Robert D. Levin
- This article is about Robert D. Levin, the American pianist and composer. For the Norwegian pianist, see Robert Levin (Norwegian pianist).
Levin attended the Brooklyn Friends School and Andrew Jackson High School, and spent his junior year studying music with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He attended Harvard, where he earned his A.B. magna cum laude in 1968 with a thesis entitled The Unfinished Works of W. A. Mozart.
- piano, with Jan Gorbaty, Louis Martin, Alice Gaultier-Léon, Jean Casadesus, Clifford Curzon and Robert Casadesus
- organ, with Nadia Boulanger
- solfège, with Seymour Bernstein, Louis Martin and Annette Dieudonné
- counterpoint, with Suzanne Bloch and Nadia Boulanger
- composition, with Stefan Wolpe
- conducting, with Eleazar de Carvalho
After graduating from Harvard, Levin was named head of the theory department at the Curtis Institute of Music. He was subsequently appointed associate professor of music and coordinator of theory instruction at the SUNY Purchase, and full professor in 1975. From 1986 to 1993, he served as professor of piano at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg in Germany. In 1993 he became professor of music at his alma mater, Harvard University, and still is. In 1994 he was made Dwight P. Robinson Jr Professor of the Humanities at Harvard, and was a head tutor from 1998 to 2004. In 2012, as Humanitas Visiting Professor of chamber music at Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, University of Cambridge, he gave two lectures entitled Improvising and Composing Mozart and a concert with Academy of Ancient Music.
Levin's academic career has included teaching and tutoring performance practice (especially involving keyboard instruments and conducting, with an emphasis on the Classical period) in addition to music history and theory.
Contributions to composition
His completions of several unfinished Mozart works, including the Requiem in D minor and Great Mass in C minor, are considered his most important achievements. In the Mozart Requiem, he reconstructed an Amen fugue from Mozart's own sketches. John Eliot Gardiner commissioned him to write missing orchestral parts to five movements of cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach, such as Ach! ich sehe, itzt, da ich zur Hochzeit gehe, BWV 162. As a performer, he is best known as soloist in Classical-era piano concertos in general, and those of Mozart and Beethoven in particular, in which he robustly re-creates performance practice of the composers' time such as by improvising cadenzas and shorter embellishments in the composers' style.
Levin has also composed several works, including the following:
- 2 clarinet sonatas (1961; 1967–68)
- 2 Short Piano Pieces (1966–67)
- Bassoon Sonata (1965–66)
- Woodwind Quintet (1965)
- Piano Quartet (1964–65)
- Piano Sonata (1962)
- Robert D. Levin at Harvard University Department of Music
- Rayfield Allied profile
- Videos of his two lectures on Improvising and Composing Mozart at the University of Cambridge, October 2012
- SEED article about improvisation, heavily featuring Levin
- Robert D. Levin in Derek Bailey's documentary On The Edge - Improvisation in Music (1991)