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la Biennale di Venezia
Main Visual Music EN (new)


Michaël Levinas

Monday 26 September at 6:00 p.m.
Sala delle Colonne at Ca Giustinian
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Sonata in C Minor n.32 op.111 (1821-22, 25’)
György Ligeti (1923-2006) Etudes pour piano Vol. I (1985, 19’): Désordre, Cordes à vide, Arc-en-ciel, Automne à Varsovie
Michaël Levinas (1949) Trois études (1992, 10’)

An original composer, and also a great concert pianist, Michaël Levinas belonged to the circle of Messiaen’s students – Tristan Murail, Roger Tessier, Hugues Dufourt, Gérard Grisey – who in the Seventies gave birth to the ensemble L’Itinéraire and to the exploration of sound (going under the name of Spectralism), of which they analyze the basic components and modulation processes, based on the most advanced discoveries in acoustics.
In Trois études  by Levinas, one hears echoes of the teachings of Messiaen, as well as those of Ligeti and Scelsi, considered in a way as a precursor of Spectralism by its very founders. Levinas had met Scelsi in Rome when he was on scholarship at Villa Medici, between 1975 and 1977, and he evokes this inspiration even in the title of the second piece: Variations on a single note, in which Levinas tries to draw the maximum oscillation of sound from a single note.
To his own Études Levinas juxtaposes the more famous Études by Ligeti, begun in the mid-Eighties and destined to carry this evolutionary composer’s experimentation to the threshold of the third millennium. The first book, of which Lévinas performs four pieces, bears witness to Ligeti’s interest at the time in Conlon Nancarrow and the African percussion tradition, on the basis of which he developed complex new polyrhythmic techniques.
But opening the concert is the Sonata in C Minor n. 32 op. 111 by Beethoven, whose complete Sonatas for piano Lévinas has recorded, demonstrating the breadth and complexity of his instrumental culture, which ranges from the Baroque era to the Twentieth century. One of the best known compositions from his last period and particularly difficult from a technical point of view, the Sonata n. 32, divided in two movements and written between 1821 and 1822, is also famous because of the pages dedicated to the piece by Thomas Mann in Doktor Faustus.
Michaël Levinas (Paris – France, 1949). The son of philosopher Emanuel Levinas, Michaël was a student of piano at the Conservatoire National Supérieur under Lazar Lévy and later Yvonne Loriod, also studying chamber music, accompaniment, and – with Messiaen – composition (he won first prize in every class). Co-founder in 1974 of the Ensemble l’Itinéraire, during those years he also became established as a composer, as part of the “spectral” movement, with pieces such as Arsis et Thesis (Festival de Royan ‘72), Appels (Festival de la Rochelle ‘74) and Ouverture pour une fête étrange  (Rencontres internationales de musique contemporaine, Metz ’79). Increasingly interested in the transformation of pitch and the use of micro-intervals, he conducted research studies at the Ircam. He won a two-year scholarship at the Académie de France in Rome. Since the Eighties, he has also dedicated his work to theatre, following La conférence des oiseaux, with operas inspired by Gogol (Préfixes) and by Genet (Les Nègres, presented at the Festival d’Avignon). He is in demand as a pianist, in particular for the works of Liszt and Beethoven, the complete Sonatas of whom he has recorded. He teaches Musical Analysis at the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Paris.