April 6 to 13, 2020
CNSM Paris (hon.)
Internationally recognized in the fields of creation and performance, the double profile of pianist and composer gives Michaël Levinas a remarkable singularity in the French and international musical life.
Parisian by birth, Michael Levinas received the classical and demanding teaching of the CNSM (National Conservatory of Music) in Paris, conducting instrument studies, the famous class of piano accompaniment, conducting and the classes of writing. It is in this establishment that he met the masters who have most marked him, notably the pianists Vlado Perlemuter, Yvonne Lefébure, but also Yvonne Loriod to whom he presents his first essays of composition. It immediately brings him back into Olivier Messiaen's famous Composition class while developing his piano repertoire and teaching him the great repertoire of the 20th century, that of Messiaen but also the works of his pupils, Boulez and Stockhausen.
Parallel to these classical studies at the CNSM, his musical training will benefit from the childhood of another musical tradition that the CNSM that goes back to the Russian school whose mother, Raissa Lévy, was depository. Coming from Moscow and Lithuania, she had worked for several years in Vienna, notably with virtuosos and pedagogues Sirota, Isserlis and some of the great piano masters of Central Europe. This musical tradition was also that of these musicians, both performers and creators.
Olivier Messiaen and Yvonne Loriod will later promote at Michaël Levinas this double vocation which requires a musician to musically assemble in the same rhythm the demanding asceticism of the careers of composer and pianist.
Trained at the end of his studies by these two major personalities who then breathed a powerful movement of artistic renewal and modernity in France and in the world, Michael Levinas began his first pianist tours and then under the leadership of Olivier Messiaen, was appointed boarder at the Villa Medicis in Rome, then headed by the painter Balthus, another of his great encounters.
This is also the key moment when he created in 1973 with his friends of this famous class Messiaen, Tristan Murail and Gérard Grisey, the whole Route, founder of the spectral current.
Witness and actor of major issues of musical creation, Michael Levinas will lead and preside over this very important ensemble for a long time.
Between his first works as Arsis and Thésis (1971), Clov and Hamm (1973), Appels (1974), Overture for a strange party (1979), Clov and Hamm (1973), Furrows of wings (1975), Concerto for a piano space (1977-1981), through his great works for orchestra such as La Cloche (1988), Beyond (1994), Evanoui (2009) or recently Amphitheater (2012), Michael Levinas is a pioneer as for the renewal of the instrumental writing and the widening of the sound palette by the thorough knowledge of acoustics and technological environments. His works for ensemble, orchestra and solo are created and taken up by the most prestigious ensembles, festivals and institutions in France and abroad: Donaueschingen Festival, Rencontres Internationales de Darmstadt, IRCAM, City of Music, Ensemble Inter Contemporain, Together Ictus, Together Itinerary, Klang Forum, The Balcony, Radio France, Multilateral, Biennale of Venice ...
Let us add that in the contemporary musical landscape, what also characterizes Michael Levinas is a dramaturgical writing, a relation to the text, the theater and the stage. ML has established himself as a composer of operas and has received commissions from important European scenes. Since The Bird Conference (1985), he has been responsible for no less than three great lyric works, all created in major European theaters: Go-gol (1996), based on Gogol's short story The Mantle; The Negroes on the text of Jean Genet (2004); The Metamorphosis (2010) based on Kafka's story. This closeness to the text, literature, poetry is at the heart of the exchanges and the close bond that ML has maintained all his life with his father, the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, who will have transmitted to him the taste for languages, thought, artistic risk, interpretation and writing.
A new opera after The Little Prince of Saint Exupéry (joint commission of operas in Lausanne and Lille) will be created in 2015 in these two theaters as well as at the Grand Théâtre de Genève and Chatelet in Paris, then in Liège.
Michael Levinas' career as concert pianist is also significant in his repertoire choices. Revealed very early by a recording hailed by the Kriesleriana press and Schumann's Fantasia, he signs a contract with Lucien Ades, which will allow Michael Levinas to be the first French interpreter of his generation after Yves Nat to record the complete 32 Sonatas of Beethoven.
A few years later, Michael Levinas recorded the complete J. S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier on Modern Piano.
Michaël Levinas has pursued a career as an international pianist with this repertoire, to which he often joins works from the end of the 20th century.
If his privileged link with the classical and romantic German repertoire makes him a "Beethovenian" who places him in the continuation of the great lineage of pianists of the twentieth century, he has dedicated several CDs to French music and contemporary repertoire (Debussy , Messiaen, Ligeti, Boulez ...). His entire discography can be found at Universal Music, who wanted to mark a highlight of Michael Levinas's dual career as a pianist and composer, producing a box entitled "Double-Face" (2011), featuring excerpts from the record ensemble.
Michael Levinas is a professor at the CNSM in Paris and a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts at the Institut de France.