Like his father before him, Frank Ezra Lévy (b. 1930) has successfully combined careers as a composer and performer throughout his life. As a cellist, it comes as no surprise that the instrument features in both his chamber and orchestral output. It's also the focus of one of three recordings of his music that became available this month exclusively for digital download. The performers on these new releases include dedicatees of a number of Lévy's compositions, who are also champions of his work.
Ernst Lévy (1895-1981) had a considerable influence on his son's musical development, who recalls that “although he wrote fifteen symphonies in all, his Tenth Symphony, one of the most lyrical and expressive of all my father's works, had the most profound and lasting effect on my musical development.”
Frank Ezra Lévy, son of the legendary Swiss pianist and composer Ernst Lévy, can look back on a distinguished career as a cellist as well as a prolific catalogue of 177 published and widely admired compositions which include orchestral works recorded for Naxos (8.559234). Both of the trios on this recording were written for the Halcyon Trio: the first moving from a lyrical initial movement through a variety of moods to a jagged and contrapuntal finale, the second a single continuous movement. These trios explore the signature intensity of thematic transformation and development which also gives the duo Mythic Transformations its name, while the early Clarinet Sonata is a virtuoso workout for both performers.
“The two trios for clarinet, viola and piano were written expressly for the Halcyon Trio and have been performed numerous times by this ensemble. The music is direct, eminently listenable and can be enjoyed on many levels. The duo for clarinet and viola (Mythic Transformations) was also written for Andy Lamy and Brett Deubner.” – Frank Ezra Lévy.
Listen to Mythic Transformations: II for viola and clarinet
Frank Ezra Lévy trained as a cellist at the Juilliard School, but despite a long professional career as a performer the cello has not dominated his prolific work as a composer. The five Cello Sonatas span a period of 32 years, the last written especially for this recording. Having inherited rhythmic flexibility and modal sensitivity from his father Ernst Lévy it is no surprise to hear these works reflecting a strong belief in the gravitational pull of tonality, the search for a tonal centre intensifying the expressive character of each sonata while at the same time communicating with striking clarity of form. Also performed by Scott Ballantyne, Lévy’s impressive Second Cello Concerto can be found on Naxos 8.559234.
“The five cello sonatas, performed here by two outstanding artists, span a period of 25 years, the last having been written especially for this recording.” - Frank Ezra Lévy.
Despite a long and busy professional career as a cellist Frank Ezra Lévy’s work as a composer has been prolific, resulting in numerous commissions, a very well-received recording of orchestral music (Naxos 8.559234) and a post as the first composer-in-residence for the Concert Artist Program at Kean University in Union, NJ. Lévy’s works reflect a strong belief in the power of tonality. His pieces for viola range from the early Sonata for Unaccompanied Viola, the Second Viola Sonata which paraphrases a movement from Elgar’s Cello Concerto, and première recordings of two works written for Brett Deubner, soloist on this recording and a tireless champion of Lévy’s work.
“The first viola sonata is a one-movement work and, as in many of my compositions, the music evolves from opening melodic fragments. The third sonata and the suite for unaccompanied viola were both written for Brett Deubner, who features in these première recordings.” – Frank Ezra Lévy.
Other Digital Exclusives: Ernst Lévy and Frank Ezra Lévy