Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

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Lance
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Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by Lance » Wed Oct 17, 2018 5:07 pm

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com ... SY355_.jpg
Sony Classical Book-type presentation with eight (8) CDs - Complete Columbia Recordings

Here is a wonderful "coffee table" type book, just released, first-class presentation and just arrived today, October 17, 2018. It is on the pricey side but given the presentation in book fashion and all colour, it just may be worth it.

All rolled up into one: pianist, composer, author, comedian, and Hollywood star. Like a few musicians who played both sides of the "game," — and because of it, some people might not take the name of Oscar Levant, the pianist, very seriously. Another superb pianist, José Iturbi tried it, Artur Rubinstein tried for a bit, as well as some other high class performing artists. For some it worked, others, no. Oscar Levant's name will most assuredly always be connected with the music of George Gershwin. This stunning volume is called "A Rhapsody in Blue: the Extraordinary Life of Oscar Levant."

As the back-book sheet exclaims: "At the height of his popularity, Oscar Levant was the highest-paid concert artist in America. He outdrew Horowitz and Rubinstein, with whom he shared the distinction of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He performed under conductors including Toscanini, Honegger, Ravel, Mompou, Beecham, Mitropoulos, Reiner and Ormandy, Efrem Kurtz, and was the definitive interpreter of his friend George Gershwin. Also recordings with violinist Isaac Stern from the film Humoresque. Levant's 1945 recording of Rhapsody in Blue remained one of Columbia Records' best-selling albums for decade.. That classic interpretation and all his other recordings for the label, spanning the years 1942 to 1958, have now been collected in this set: painstakingly restored and remastered from the original analogue discs and tapes, the vast majority of them are appearing for the first time ever on CD. The 124-page book contains a biographical essay by George Gershwin and Oscar Levant scholar Michael Feinstein, a wealth of photos and facsimiles including a gallery of Alex Steinweiss album covers, as well as a complete recording session and release discography."

Here you will find not only Gershwin, but Khachaturian, Anton Rubinstein, Debussy, Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Brahms,Wagner, Schumann, Levant (as composer), Copland, Rachmaninoff, Grieg, de Falla, Lecuona, J. S. Bach, Albeniz, Beethoven, and many others. There are more than 90 works appearing on CD for the first time with two recordings previously unreleased.

And so, if you are old enough to recall Oscar Levant, this will be a very special treat for you!
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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jbuck919
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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Oct 17, 2018 6:19 pm

Good heavens! I associate Levant with the chain-smoking pianist in several movies. (He did die at 65 of a heart attack probably related to all that smoking.) I had no idea that he had that range.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by Lance » Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:28 pm

The fabulous book accompanying this book-type set shows many pictures with him with the cigarette in hand. He was quite an accomplished pianist. I've been listening to this set and am impressed with his pianism and musicianship. Quite the guy in his heyday! He wrote at least three books that I have: Memoires of an Amnesciac, A Smattering of Ignorance, and The Unimportance of Being Oscar. Another book was written about him by Kashner and Schoenberger entitled A Talent for Genius, which discusses the times and life of Oscar Levant.
jbuck919 wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 6:19 pm
Good heavens! I associate Levant with the chain-smoking pianist in several movies. (He did die at 65 of a heart attack probably related to all that smoking.) I had no idea that he had that range.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Rach3
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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by Rach3 » Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:57 pm

My parents' 78's of his Gershwin Preludes were among my first introductions to CM, along withIturbi's Liszt Rhapsody # 2 .

https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/oscar_levant

Lance
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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by Lance » Wed Oct 17, 2018 11:06 pm

Rach3 wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:57 pm
My parents' 78's of his Gershwin Preludes were among my first introductions to CM, along with Iturbi's Liszt Rhapsody # 2 .

https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/oscar_levant
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Belle
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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by Belle » Thu Oct 18, 2018 3:29 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 6:19 pm
Good heavens! I associate Levant with the chain-smoking pianist in several movies. (He did die at 65 of a heart attack probably related to all that smoking.) I had no idea that he had that range.
He is important because of his relationship to George Gershwin. A wise-cracking, chain-smoking musician with barely any talent for acting. He did have a face like a dropped pie!! And he could barely sing on the note....(in Conrad Salinger's great arrangements!): watch him try to fit in with the dancing in this ensemble piece with Astaire, Buchanan and Fabray!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6gX37d2eP8

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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by lennygoran » Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:58 am

I remember him from his many appearances on the Jack Paar show. Len

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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by maestrob » Thu Oct 18, 2018 10:51 am

lennygoran wrote:
Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:58 am
I remember him from his many appearances on the Jack Paar show. Len
Yes, believe it or not, I have some of those that were released on a DVD set of the best of Jack Paar. Levant was a real character, and a fine musician, but he made such a spectacle of himself that the concert-going public never took him seriously. It's good to have this release: now, perhaps, he'll get his due recognition. What a character!

Of course I treasure his Gershwin CD on Columbia.

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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by RebLem » Thu Oct 18, 2018 12:15 pm

maestrob wrote:
Thu Oct 18, 2018 10:51 am
lennygoran wrote:
Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:58 am
I remember him from his many appearances on the Jack Paar show. Len
Yes, believe it or not, I have some of those that were released on a DVD set of the best of Jack Paar. Levant was a real character, and a fine musician, but he made such a spectacle of himself that the concert-going public never took him seriously. It's good to have this release: now, perhaps, he'll get his due recognition. What a character!

Of course I treasure his Gershwin CD on Columbia.
I remember that in one of those appearances, he said falling down and getting back up was the only exercise he ever got.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by jserraglio » Thu Oct 18, 2018 12:33 pm

Check out the Big 10-inch Record blog for a slew of rare Levant recordings.

https://big10inchrecord.blogspot.com/search?q=levant

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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by Lance » Thu Oct 18, 2018 1:47 pm

Yes, and the accompanying book has all the full color photos of the original album covers. It is like visiting a time back in the 1940s!
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

Belle
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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by Belle » Thu Oct 18, 2018 3:31 pm

For me, Oscar Levant is rather reminiscent of the (somewhat tragic) Dudley Moore; both gifted pianists who chose to make money from more popular culture, largely at the expense of their art. When I watch some of Levant's schtick I often think "what would George say?".

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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by Lance » Tue Nov 13, 2018 1:49 am

So now I am very curious. Has ANYBODY sought this Oscar Levant release? Sometimes I think I am far too sentimental about performing artists. Surprising how many don't even know his name today.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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John F
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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by John F » Tue Nov 13, 2018 4:11 am

I'm a fan of Oscar Levant but not of his pianism. Apart from his Gershwin recordings, which I don't take seriously because I don't take Gershwin seriously apart from "Porgy and Bess," I haven't heard any that compare with the best of his time, let alone the best of all time. He was an even better raconteur than a pianist, and his books make compulsively good reading, starting with their titles:

Memoirs of an Amnesiac
https://www.amazon.com/Memoirs-Amnesiac ... car+Levant

A Smattering of Ignorance
https://www.amazon.com/Smattering-Ignor ... car+Levant

The Unimportance of Being Oscar
https://www.amazon.com/Unimportance-Bei ... car+Levant

In one of these, I think it was "Memoirs," he tells of composing a miniature opera, called "Carnival," for the Hollywood movie "Charlie Chan at the Opera."

https://www.amazon.com/Charlie-Chan-Ope ... B000M69OW2

I don't suppose this is in the Sony Classical set. :)
John Francis

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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by Belle » Tue Nov 13, 2018 5:55 am

Levant reminds me of Peter Ustinov; raconteur and wit and not much else besides.

I can't believe you don't take Gershwin seriously! He was absolutely incredible. The musicals from the 20s and 30s were funny and clever - one, at least, winning a Pulitzer Prize for drama. And the songs, well it's hard to think of anyone (apart from Cole Porter) who did those better: and he made piano arrangements from some of them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJ9o6PPSL88&t=35s

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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by John F » Tue Nov 13, 2018 7:46 am

Belle wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 5:55 am
I can't believe you don't take Gershwin seriously!
Believe it. I want more from music than tunes, and Broadway musicals leave me cold.
John Francis

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Re: Pianist Oscar Levant to the fore!

Post by Belle » Tue Nov 13, 2018 12:13 pm

John F wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 7:46 am
Belle wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 5:55 am
I can't believe you don't take Gershwin seriously!
Believe it. I want more from music than tunes, and Broadway musicals leave me cold.
My answer would be that somebody as estimable as Arnold Schoenberg took George Gershwin very seriously, as did Maurice Ravel!! :D

And your answer about wanting 'more from music than tunes' is the reason I dislike Puccini. The other night I watched on cable the ENO production of "Butterfly" and it left me cold with its tragic tropes and racism about a woman who had absolutely nothing in her life but to wait for an American to arrive back by ship. Impossibly dated.

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