A tribute to Robert Levin: The practice of performance

2 min read

“A composer puts a mirror to the audience and asks us to recognize ourselves. It’s the same as with great plays. Music is no less serious just because it is composed of tones, not words.” — Robert Levin

Robert Levin, the inaugural Dwight P. Robinson Jr. Professor of the Humanities at the Department of Music at Harvard, will retire from the University in 2014. As a tribute to his contribution to musical life at Harvard, the Music Department will honor him with a concert in Sanders Theatre on Sunday, January 26, at 3 p.m. Internationally renowned pianist Levin will perform pieces that he commissioned, premiered, or that have been commissioned for him. These include Bernard Rands’ 12 Preludes, John Harbison’s Piano Sonata No. 2, Hans Peter Türk’s Träume, and Straccio vecchio and Sauce 180 by Yehudi Wyner. Knowing Levin’s skill with improvisation, there may some surprises as well.

If it weren’t for a tiny post office in a Black Forest German town, though, Levin may not have spent the past 20 years teaching performance at Harvard.

“I was senior professor of piano at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg,” recounts Levin. “One morning I was heading towards the post office—it was very small, with just one window—and I saw a man with a stack of packages heading in the same direction. I thought, ‘I’ve got to get there first or I’ll be here all morning.’ As I got closer I recognized him. It was Christoph Wolff.”