Gerald Levinson

  • Gerald Levinson, born in 1951 and raised in Connecticut, has been increasingly recognized as one of the major composers of his generation. In 1990, he received the Music Award (for lifetime achievement) of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which cited his “sensitive poetic spirit, imaginative treatment of texture and color” and his “potent and very personal idiom which projects immediately to the listener.”

    Levinson’s principal teachers were George Crumb, George Rochberg, and Richard Wernick at the University of Pennsylvania; Ralph Shapey at the University of Chicago. He then studied at the Paris Conservatory with Olivier Messiaen, for whom he later served as translator and assistant. He is the Jane Lang Professor of Music at Swarthmore College, where he been on the faculty since 1977, and has twice served as Chair of the Department of Music and Dance. He spent 1979-80 in Bali as a Henry Luce Foundation Scholar, composing and studying Balinese music, and returned there in 1982-83 as a Guggenheim Fellow.

    Critic Paul Griffiths has written:
    “What must thrill anyone who comes in contact with Gerald Levinson’s music is its sheer joy in sound, and the decisiveness with which it sings or dances its way through time. In sympathy with sound, in sympathy with time, Levinson’s music is close to the natural phenomena on which all music depends. Two things spring from this. One is that his music can easily evoke other natural phenomena: the sea, the stars, rugged landscapes. The other is that this music is in tune with other kinds of music from around the world. Levinson’s resources are classical western: he writes for the symphony orchestra, for the piano, and for chamber groupings of conventional instruments. His disciplines, too, are those of the western tradition. But the east was present in his music even before his first trip there. His works, right through his career for far, exist on companionable terms with Mahler’s music and with Bali’s, with Ravel’s and with Japan’s, with Messiaen’s and with India’s, with Stravinsky’s and with China’s, with America’s symphonic tradition and with Tibet’s slow melody. Out of all this he is creating, piece by piece, a world of his own.”

    Levinson has received numerous awards for his music, including two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship and the Music Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Pew Fellowship in the Arts (2007). His music has been widely performed in the US and Europe by major orchestras and ensembles, such as the American Composers Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Seattle, Indianapolis and Cincinnati Symphonies, the City of Birmingham (England) Symphony Orchestra, the orchestras of the Aspen and Tanglewood Festivals, and many others, led by such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Christoph Eschenbach, Oliver Knussen, Gunther Schuller, Gerard Schwarz, Esa-Pekka Salonen, David Zinman, and Hugh Wolff.

    His principal works include two large-scale symphonies: Anahata (Symphony No. 1) (1986) and the Second Symphony (1992-94) (commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation and premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle) as well as six other works for large orchestra, and numerous other chamber-orchestra, ensemble, vocal, keyboard, and band works.. His Five Fires (1995) was broadcast worldwide by the BBC as part of the 1997 Masterprize Competition for orchestral music, and was awarded the Prix International Arthur Honegger. Two of Levinson’s recent works were commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra: Avatar (2003), for the inaugural concert of Christoph Eschenbach as Music Director in 2003, and Toward Light (2006) for organ and orchestra, for the dedication of the new organ in its concert hall, Verizon Hall. His newest works include Three Fables (2009) for narrator, violin, and cello, to poems by Robert Lax (commissioned by the American Composers Forum for Auricolae Children’s Music Ensemble), and Now Your Colors Sing (2011) for double string orchestra (for Orchestra 2001 and the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts). His current project is a solo organ work for Olivier Latry.

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    143-40016 Au Coeur De L’Infini
    For Organ
    11:00 Organ
    140-40121 Chorale for Nanine, with Birds
    (Hommage à Messiaen)
    4:30 Piano
    140-40122 Musiques Nocturnes
    (Hommage à Bartók)
    4:30 Piano
    114-40248 Odyssey
    For Solo Flute
    13:00 Flute
    140-40091 Ragamalika
    Four Pieces for Solo Piano
    16:00 Piano
    Chamber Ensemble
    10173 At the Still Point of the Turning World, There the Dance Is
    for Chamber Ensemble
    20:00 0 1(dbl. E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 0 1Sop.Sax. 1Bar.Sax. – 0 0 0 0; 1Perc. Guit.
    12850 Black Magic/White Magic
    Song Cycle for Soprano and Seven Players
    21:00 Soprano; Fl./Picc./A.Fl. Ob./E.H. Cl. B.Cl. Vln. Vcl. Pno.
    23560 Chant des rochers
    for 15 Instruments
    12:00 2(2 dbl. Picc.) 1(dbl. E.H.) 2(1=EbCl., 2-BbCl.) 1(dbl. Cbsn.) – 1 2 1(=B.Tbn) 1; Hp. Pno. 2Perc.
    141-40049 Consolation
    For Voice and Piano
    3:00 Voice and Piano
    144-40541 Crickets
    For String Quartet and Piano
    5:00 Piano Quintet
    144-40190 Dreamlight
    30:00 Cello, Piano, 2 Percussion
    144-40113 Duo (Winds Of Light)
    For Violin and Piano
    24:00 Violin, Piano
    144-40141 Fanfare for Boyd Barnard, XII-6-1985
    For Two Antiphonal Trumpets
    1:00 Trumpet Duet
    10123 Here of amazing most now
    for Chamber Ensemble
    10:00 Fl. Ob. Sax. Vcl. Cb. Guit. Pno. Perc.
    12982 In Dark
    for Soprano and Seven Players
    17:00 Solo Sop.; 2Fl. Vla. Vcl. Perc. Pno. Hp.
    140-40057 Morning Star
    Chorale for Piano, Four Hands
    7:00 Piano 4 Hands
    140-40120 Ringing Changes
    For Two Pianos
    8:00 2 Pianos 4 Hands
    141-40075 Three Fables
    13:00 String Duet
    14547 Time and the Bell
    for Piano and Chamber Ensemble
    28:00 Solo Pno.; 1(dbl. A.Fl.) 1(dbl. E.H.) 1(dbl. B.Cl.) 0 – 0 0 0 0; 1-2Perc. Vln. Vcl. Vla.
    144-40114 Trio
    For Clarinet, Violoncello and Piano
    18:30 Chamber Ensemble
    11333 An?hata: Symphony No. 1
    32:00 4(2Picc.) 4(E.H.) 4(EbCl. B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 4 3 1; 5Perc. Pno. Cel. Hp. Str.
    10190 Avatar
    for Orchestra
    12:30 4(dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 4(E-flat Cl./B.Cl./Cb.Cl.) 4(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 4Perc. Pno. Cel. Hp. Str. (min.
    12978 Five Fires
    9:00 3(2Picc.) 3 4(EbCl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Str.
    12980 For the Morning of the World
    24:00 1(Picc./A.Fl.) 1(E.H.) 2 1 – 1 2 1(B.Tbn.) 0; 2Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Str.
    17449 Now Your Colors Sing
    for Double String Orchestra
    14:00 Double String Orch.(Note: The work may be performed by 24 solo strings or by larger string orchestras.)
    17354 Sea Changes
    24:00 3 3 4 3 – 4 3 3 1; 4Perc. Hp. Pno. Str.
    12983 Sky Music
    for 13 Players
    35:00 2 1 1 0 – 1 0 0 0; 2Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. 2Vln. Vla. Vcl.
    12984 Symphony No. 2
    40:00 5(2Picc./A.Fl.) 4(E.H.) 4(EbCl./B.Cl./Cb.Cl.) 4(Cbsn.) – 4 4(in C) 4 1; Timp. 4-5Perc. Pno. Cel. Hp. Str.
    12985 Two Poems
    for Orchestra
    19:00 3 3 4 3 – 3 4 3 1; 4Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    Orchestra with Soloist(s)
    12981 From Erebus and Black Night
    for Solo English Horn and Orchestra
    16:00 Solo E.H.; 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 2 0; 3Perc. Hp. Str.
    17517 Toward Light
    for Organ and Orchestra
    9:00 Solo Org.; 3(3rd dbl. Picc.) 3 4(E-flat Cl., B.Cl.) 3(3rd dbl. Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno. Hp. Str. ( minimum)
    Band / Wind Ensemble
    145-40033 Mountain Light
    For Symphonic Band
    8:00 Symphonic Band

  • Gerald Levinson’s orchestration and instrumentation are admirable. His style, combining a highly expanded modern tonality with memories of the metallophones of Bali, is very beautiful, very original, sometimes powerful, always moving.
    –Olivier Messiaen, Music and Color

    …there’s no denying [his] ornate, spell-casting music has potent sensual appeal.
    –Mark Lehman , American Record Guide

    …an imaginative explorer of sonic landscapes and visionary epiphanies.
    –Mark Lehman , American Record Guide

    Levinson remains, moment by moment, sheerly gorgeous, with shimmering, iridescent harmonies and plush-velvet melodi[es] that spin on and on into the silence, like pyrotechnics against the night sky, decelerated into the slowest of slow motions.
    –Mark Lehman , American Record Guide

    A masterpiece.
    –Olivier Messiaen, Music and Color

    …signals a larger harmony of eastern and western musical thought.
    –Paul Griffiths, The Times, London

    …impressed for its mighty sonorities, long breathed melodies, and often glorious percussion racket, inspired by music of Bali and North India.
    –Bill Zakariasen, New York Daily News

    A rich, colorful, and substantial composition… melismatic cries of hard, bright outline from clustered woodwinds; slow harmonic progress through deep, lush added-note chords; the crash and peal of gongs and bells… shimmering aftertones… well proportioned, admirably controlled, and beautiful.
    –Andrew Porter, The New Yorker

    Gerald Levinson’s “Anahata: Symphony No. 1” is an exuberant 30-minute work of tremendous inventions and aural seductiveness… with its utter sincerity and clear-skied, all encompassing horizons, this symphony, quite literally, ravishes you. When the final notes faded away, it was Leonard Bernstein, seated in the audience, who started the standing ovation.
    –Anthony Tommasini, Boston Globe

    With its thick, clangorous sounds, its pungent combinations of double reeds and other instruments, its rhythmic pulsation and its air of concentrated repose, “Anahata” is utterly original and, more important, highly communicative. “Anahata” projects a sense of serenity and balance— the feeling that there is something right.
    –Ray Cooklis, The Cincinnati Enquirer

    A work of genius.
    –Alan Hovhaness,

    The listener first introduced to the music of Gerald Levinson will almost surely be struck by the fact that his is an artistic voice that will not be contained by any of the factionalized ‘isms’ which have dominated our contemporary musical landscape in recent decades.
    –Steven Johnson, The Los Angeles Philharmonic Times

    Gerald Levinson’s world is very much his own, a world of superb orchestral brilliance, vivid gesture, strong, pliable rhythm and long-reaching form… One might feel even that he has not invented but discovered the finest of his works as relics of an ancient civilization might be unexpectedly discovered in some jungle.
    –Paul Griffiths,

    …a most atmospheric listening experience… The score is not only very evocative— it’s also a model of colorful yet always tasteful orchestration. This is obviously some…music which is well worth hearing again.
    –Bill Zakariasen, The New York Daily News

    …explores the emotional value of tension and release. After the initial clouds disperse, almost everything else sounds like supreme sweetness … cosmic quality.
    –Peter Dobrin, Philadephia Inquirer

    …this lively piece had an aptly festive air…pointed orchestral textures and earthly percussion effects.
    –George Loomis, Financial Times, London

    …a garland of 12 little tone poems… instrumentally exotic and ingenious… Certainly it had a fresh, strong sensuous charge.
    –Richard Buell, Boston Globe

    …11 elliptical songs to an instrumental backdrop that shows the strength of the single instruments. Colors flow through this music, which accumulates mood through its references to Bali’s music.
    –Daniel Webster, Philadephia Inquirer

    Here and there one feels whiffs of a Balinese mode of flute or gamelan, but mostly this is personable, intensely pictorial Western music that serves the evocative poetry of Nanine Valen — the composer’s wife — very well indeed.
    –John Rockwell, New York Times

    Levinson seemed to revel in the color of those forces, creating big moments and flashing shafts of sound.
    –Daniel Webster, Philadephia Inquirer

    Levinson is particularly gifted at creating harmonies whose voicings and intervals (and extensive use of winds as coloring) take on the quality of exotic ‘meta-instruments.’ It’s almost as though the whole ensemble were a single, large instrument playing in a wholly natural, yet alternative, tuning.
    –Robert Carl, Fanfare

    …demonstrates his ability to create whole and convincing musical worlds between Western soul-searching and Oriental (Balinese) joy.
    –Paul Griffiths, New York Times

    Levinson’s distinctive voice makes his music immediately attractive, but with deep resonance that invites continued investigation.
    –Daniel Webster, Philadephia Inquirer

    –Peter Dobrin, Philadephia Inquirer

    …a beautiful piece of chamber music that creates many a mood that lingers long after the music has ceased.
    –Michael Caruso, News of Delaware County

    …a huge orchestral palette with dense scoring and motifs based on a Balinese scale. At times, the orchestra sounds like a gigantic gamelan, with all the gongs, bells and other percussion. It’s an exuberant work with great spirit…
    –Melinda Bargreen, Seattle Times

    …a strongly colored tour of the sonority and mood of some Balinese musical expression. His wide range of enthralling percussion sounds — gongs and chiming metallic shimmers — complete the picture.
    –Daniel Webster, Philadephia Inquirer

    Shadowy, veiled, and mysterious… the arcing finale has the timelessness of the ‘Ewig’s’ in Das Lied.
    –Benjamin Pernick, Fanfare

    …brimmed with melodic fervor, beguiling lyricism and instrumental color.
    –Daniel Webster, Philadephia Inquirer

    Atmospheric and evocative.
    –American Record Guide

    …a brooding, moody piece of considerable beauty.
    –Peter Dobrin, Philadephia Inquirer

    Just as the sea itself is music, Levinson’s work is not merely music, but also a state of mind, of sensing with your whole being… The rocking waves, splashing foam, sounds of ships and gulls — the very speech of the sea — are relived.
    –Sharon McDaniel, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

    …attractive, bracing piece…
    –Jay Harvey, Indianapolis Star

    …one part Debussy and one part North Indian, and an exhilarating show of virtuosity.
    –Peter Dobrin, Philadephia Inquirer

    [it] began with a beautifully spare series of notes sounded in octaves, so meditative and widely spaced as to suggest ripples on a pond.
    –David Patrick Stearns, Philadephia Inquirer

    …un grand sens des couleurs et des rythmes.
    –Didier van Moere,

    It is in the third movement… where a kernel of human drama and tragedy is introduced, that engages the listener beyond a mere contemplative admiration. This is a beautiful, moving movement in which Levinson’s gifts seem at their full power.
    –Scott Duncan, The Orange County Register

    Levinson’s “Time and the Bell” draws on Balinese gamelan sounds and the rhythms of Indian raga, to pungent effect.
    –John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

    Levinson’s colorful and approachable new work…covers an impressively broad range of expression and dynamism with polished economy.
    –Peter Burwasser, Citypaper

    Levinson’s piece, full of bell sounds and brimming with Asian atmospheres, was a swift conflation of musical styles of two worlds… an intriguing Western take on Indian thought.
    –Daniel Webster, Philadephia Inquirer

    A rare gem… Levinson’s imaginative writing and colorful instrumental timbres conjure up vivid imagery… The result is a meditative, thought-provoking (and mood-evoking) journey whose six movements take the listener through a seemingly endless array of irresistible, modal flavors.
    –David Abrams, The Syracuse Post-Standard

    …splashes of color…rich in astringent dissonance.
    –James Oestreich, New York Times

    …a huge but alluring array of ideas and timbres…
    –David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer

    Gerald Levinson’s “Toward Light” was the most satisfying performance of the organ-extravaganza program. Its angular, colour-rich spectrum captivated from the opening measures.
    –S. James Wegg,

    …full of arresting, modernistic sonorities…in a firm rhythmic framework.
    –George Loomis, Financial Times, London

    Its 7-minutes opening superimposes fast, skittery figures over slow, plangent bell-sounds, managing to be both active and agitated yet at the same time evoke a distant vista of unchanging timelessness. This remarkable movement, distant kin to the dazzling “Crystal Liturgy” that begins Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, exhibits Levinson’ genuine gifts at their best and remains in memory to haunt the mind’s ear.
    –Mark Lehman , American Record Guide

    [Levinson] gave the clarinet a range of sonority from a low, husky call to sweet stratospheric melodies in which he vied with harmonics on the cello. The rhythmic vitality of the music brought boldly colored playing from all three.
    –Daniel Webster, Philadephia Inquirer

    Mr. Levinson’s trio, which includes a dreamy chorale sequence embellished with glassy harmonies, is richly and imaginatively scored and skillfully put together.
    –Joseph Horowitz, New York Times

    …the first work I have heard by Gerald Levinson, but I sincerely hope it will not be the last…
    –Kari F. Miller, American Record Guide

    A captivating piece that combines a Crumb-like command of delicate, beautiful timbres and a sure sense of form.
    –Andrew Porter, The New Yorker

    …almost surreal impressionistic moods… potently expressive…
    –Peter G. Davis, New York Times

    Quite primal in its outer sections, Levinson expertly suggests the Hautes Alpes’ craggy peaks and glaciers. And he hints at the landscape’s soft beauty by way of the crystalline sounds of the harp and bells. The incorporation of the piano into this orchestral work is superb. Its role as a percussion instrument is clearly defined by the composer’s separation of winds and percussion in color as well as groupings.
    –Laurie Hudicek, New Music Connoisseur

    The two-part Levinson premiere was a craggy, 16-minute nature-evoking soundscape that showed real capability in handling large instrumental forces.
    –Robert Kimball, The New York Post

  • Here of Amazing Most Now HERE OF AMAZING MOST NOW
    Albany Records (TROY936); May 8, 2007
    Performer(s): Orchestra 2001, conducted by James Freeman; Gregory Fulkerson, violin, Igor Begelman, clarinet, Nancy Newman, cello, Barbara Ann Martin, soprano, Marcantonio Barone, Charles Abramovic, pianos
    Work(s): Consolation
    Duo: Winds of Light
    Here of amazing most now
    Bronze Music BRONZE MUSIC
    Albany Records (TROY913); February 1, 2007
    Performer(s): Jordan Winds of the New England Conservatory, conducted by William Drury
    Work(s): Mountain Light
    Gerald Levinson GERALD LEVINSON
    CRI/New World Records (CD 642); February 1, 2007
    Performer(s): Orchestra 2001; James Freeman, conductor and piano; Constance Beavon, mezzo-soprano; André Emelianoff, violoncello; Charles Abramovic, piano; Paul Hostetter and Benjamin Ramirez, percussion; Peter Bas…
    Work(s): Black Magic/White Magic
    Morning Star
    At the Still Point AT THE STILL POINT
    Albany Records (TROY838); May 1, 2006
    Performer(s): Hirono Oka, violin, Ohad Bar-David, cello, Susan Nowicki, piano
    Work(s): At the Still Point of the Turning World, There the Dance Is
    Music of Gerald Levinson MUSIC OF GERALD LEVINSON
    Albany Records (TROY742); March 1, 2005
    Performer(s): Marcantonio Barone, piano; Orchestra 2001, James Freeman, conductor
    Work(s): Chant des Rochers
    For the Morning of the World
    Time and the Bell
    Eastman American Music Series, Vol. 6 EASTMAN AMERICAN MUSIC SERIES, VOL. 6
    Albany Records (TROY277); March 2, 1999
    Performer(s): Elizabeth Fulford, soprano; Eastman Musica Nova, Sydney Hodkinson, conductor.
    Work(s): In Dark (Three poems of the night)
    20th Century American 4-Hand Piano Music 20TH CENTURY AMERICAN 4-HAND PIANO MUSIC
    Laurel Records (859); May 19, 1998
    Performer(s): Elson-Swarthout Four Hand Piano Duo
    Work(s): Morning Star

  • 2007: Pew Fellowship Recipient
    2001: Swarthmore College, Blanchard Faculty Research Fellowship
    1998: Prix International Arthur Honegger de Composition Musicale, for “Five Fires”
    1997: Masterprize, London: Five Fires named semifinalist and recorded for BBC and international broadcasts
    1992: N.E.A. Fellowship
    1990: Music Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters
    1989: Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship
    1986-1987: Swarthmore College, Lang Faculty Research Fellowship
    1983: N.E.A. Fellowship
    1982: Guggenheim Fellowship
    1981: New England Conservatory New Works Competition, award for “Black Magic/White Magic”
    1979-1980: Henry Luce Foundation Scholar (in Bali, Indonesia)
    1979: Composer in residence, Yaddo
    1979: Goddard Lieberson Fellowship of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters
    1978: Fellow of the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts
    1977: East and West Arts Chamber Music Prize (for Trio)
    1973: BMI Student Composers Award
    1971-1972: University of Pennsylvania Music Awards
    1971: Leonard Bernstein Fellowship, Tanglewood
    1969, 1970: BMI Student Composers Award

  • Anāhata (Symphony No. 1)
    for Orchestra
    for Orchestra
    Black Magic / White Magic
    Song Cycle for Soprano and Seven Players
    Five Fires
    for Orchestra
    Here of amazing most now
    for Chamber Ensemble
    Now Your Colors Sing
    for Double String Orchestra
    Symphony No. 2
    for Orchestra
    Time and the Bell
    for Piano and Chamber Ensemble
    Toward Light
    for Organ and Orchestra