Disc 1

1
   Sonata in B Minor (Longo 263)
2   Sonata in E Major (Longo 23)
3   Sonata in C Major (Longo 104)

4   Variations Op. 34


Disc 2

Sonata Op. 20 No. 1
1   Allegro
2   Adagio
3   Allegro

4   Prelude Op. 45
5   Waltz in E Minor
6   Nocturne Op. 48 No. 1

7   Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12

8   Toccata in A Major

9   Intermezzo Op. 119 No. 3


Scarlatti



Beethoven




Kurka




Chopin



Liszt

Paradies

Brahms
     


Fantasy in C Major Op. 15
5   Allegro
6   Adagio
7   Presto-Allegro





10   Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring  (Chorale from Cantata No. 147)
11   Prelude and Fugue No. 9

12   Ballade Op. 23 in G Minor

13   Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2

14   Ricercare and Toccata, on a theme from "The Old Maid and the Thief"



Schubert








Bach


Chopin

Brahms

Menotti


Rhoda Pinsley Levin, piano

Disc 1 and Disc 2 tracks 1-9 from January-April 1963 recital tour
Disc 2 tracks 10-14 recorded in 1966
All selections performed at recitals in New York and Massachusetts between January 1963 and October 1970


Produced for compact disc by Adam Robert Levin
Mastered by Jay Mark
Recording © 2005 Different Drum Music

Rhoda Pinsley Levin
July 3, 1929-February 16, 1971

 

       

 

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WEBPAGES' BACKGROUND MUSIC
RPL WEBPAGE SOUNDTRACK CD
Home Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 by Franz Liszt Disc 2, track 7
CD Ricercare and Toccata by Gian-Carlo Menotti Disc 2, track 14
Bio & Articles Sonata Op. 20 No. 1, Movement 1 by Robert Kurka Disc 2, track 1
Photos Intermezzo Op. 119 No. 3 by Johanes Brahms Disc 2, track 9


The performances
on this CD, digitally remastered from the original reel-to-reel recordings, are from Rhoda Pinsley Levin's solo recital tour of 1963 and subsequent repertoire.  She performed these and other pieces at numerous recitals in New York and Massachusetts between January 1963 and October 1970.  During that time, she expanded her usual repertoire from the Baroque and Classical periods by taking on the challenge of Romantic and contemporary works in this collection.  This occurred during what turned out to be the last seven years of her life, tragically cut short by cancer at the age of forty-one.
 
  
As music teacher at Netcong High School (New Jersey), 1951-53

"Think of me when you play your Scarlatti," wrote Miss Pinsley's fiancé Harvey J. Levin in 1954, on one of the rare occasions when they were geographically apart.  Scarlatti and Beethoven were her home turf, even at a time when she'd suspended piano study and concertizing for a Masters in Music Education at Columbia and a more pragmatic career as a teacher of choral music and piano.  That enduring bond to Scarlatti and Beethoven is evident in her 1963 recital's opener of three Sonatas by Scarlatti and Beethoven's Variations Op. 34.  By that time, she'd resumed piano study with Morton Estrin after a ten-year hiatus.  "She was reluctant to extol her virtues...[but] had nothing to be modest about," remembers Estrin.  "Her performance was clean and intelligent...excellent qualities in her interpretation."

Schubert's Fantasy in C Major is "a real knuckle-buster," as Estrin describes it, one that Mrs. Levin mastered "to great success."  This powerful performance served as a fitting closing for the first half of her program during her 1963 recital tour.  (It's no wonder her "knuckles" might have needed a rest!)

Her return to performing had also been precipitated by a dramatic change in her lifestyle.  In 1959 she'd given up schoolteaching for childrearing.  In that environment, she felt compelled to redirect her artistic energy, and now had the time to do so.  The sudden death of her mother months before her recital tour probably gave her an additional need to move forward, musically or otherwise.

For her first performance of a modern work, Mrs. Levin chose one by a friend, Robert Kurka.  Kurka had died of leukemia six years earlier at the age of thirty-five.  Mrs. Levin's husband Harvey had first met Kurka while both were serving in the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (later reorganized as the CIA) in Japan in 1946.  They became close friends, and Mr. Levin introduced Kurka to his wife (music educator May Kurka) while all three were earning their Masters at Columbia.  His most celebrated work was the opera The Good Soldier Schweik, completed during the later stages of his illness and produced after his death.  My parents thought highly enough of him to middle-name me (their first and only child) after him.  My mother's performance of his piano sonata even influenced my own early composing. 

In April 1963, her performance of Kurka's Sonata Op. 20 No. 1  was received enthusiastically by an audience of over 200 concertgoers.  The Westbury Times reported that "a highlight of the concert was the presentation of flowers to her by the daughter of composer Robert Kurka..."


Composer Robert Kurka, with wife May and daughter Mira


Having opened the second half of her program with that departure into modern music, Mrs. Levin returned to more familiar musical ground with works by Chopin and Liszt.  Following her tumultuous finale of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 , she performed encores by Paradies and Brahms.  Since neither was part of the printed program, the identity of the Paradies piece and its composer presented a mystery when this collection was compiled for CD.  An uncommon composer and work whose identity stumped even one of Mrs. Levin's piano colleagues, Toccata in A Major by Paradies was ultimately identified by my searching through the Rhoda Levin Piano Literature Collection maintained by Hofstra University's Music Department Library, carefully catalogued by my father and librarians over thirty years earlier.  Intermezzo Op. 119 No. 3  by Brahms was more easily identified.  It was one of several pieces I'd vividly recalled her rehearsing at home, where it was heard throughout the house, and I'd later recognized its score while searching through piano pieces to study at music school.  Perhaps more than any other, it's a piece I've always associated with her -- even as a child, before I knew what it was I was actually hearing.

A similar challenge was posed by the printed program's lack of "Longo" numbers for each of the Scarlatti Sonatas, necessary for identifying each piece.  They were obtained by searching through piano scores and record albums.  For the liner notes, Mrs. Levin's personal archives served a similar function by providing pertinent facts, dates and quotes (in addition to personal accounts solicited from some of her former teachers and colleagues.)
   
 
Mrs. Levin's studio, 1968


In 1966, Mrs. Levin developed a new program of works, which she performed for her recital tour that year. It consisted of the last five pieces in this CD collection (along with her revival of Brahms' Intermezzo Op. 119 No. 3.)  In some ways, it was the culmination of two years of change. Following her 1963 recital tour, we had moved to Cambridge for a year, where she'd performed at Harvard and for its esteemed Gilbert & Sullivan Players, while supervising their music. Returning to Westbury in 1964, we moved again the following year to a larger house in Garden City with a larger studio, where she continued her piano teaching and resumed her performance work under Vivian Rivkin.

She drew from her 1966 and 1963 programs for various performances over the next four years -- even while battling lupus, cancer and physical disability confining her to crutches, and enduring the deaths of her piano teacher and younger sister.  She also continued raising me and served as vice president of the Hofstra-sponsored Pro Arte Symphony Orchestra League. Her last performance was in October 1970, four months before her death.  Rather than hindering her, those life challenges seemed to give her music more meaning. Nor did she ever lose her sense of humor.  Pianist Blanche Abram, who coached her during the last three years of her life, remembers "the combined strength of her intellectual and expressive abilities always evident" and "her delight at each new insight... It was an inspiration to me."

Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, which opened Mrs. Levin's 1966 program, might seem an unlikely theme or message to be chosen by a Jewish solo musician.  Yet, it was completely in character with Mrs. Levin to gravitate towards a piece despite any social or religious connotation.  Like her husband, she was very much a citizen of the world, who also had me celebrate Christmas each year to bond with our Christian community and friends.

In addition to that program's regular repertoire of Bach, Chopin and Brahms, she embarked on another modern work, Gian-Carlo Menotti's Ricercare and Toccata , on a theme from The Old Maid and the Thief.  Menotti had long been a favorite composer of hers.  In the early 1950s, not long after its world premiere on television, she had selected, directed and performed piano on Menotti's Christmas opera Amahl and The Night Visitors for a public school production -- a challenging project for youngsters that received extensive coverage and praise in the local press.  I was raised on her record album of that opera.  She also took me to a New York City performance of Menotti's 1968 opera The Globolinks.  Given her unusual affinity for Menotti despite a general discomfort with modern music, it seems apropos that she chose one of his pieces and closed out her career as a pianist with it (just as it closes this CD collection.)  "She told me three years ago she was living on borrowed time," said Edward N. Beck, manager of the Pro Arte Symphony Orchestra, shortly after her death in February 1971.  "But she just went on about her business and there was no complaining from her about it."

Mrs. Levin was honored by Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Harvard University, and Hofstra University, which includes the Rhoda Pinsley Levin Endowed Award for Excellence in Musical Performance.  Her achievements were featured in numerous newspaper articles and touted by composers Gabriel Fontrier and Elie Siegmeister.  Still, as a pianist, she was a paradox.  She was exceptionally talented, highly trained, technically proficient and musically sensitive.  Her playing didn't merely impress listeners but deeply moved them as well.  Yet, her humility prevented her from ever being content in the role of solo concert pianist.  Her piano work had begun with lessons at the age of four, and seen her through New York City's High School of Music and Art, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the national music honor society Pi Kappa Lambda, national touring and radio work as pianist in the Oberlin Woodwind Ensemble, and as accompanist in a slew of other capacities over the years.  But she didn't live long enough to further develop her concertizing.  "The good really died young in her case," says Morton Estrin.


In Oberlin Woodwind Ensemble.  "We affectionately called her 'fingers Pinsley'
because of her fine technical prowess," said director George E. Waln.

More than by public honors or published praise, her musicianship is best summed up by several of her mentors and colleagues.  Beryl A. Ladd, one of her piano professors at Oberlin, characterized her playing as having "not only...all the traditional skills of speed, articulation, clarity, but...a wonderful sensitivity to tone and phrase...[that] turns notes into something that lives and breathes...  [The] music is alive...  There is no getting away from this cleanness and clarity -- this freshness -- it is like standing on the top of a mountain."  Mrs. Levin's colleague Carol Block Whited described her performance as having "a clarity and depth like that of fine wine...  Her soul shined through her fingertips, and there was a lot of beauty in everything she played, whether it was solo music, accompaniment, or chamber music."  Pianist Audrey Schneider considered Mrs. Levin "one of those rare musicians who performed at the highest professional level without ever losing sight of the fact that the music was more important than she or her ego was.  She always listened with extraordinary care, whether the performer was a student, a colleague, a concert artist...or herself.  Her essential modesty and unwavering standards never allowed her to be overconfident or complacent.  She sought and achieved ever-increasing mastery, not for her own glory, but because that was what the music deserved!"


-- Adam Robert Levin