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Raymond Lewenthal (Piano)

Born: August 29, 1923 - San Antonio, Texas, USA
Died: November 21, 1988 - Hudson, New York, USA

The American pianist, Raymond Lewenthal, was born in San Antonio, Texas, of Russian-French parentage in 1923 (although some erroneous references to a birth year of 1926 can be found). After spending several years as a child movie actor in Hollywood, Lewenthal studied the piano there with Lydia Cherkassky, mother and teacher of the renowned pianist Shura Cherkassky. In 1945 he won all three of the major competitions then being held in California: The Young Artist Competition at UCLA (judged by Bruno Walter), the Young Artist Contest of Occidental College, and the Gainsborough Award in San Francisco. He continued his studies at Juilliard as a full scholarship student of Olga Samaroff-Stokowski. Later Lewenthal worked in Europe with Alfred Cortot and with Guido Agosti.

Raymond Lewenthal made his debut in 1948 with Dimitri Mitropoulos and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The occasion marked the first time a soloist had been invited to play the Prokofievís Piano Concerto No. 3 under Dimitri Mitropoulos' direction, that being a work which the conductor was famous for playing himself. The success of this performance was followed a few weeks later by Lewenthal's New York recital debut. These events launched his North American career, which flourished until it came to a sudden halt in 1953; while walking through New York's Central Park, Lewenthal was attacked by a gang of hoodlums and suffered broken bones in his hands and arms. After a slow physical and psychological recovery, Lewenthal moved abroad and withdrew from the concert stage except for occasional touring and recording in Europe and South America. During this time he began his research on the mysterious French Romantic composer, Charles-Valentin Alkan, with the intention of writing an exhaustive study of Alkan's life and music. (Lewenthal's C.V. Alkan book remained unpublished at the time of his death.)

His first return to the public was through a two-hour broadcast for WBAI in New York, on which he played C.V. Alkan's works and discussed his life. The response to this program was overwhelming and brought a request from G. Schirmer to prepare an edition of C.V. Alkan's piano music. Encouraged by the reception, Raymond Lewenthal played a recital including C.V. Alkan's music in Town Hall, New York, in September 1964 - his first public appearance there in 12 years. This led to an RCA recording of C.V. Alkan's music which was met with critical raves, and then a three-concert Franz Liszt Cycle in New York and London, among many other performances. Lewenthal came to be considered the leader of the "Romantic Revival, " reintroducing solo and chamber works by many important but neglected 19th-century composers such as Moscheles, Goetz, Herz, Hummel, Henselt, Scharwenka, Anton Rubinstein, Reubke, Field, Dussek, et al, as well as reviving unjustly slighted works by famous composers. He also took an active role in such events as the Romantic Festival at Butler University (Indianapolis) and The Newport (Rhode Island) Music Festival. Lewenthal taught at the Mannes College of Music and The Tanglewood Summer Festival, and was a faculty member of the Manhattan School of Music for number of years beginning in the mid-1970ís.

Raymond Lewenthal's recordings include releases for Westminster, Reader's Digest, RCA Victor, Columbia/CBS, and Angel. In addition to his Schirmer edition of selected C.V. Alkan piano works. Lewenthal also prepared for the same publisher an anthology called Piano Music for One Hand and another collection of Encores of Famous Pianists, both containing extensive notes and commentary.

After living for many years in a small apartment at 51 East 78th Street in Manhattan, Raymond Lewenthal moved to Hudson, New York, where he spent his last years in semi-seclusion, his concert activity significantly reduced owing to a chronic heart condition. He died on November 21, 1988, at the age of 65.

Source: International Piano Archives at Maryland Website (July 2012); Wikipedia Wevsite (July 2013)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2013)

Raymond Lewenthal: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Links to other Sites

Raymond Lewenthal collection at the International Piano Archives at Maryland

Raymond Lewenthal (Wikipedia)

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