About this Recording
9.70155 - LEVY, E.: Orchestral Suite No. 3 / An Introduction to Ernst Levy and His Music (Polish National Radio Symphony, Oberg)

Ernst Lévy (1895–1981)
An Introduction to the Music of Ernst Lévy - A conversation between Dr Siegmund Levarie and Max Schubel • Third Suite for Orchestra


The spoken dialogue between Ernst Lévy’s long-time friend, colleague and admirer, conductor, educator and musicologist, Dr Siegmund Levarie, and composer-producer Max Schubel will serve as far more insightful than the usual biographical facts that accompany most recordings. It is our belief that Ernst Lévy will be found to be one of the as yet ‘undiscovered’ giants of the twentieth century, and it is for this reason that, in this instance, a more intimate and detailed glimpse into the composer’s life in the United States has been included than would otherwise be available to a deceased composer through this recorded discussion with Dr Levarie. Lévy died in 1981.

The Third Suite for Orchestra, written in 1957, was dedicated to the composer Hugo Kauder, a close friend of my father’s as well as my composition teacher. The two composers’ styles had little in common outside of their modal tonality. Kauder’s reinforcement of melodic line with parallel fourth and fifth, however, did seem to carry over into my father’s later style.

The Suite, consisting of nine movements that have no individual titles, is nearly a half an hour in length, the first movement setting the scene for the entire work. The opening six-note motive in the French horn is repeated and varied throughout the entire orchestra. Like the DNA of a plant, it spreads rather than develops through the movement. This is a technique much employed in Ernst Lévy’s later works. Also characteristic is the metric freedom and the absence of metric markings, as well as the doublings in fourth and fifth.

These characteristics persist in the dance like second movement and the contrasting seven movements that follow.  In the seventh movement the opening motive returns and evolves in various ways. The eighth movement leads to a final and insistent re-statement of the opening motive. The ninth is an epilogue evolving around a B flat major chord and finally resolving to a E flat major chord at the end.

A word about the tonality of Ernst Lévy’s music. While firmly rooted in diatonic tonality, his style achieves a degree of tonal ambivalence through modal polyphony, occasionally dissonant texture and ambivalent chord progressions.

Frank Lévy

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