photographs: Gregor Benko, The International Piano Archives at Maryland, and the Ernst Levy Family

Booklet Design: Takeshi Takahashi

Cover Photo: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum

Marston would like to thank Ernst Levy’s sons, Frank and Matthys Levy, Gregor Benko, and The International Piano Archives at Maryland for their help in the production of this CD release.

This set is sponsored through the generosity of Frank Levy and Frank Self

Marston is grateful to the Estate of John Stratton (Stephen R. Clarke, Executor) for its continuing support.

All tracks recorded in mono except CD 2, Track 7 which is in stereo.

Ernst Levy: A Brief Biography

(Basel, Switzerland, 18 November 1895—Morges, Switzerland, 19 April 1981)


Ernst Levy was a man with tremendous interests and talent. He was an accomplished musicologist, composer, pianist, and conductor, whose striking intelligence and creativity produced works that change one’s thinking on musical theory and performance.

Ernst Levy’s early training included studies with French virtuoso Raoul Pugno (1852-1914) and with Busoni’s disciple Egon Petri (1881-1962). Composer Hans Huber (1852-1921) also was an important early influence. From 1917 to 1921 he directed the piano master class at the Basel Conservatory. Then at the age of twenty-six, Levy established residence in Paris where, after seven years devoted to piano recitals and teaching, he founded the Chœur Philharmonique de Paris. Under Levy’s guidance this ensemble gave French audiences their first encounters with major choral works by such composers as Schütz, Bach, Handel, Haydn, Berlioz, Liszt, Franck, and Brahms, and recorded Liszt’s Missa Choralis for Polydor in 1929.

Despite German occupation of Paris in 1939, Levy remained in France until 1940, when he escaped with fellow refugees to Switzerland, and then immigrated to the United States in 1941. In the U.S., Levy held professorships at several major institutions including the New England Conservatory, Bennington College, the University of Chicago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Brooklyn College.

Levy’s intellectual interests were far ranging and he once commented that it was a stroke of luck that he had been forced to spend the greater part of his life in the United States teaching, since universities in the U.S. gave him the opportunity to earn his living as a many-sided humanist, resulting in the publication of several books:

Levy measured the south tower of the Chartres Cathedral to determine the relative proportions of the tower’s architectural elements and published his findings on the subject as an appendix to the book, The Gothic Cathedral: Origins of Gothic Architecture and the Medieval Concept of Order, by Otto Georg von Simson, (Pantheon Books, 1956). Levy collaborated with the distinguished Austrian-American musicologist Siegmund Levarie (1914—2010) to produce three books on musical theory: Tone, a Study in Musical Acoustics (Kent State University Press, 1968); Musical Morphology–A Discourse and a Dictionary (Kent State University Press, 1983); and A Theory of Harmony (State University of New York Press, 1985).

As a composer Levy’s idiom was not identifiable with any school or tradition. He was a firm believer in the viability of tonality (as opposed to dodecaphony) and he constantly sought new vistas within the parameters of tonal music. He composed a large number of works including orchestral, chamber, vocal, and keyboard. Levy retired from academia in 1966.

Ernst Levy’s piano playing integrated his profound knowledge of art, science, and philosophy to bring about his unique approach to performance. It is the startling individuality of Levy’s playing that is immediately apparent upon hearing his recordings, especially the works of Haydn, Beethoven, Liszt, and Brahms. As his long-time colleague Dr. Siegmund Levarie put it, “One either accepted him completely, or else had no idea what he was about.” Levarie described Levy as “a man of enormous intelligence who existed on a high spiritual plane. Pointing to “the way [Levy] illuminated the music,” Levarie goes so far as to say that “he was capable of changing people’s whole attitudes toward music.” Not surprisingly, Levy had very definite ideas about the role of the interpreter. “One must first read the text exactly. Then one has to know how to read between the notes. This means, I read first philologically exactly what there is, what is written down, but what is written down is always imperfect, notation is imperfect, everything is imperfect. From across the notes I try to penetrate to the spirit, to what has produced the writing. I interpret the writing starting with the knowledge I have acquired, or the feeling, it is all together. I try to arrive as close as possible to what the creator has wanted to say. If I am mistaken, [then] I am mistaken. Those who are dead do not protest, and from the living it has never happened to me. But that does not mean that I am not sometimes in error. I do what I can. There are as many interpretations as there are interpreters, but the essential [elements] should always remain the same.”

Writer Andrew Porter has ranked Levy, the pianist, with Schnabel, Backhaus, Kempff, and Solomon, but others have failed to discern his genius, and he never had much of a career as a performing pianist either in Europe or America.

Ernst Levy spent the last fifteen years of his life in his native Switzerland.

Recollections of My Father: Ernst Levy

By Frank Levy


My earliest recollections of my father are, like all childhood memories, much colored by time. I was born in Paris, France, in 1930 at the start of my father’s multi-phased musical career. While his principal focus was on composition, he pursued his pianistic career, mainly as an accompanist. He founded and conducted the Chœur Philharmonique de Paris and even embarked on a business venture: Neocopie Musical, an early music blue print service. We lived in Croissy-sur-Seine, a Paris suburb. I would often hear my father practicing on his Bechstein piano near the front window of the living room. Sometimes he would bring my brother, Matthys, and me in to play French folksongs for us.

He was always interested in the latest mechanical and scientific gadgets. Automobiles fascinated him and he was usually driving the latest models (a Pontiac is the one I recall.) One day he came home with an ultraviolet machine, which he used regularly for a while to treat various aches and pains (and probably doing himself some permanent harm as well.) There were many guests at the house including the well-known blind organist, André Marchal, who would demonstrate how he learned by playing a phrase that my father first played. There were also many students, as well as the accompanist for the choir and a close friend of my father’s, Claire Lipmann. She helped cover up my father’s relationship with Mlle Peugeot, a member of the chorus and the daughter of the automobile manufacturer. I remember Claire Lipmann as a very nice lady and very much enjoyed studying piano and eurhythmics with her as a participant in the little classes she gave in her studio overlooking the Eiffel Tower.

Both my brother and I felt that there was discord between our parents, but when in the summer of 1939 we took a boat to visit my mother’s siblings who had previously immigrated to America, we were unaware of the greater problems that were about to explode in Europe.

We intended to return in early September, but when the war broke out, our mother received a telegram urging us not to return. Our father, who remained behind to teach for the summer, refused to leave France until, in 1940, he was forced to escape Paris by bicycle (with Miss Peugeot). The road out of Paris was filled with fleeing refugees who were frequently attacked by the German air force. Among the few possessions he took along was a little pup tent (which he later brought to America). Once in Switzerland, he tried unsuccessfully to obtain a position. Although he blamed this turn of events on anti-Semitism, it may have only played a small part. There was considerable resentment in the Basel Conservatory regarding my father’s abrupt abandonment of his position there many years earlier. After obtaining a visa through the patronage of my mother’s relatives, the family of Herbert H. Lehman, my father was able to leave Basel in a sealed train that travelled through France and Spain, arriving in Lisbon where he boarded the liner, Conte di Savoia bound for New York.

He arrived in the U.S. in September 1941, where we greeted him at the pier as we stood behind a flimsy wooden barricade. Later, he took us out to Schrafft’s restaurant where the cashier gave him a hard time about changing a twenty-dollar bill. He shortly left for Boston to take up a position at the New England Conservatory, where he remained for five years.

Unknown to us, our parents had divorced prior to his trip to New York. Nevertheless, my father came to New York at least once a month from Boston to visit and stay with us. There was, in the early days of the war, an overnight ferry between Boston and New York, and my father often travelled that way, at least until it became too dangerous because of the presence of Nazi U-Boats. Our grandmother on my father’s side had sent over some money to buy her grandchildren presents, so he bought an electric train set, which he set up in our apartment on a large plywood table. He constructed a huge mountain out of wire mesh and plaster that he and my mother painted realistically. He also built many little buildings out of matchsticks, including a little church. Our cat frequently used to hide in the tunnel that was carved out of the mountain forcing my father to smoke it out with his pipe.

In the spring of 1939, just before our extended visit to the United States, my father had come to New York by himself to attend a number of performances of his works. These had been promoted by his close friend and admirer Paul Boepple, conductor of the Dessoff Choirs and included performances of his violin and flute sonatas on 2 May at the Carnegie Chamber Music Hall as well as a performance of his Hymnus Symphonicus at Carnegie Hall, 18 April, with the Dessoff Choirs. After he returned to the U.S., in 1941 Anna C. Molyneaux, Manager of the Dessoff Choirs (also known as Mama Molyneaux) became his manager and in May 1943 arranged a Town Hall recital for him. My father chose a program of four Beethoven sonatas and the concert received mixed reviews. Although reviewers recognized his astounding technique and highly individual style, some deemed his interpretations too erratic. This lack of recognition of his talents reinforced my father’s conviction that composition was, for him, the most important thing in his professional life. That is not to say that he did not later receive much acclaim for his playing, especially when he performed in Boston and Chicago. Here are some of the many press notices he received plus a wonderful letter from the celebrated harpsichordist and Scarlatti scholar Ralph Kirkpatrick.

Alexander Williams wrote in the Boston Herald on 21 February 1942, of his performance the day before with the Boston Symphony:

“ ... The concert really came to life, finally, with Mr. Ernst Levy’s vigorous and exciting performance of the Liszt Todtentanz ... a dramatic and at times brilliant exhibition piece. Mr. Levy had a thorough command over both its technical and artistic problems and gave us an astonishing sympathetic account of it. The afternoon’s success was his, and he certainly deserved it.”

L. A. Sloper wrote in the Christian Science Monitor the same day: “ ... There was no doubt about his technical command, the beauty of his tone, or his musical authority.”

J. C. Rosenfield wrote in the Berkshire Evening Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) on 8 March 1943 of a lecture-recital:

“Mr. Levy is so complete and many-sided a musician that it is difficult to stress certain excellences without seeming to imply that others are less fortified. His playing shows such an absolute command of all the colors and possibilities of the instrument that he could portray with unusual lucidity and clarity both the subtle and the larger distinctions of the act of the piano with ease, beauty, and conviction ... He made the instrument sing with simple and sustained tone, and then on occasion evoked the power of the elements in his truly ‘grand manner’ playing ...”

About his recital in New York’s Town Hall in May, 1943, Henry Simon wrote in PM on 11 May 1943:

“He is a pianist to be reckoned with.”

While Louis Biancolli the same day wrote in the New York Journal American:

“ ... bristling with original notions of nuance and rhythm, Mr. Levy’s Beethoven readings were steeped in drama and intelligence ...”

One reviewer wrote of a recital in Orchestra Hall, Chicago, at that time:

“ ... Having heard him play Beethoven’s Sonata Appassionata on this occasion, it seems strange that so musically gifted, authoritative and technically unimpeachable a performer should have been for a comparatively long period in our midst and remained unknown to a larger public. As a matter of fact the pianist is a member of the Humanities Division of the University of Chicago, a circumstance which makes it difficult, perhaps, to indulge in concert playing. Yet it will be a loss to out local musical culture, greatly to be deplored, if Levy is not heard more often in the future ...”

Felix Borowski wrote the following in the Chicago Sun-Times in January, 1952, regarding a concert in which Ernst Levy accompanied the cellist Raya Garbousova:

“ ... The finale, too, was made of powerful expression of romantic emotion enhanced by a brilliant piano style. It should be added that the pianist proved his musical sensitivity in his accompaniments for the violoncello, which were models of their kind.”

The great harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick wrote the following to Ernst Levy in a letter dated 23 February 1943, about a concert Levy had given at Yale University:

“Dear Ernst ... I have just written to Lois Porter an account of your concert that I would be embarassed to repeat to you; it sounds so schwarmerisch. But it was one of the greatest performances I ever heard, and I am sill moved every time I think of it. There were some people, who especially understood and were tremendously moved by the performance. Some of them did not meet you and are very eager to do so at some time in the future. I could talk for hours about the beauties of that performance, but why should I tell you what you already know? Of course you know that you make the piano sound like music, that you play with the utmost clarity of conception and detail, that the Liszt sounds as if it had been orchestrated, that you have what appears to be a 100% efficient piano mechanism, that you use the pedal as an expressive device and not as a habit. And so on; why should I say this to you? There are so few people who play romantic music in such a way as to make clear the inner causes as well as the outward results of the emotions involved. Most people conceive dramatic playing as an alteration of intense emotions without respect to their real origins and relationships. I think you know how much you have to give, and I fear you know how few people there are who are really capable of understanding it. But I hope that will never diminish your faith in those who do, and that you will never doubt that you should give them as much as you can, in other words, that you should play and play. Even the stupid and thick-skinned must at last absorb something through the pores, if not through the ears. I am young enough to believe in this, and I think you are too ... Thanks are but the smallest surface expression of what I felt about the performance. Ralph”

Klaus George Roy, composer and later celebrity annotator for the Cleveland Orchestra, was freelancing as a critic for the Christian Science Monitor when he wrote this review published there on 23 February 1954:

“Ernst Levy is one of the great pianists of this country. Returning after two years to Huntington Hall for a recital in the MIT Humanities Series on Saturday afternoon, the Swiss-born artist from Chicago stirred the large audience to a prolonged ovation. The reasons for his comparative lack of fame are not hard to discover. He is primarily a composer and teacher who does not make the annual grand tour; nor does he advertise. A tall, scholarly, austere-looking man, he makes no concessions to podium showmanship — no arm waving, no final flourishes, no head bending skyward, no lengthy peroration before a note heard. He just sits down and plays. Yet with all this outward reserve, a vibrant artistic temperament emerges through the sound alone, a warmth and intimate communication which relies on no mannerisms, stylistic or personal. This reviewer has heard no other pianist who pays such fastidious attention to what the score says, to the subtlest indications of nuance demanded by the composer. But at no time does fidelity to the letter repress the devotion to the spirit; it serves only to intensify and elevate it. This is interpretation as it should be. Mr. Levy offered a program few pianists would attempt in one afternoon — Beethoven’s Op. 106 in B-flat, the ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata; Brahms Op. 118 of six pieces, rarely done complete in concert; and Schumann’s Etudes Symphoniques, Op. 13. To the Beethoven Sonata, one of the most demanding and uncompromising works ever written, the artist brought a penetrating intelligence, a sure grasp of structure, a technical and emotional control that were breathtaking. The expansive Adagio, particularly, will linger long in memory. A slightly slower tempo for the craggy fugue-finale, however, would have helped to clarify the immense polyphonic complexities. The Brahms Op. 118, with its subtly juxtaposed four Intermezzi, the impetuous G minor Ballade, and the lovely F major Romance, was a marvel of textual lucidity and lyrical outpouring under Mr. Levy’s hands. To make the Schumann Symphonic Etudes a coherent whole, to build the series of brief and sharply contrasted variations into a potent structure driving toward the triumphant finale, is one of the touchstones of pianistic comprehension. Mr. Levy solved the problems brilliantly, with a finesse of timing and dynamic balance that could serve as a model to anyone essaying this set. This is, to some of us, Schumann’s masterpiece, but it needs a performance such as Sunday’s to be revealed to the full. Ernst Levy is not only a magnificent pianist; he is a prolific composer. When he returns to Boston–and that should be soon–would he bring us more of his own works, along with other contemporary compositions?”

Paul Boepple continued to support performances of Ernst Levy’s works. In 1945 he conducted the world premiere of my father’s Symphony No. 9, a setting of the Hebrew prayer Shema Yisroel. At the time I was fourteen years old and sang in the choir. The composer Hugo Kauder attended and became a staunch supporter and later a close friend. He had been my composition teacher for a few years and then for the next eight years.

When my father arrived in New York I had already begun studying the cello. We played together often. Occasionally we even played some Mozart Trios with my mother playing violin.

In the summer of 1943 my brother and I joined my father in Skowhegan, Maine, where he held a mini-summer camp with only two students from the New England Conservatory apart from my brother and me. We stayed in a comfortably-equipped, summer-camp cabin typical of New England, with a whole lake to ourselves. My father included the two of us in his classes and I certainly learned a great deal from him there. My brother was studying flute at the time with Mildred Hunt Wummer and he was quite gifted, although he later chose engineering as a career. It was during that summer that my father wrote the first movement of his 10th Symphony. The third movement, “Elégie française,” had already been written and performed at the New England Conservatory. Paul Boepple, with his third wife, Muriel, whose parents owned the property, stayed nearby in Skowhegan. I was there when he and my father got together and played through the reduced score of the first movement of the 10th Symphony on the piano. It made a deep impression on me. I experienced another memorable impression that summer when my father performed at a little local concert, playing Beethoven’s “Sonata Op. 109,” as well as Debussy’s “L’isle joyeuse” and Liszt’s “Sposalizio.” A truly wonderful experience!

That winter we went skiing with my father in Vermont. First we went to Boston and there I met my father’s friend and admirer Nicolas Slonimsky. I remember arriving at his apartment just in time to be greeted by the sounds of “The Lone Ranger” wafting from his daughter Elektra’s room. Slonimsky appeared, rushed to the piano and began raging against a movie he just saw, which he ridiculed. It was Tales from Manhattan starring Charles Laughton. Later he engaged me in conversation, found out that I was enamored with Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung and rushed out to get a little pamphlet on the subject that he presented to me. He later wrote the Lexicon of Musical Invective, which became quite successful, and remained a keen admirer of my father.

In spite of the many issues which arose between my father and me, especially during my teens, some of which were eventually resolved and some never, I was always keenly aware of what an amazing musician he was. He would sit down at the rickety upright piano in our Columbus Avenue apartment and read off a full score of a Bach cantata (Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild) flawlessly. When away from the piano, he could read and internalize a score, no matter how complicated, without any problem. I always had the highest regard for his music and continue in my efforts to publicize and promote it. In spite of our differences, he later became very enthusiastically supportive of my music as well. He has become an example to me of the fickleness of fame and of how it is possible for an artist with so much to offer to remain veiled in obscurity indefinitely.

A very good introduction to some of my father’s musical concepts can be found in one of the articles he wrote at the time he was teaching at the University of Chicago. The article is entitled “How a Composer Works” and is intended as a kind of general introduction for the layperson to the fundaments of music. Quotes from this piece have been included in this CD booklet and the entire essay can be found on the Marston website. Although most of its concepts are easily comprehensible, some are difficult to grasp out of context. It is important to understand, for instance, that the ideas expressed regarding the organic elements of musical form derive from my father’s deep regard for the work on the Pythagorean tradition by his friend, the Swiss theoretician Hans Kayser (1891—1964). Kayser’s work, in turn, centers on the revival of the Pythagorean tradition reflected in the writings of the 19th century German mathematician and esthetician Albert Von Thimus (1806—1878) whose work Harmonic Symbolism of Antiquity profoundly influenced the thinking of both Kayser and my father. In short, it explores the parallels between the natural harmonic series and the Pythagorean table. In Kayser’s extensive writing the parallels between the proportions of the Pythagorean table and those found in nature, in plants, crystals, trees, flowers, and even in the proportions of the violin, are thoroughly investigated and explained. In my father’s book A Theory of Harmony (State University of New York Press, 1985) he develops a theory of harmony based on Pythagorean concepts. In The Gothic Cathedral: Origins of Gothic Architecture and the Medieval Concept of Order by Otto Georg von Simson, (Pantheon Books, 1956) my father’s article entitled “On the proportions of the south tower of Chartres Cathedral “ examines the Pythagorean tradition as found in the canon of Medieval architecture in the appendix to Simson’s book. The focus on establishing parallels between natural forms and proportions and the fundaments of music underlie much of my father’s essay on the fundamentals of music.

Ernst Levy: In his Own Words

Ernst Levy was an accomplished musicologist, composer, pianist, and conductor. In addition to co-authoring three important books on music theory, Levy lectured on a variety of topics relating to music. His ideas were thought-provoking, imaginative, and well-conceived. In an effort to provide insight into Levy’s view on music and the creative process, the producers of this set are including quotes from two lectures that Ernst Levy gave at various times throughout his life.


There is hardly any form of human activity that puzzles the onlooker more than artistic creation. And of all forms of artistic creation probably the most mystifying is musical composition. For it deals in a medium, tone, that is not part of our everyday experience. And thus it is independent of most of the relations with the tangible, visible world that give the other arts an anchor in “reality”. More than any of the other arts, music is truly “out of this world,” and creates a world of its own.


People’s notions about the nature of musical creation vary between two extremes: “inspiration” and “scientific, mathematical calculation”. How close, actually, does the process come to either of these extremes? Let us begin by correcting a widespread opinion about the difference between scientific “discovery” and artistic “creation”. That difference is more apparent than real. Popular legends that attach to some of the great discoveries may well be only legends, but they reveal a great deal about the process of invention. Millions of people had seen apples fall before Newton hit on the theory of gravitation, and millions had watched water boil in tea-kettles before Watt thought of the steam engine. Every one of those millions could have made these same discoveries; but in each case a creative “flash of genius” was needed to reveal what had been waiting through the ages to be seen.


For no invention, scientific or musical, can be completed without that “infinite capacity for taking pains” that is the other half of creative genius.


A work of art does not resemble machinery but rather a living organism.


What makes variation possible is, as has already been suggested, the primary importance of the shape of a musical idea--that curious entity which is as difficult to define as it is easy to conceive. The basic significance of the shape may be summed up in the statement that a whole is something different from the mere sum of its parts. A forest is something quite different from so-and-so many thousand trees; the ocean is not just a great collection of drops of water. The same is true of all entities, and above all, of organisms.


We may say that although the material of music is not one familiar through our everyday life, and the content is not taken from the outer world, a musical work is nevertheless subject to general laws and rules which may be perfectly well comprehended and stated in words. And while music is “out of this world”, and creates a world of its own, that world is by no means an arbitrary one. Music expresses the underlying substance of things. Or, as Beethoven puts it: “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.”


If there were only one single work of art in existence in the whole world and for all times, the concept of artistic style would not arise. Clearly, then we may say that STYLE ARISES OUT OF THE TEMPORAL CHARACTERISTICS of a work of art. This, to be sure, is so broad a definition as to make it appear charged with very little meaning. With a notion as complex as “style”, this is unavoidable, and we must trust in the process of continuous implementing to fill the abstract form with life.


The stuff of which music is made, namely, TONE, is seemingly a most pliable material, ready to be formed at the composer’s will and fancy, presenting none of the characteristics of physical matter with which the architect, the sculptor, or even the painter have to reckon. Tone has no weight, no density, nor has it elasticity or brittleness. However, anybody who has ever tried a hand at composition knows that this widespread assumption is fallacious. He soon discovers that while of course no physical catastrophe will result from a faulty handling of the tone-material, catastrophes on the spiritual level will ensue. There will be lack of meaning. There might be chaos. The truth is that this seemingly so ethereal matter is very stubborn. It has inherent laws of its own.


Casting a glance over the music of the last hundred and fifty years with the purpose to detect outstanding stylistic phenomena, I am struck by the following. First of all, the emergence of the PIANO as a universal and ubiquitous instrument, and the tremendous development of piano technique. Secondly, the general rise of VIRTUOSITY. Thirdly, the gradual evolution of a treatment of tone-matter known as IMPRESSIONISM. Lastly, various consequences of the decay of classical tonality: POLYTONALITY, ATONALITY, DODECAPHONY, PANDIATONICISM, MICROTONISM.


The rise of VIRTUOSITY is probably tied to the general emergence, in the 19th century, of a technological spirit, observable in the musical field not only in the development of instrumental technique, but also in the attention given to perfecting the instruments themselves. The total result is a general increase in the technical difficulty of the music composed, for solos as well as for ensembles, and the consequent appearance of a new sort of virtuoso; the orchestra virtuoso, the CONDUCTOR.


Music became more and more SOMETHING TO BE LISTENED TO as against SOMETHING TO BE LIVED. Those who have experienced not only what today is called “to be exposed to music”, but also “music-making”, will know what I mean. Ideally, one should never “be exposed to music”, but always actively participate in it, even as an auditor. The very term “to expose to music” should be banned from our vocabulary–for nomen est omen–a little too clearly ....