Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career?
We owned an old Lester upright in the basement and I went to it very early on – played the music in the piano bench, composed a bit – it was a magical spot. My first teacher had come over from Europe to study at Curtis Institute and she gave me wise first steps at the piano. I didn’t think of it as a career then, but it was already at the center of my life.
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My father always played the recordings of Richter and even in car rides would test me on the music and the artists emanating from the radio. He had a great ear and such a warm spirit.
My teachers – Maryan Filar, Rudolf Serkin, Leonard Shure and Dorothy Taubman – were perhaps the most important influences on me as a musician and also as a human being.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Some of the greatest challenges have been learning and performing the Goldberg Variations, the final three Beethoven Piano Sonatas and the Brahms D minor and Chopin E minor Concerti to name a few. This repertoire demands and allows the performer to go deep, to grow and be changed forever.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I like the most recent – Beethoven Op. 109-111 Sonatas on Parma Recordings.
And I’m also proud of the Bach Goldberg Variations on Centaur Recordings.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I probably play the Romantic repertoire the best. But I like to think I can handle music of any time.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I’m very influenced by friends – one recently suggested I learn Kreisleriana of Schumann and the big Schubert C minor Sonata. Having just played the late Beethoven program, this sits well with me. And I adore Schumann and Schubert.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I may be happiest in intimate spaces such as Bargemusic in New York – but any stage is a happy challenge if one feels at home.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
I love playing chamber music-(I’ll perform a cello/piano program tomorrow). A Brahms trio is heaven for me, or any of the great piano quintets…..
I adore and appreciate listening to singers – often from the past – and to strings. One phrase of Casals’ Bach can be life-changing.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Hearing Stokowski live in Philadelphia and hearing Leonard Shure play a recital in Boston come to mind as outstanding memories.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Love for the music…….and of course titanic rhythm, deep phrasing and respect for the score.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a modern work of Andrew Rudin – his Piano Sonata. And Schumann’s Kreisleriana. Also the Barber cello Sonata, Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata and the Brahms G minor Piano Quartet. I played the ‘Emperor Concerto’ recently and that is still with me.
What is your present state of mind?
Because I play tomorrow I’m in a calm state of mind but ready to boil over at the right time.
Interview date: 8th March 2014
Beth Levin’s artistry invokes an uncanny sense of hearing for the first time
works long thought familiar, as though the pianist herself were discovering a piece in the playing of it. Such a style of refreshment and renewal can be traced back to Levin’s unique artistic lineage. As a child prodigy, she made her debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at age 12.
She was subsequently taught and guided by legendary pianists such as Rudolf Serkin, Leonard Shure, Dorothy Taubman and Paul Badura-Skoda (who praised her as “a pianist of rare qualities and the highest professional caliber”). Her deep well of experience allows Levin to reach back through the golden age of the Romantic composers and connect to the sources of the great pianistic traditions, to Bach, to Mozart, to Beethoven.
Levin has appeared as a concerto soloist with numerous symphony orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Pops Orchestra, the Boston Civic Symphony and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. She has worked with noted conductors such as Arthur Fiedler, Tonu Kalam, Milton Katims, Joseph Silverstein and Benjamin Zander. Chamber music festival collaborations have brought her to the Marlboro Festival, Casals Festival, Harvard, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Ankara Music Festival and the Blue Hill Festival, collaborating with such groups such as the Gramercy Trio (founding member), the Audubon Quartet, the Vermeer Quartet and the Trio Borealis, with which she has toured extensively.
Beth’s full biography can be found on her website