Ira Levin, Conductor, Pianist

Ira Levin is known internationally for the great versatility of his musical activities. He is currently the principal guest conductor of the legendary Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, conducting three opera productions plus concerts every season. He has conducted well over a thousand performances of more than 60 operas, is equally at home in concert, with a vast symphonic repertoire, and is an award winning concert pianist and recording artist. He has worked with many of the world’s leading instrumentalists, singers and stage directors. His over 30 publications include orchestrations of  major works by Liszt, Franck, Busoni and Rachmaninoff, piano transcriptions and cadenzas to Mozart piano concertos.

Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Teatro Colón (2014)

In the second part, Schumann’s Symphony in C major Op 61, the quality of the Philharmonic was remarkable, a very polished performance. It was an excellent performance by the principal guest conductor of the Colón, Ira Levin, showing great gestural precision for example in the difficult second movement, the Scherzo. In the first movement, where accuracy makes the difference, every character of the music was impressively imposed, as well as in the great symphonic discourse of the Adagio, which shined under his sober gestures and complete absorbtion in the music. From high to low, the orchestra sounded compact, bright, lyrical and expressive. An exquisite, poetic and personal Schumann ..   (Cecilia Scalasi in La Nacion July 16, 2014)

Berlin debut with the Berlin Symphony in Berlin Philharmonic Hall (November 10, 2013)

Ira Levin is an extremely versatile and powerful musician. He is equally a brilliant piano virtuoso, excellent conductor and masterful arranger. His orchestration of Busoni’s Fantasia Contrappuntistica  impressed in it’s immense mastery of the sonic apparatus, from the most refined chamber music-like textures to the most overwhelming climaxes, and this was achieved with great conviction and flawless technique, actually rather unbelievable, considering the the short rehearsal time. Then followed Mozart’s 14th piano concerto, played freshly by Levin with stunning subtlety and clear structural awareness. What kind of sound does this man have, with a richness of color in which he weaved a magic spell without without ever sounding “romantic” or arbitrary! And he knows how to lead and communicate very well from the piano. The audience celebrated him and he offered two encores that were not less impressive. After the break, Schumann’s 4th Symphony  was compelling in it’s sensible phrasing, refined sonorities and natural sounding tempi. Those who were present will certainly want to hear this musician, who lives in Berlin, more often. (Christoph Schlüren in The Listener, November 18, 2013 http://www.incoda.de/listener/artikel/632/busonis-zentrales-hauptwerk-in-orchestralem-klanggewand) 

Detlev Glanert Caligula, American Premiere, Teatro Colón (2014)

” The music triumphant. Showing a mastery of composition, many of the instrumental ideas of Glanert are new and each one of it’s effects are clearly justified. This fact alone allows the conductor Ira Levin to become the most important interpreter of the work. The fluidity and clarity he drew from the orchestra, without the slightest exaggeration, made the music reach a high level of communicative tension.. The players of the orchestra demonstrated their merits in playing a work that demands unconventional resources. Their reading of the score was faultless and invariably maintained the quality throughout”. (Jorge Araoz Badi in La Nacion April 3, 2014)

Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Teatro Colón (2013)

With a musician and director like Ira Levin, it is worth recording the refinement, brightness, plasticity, and above all, intense vitality that the orchestra exhibited. (Jorge Aráoz Badí in La Nacion, December 6, 2013)

R. Strauss Die Frau ohne Schatten, Teatro Colón (2013)

“Ira Levin, increasingly popular and in demand here from season to season, prepared the Estable Orchesta del Teatro Colón excellently for the difficult musical challenges of this work. He achieved with his conducting over the four evenings an increasingly growing success with the audience. On the last night there were standing ovations for him and the musicians before the third act. Levin, who already jumped in successfully at the last minute with this work at the Dresden Semper Opera in 2002, knows it, and Strauss and Wagner in general, very well and once again impressed with his soulful interpretation of the complex score. The purely symphonic and many dramatic moments were fully exploited,  the orchestra lightly controlled by a leash. It sounded at times voluptuous, just as you  imagine for this great masterpiece. However, in the more chamber music-like passages,  Levin’s music making also showed great refinement, bringing out the many and often subtle nuances, and he displayed great consideration for the singers. The applause for all participants increased from night to night, and the Colón closed this series with another highlight in it’s hitherto so impressive performance history of the “Frosch”. (Klaus Billand in Der neue Merker, June, 2013)

“Ira Levin does a brilliant job on the podium and the orchestra under his guidance played with subtly differentiated dynamics, solid in every section, and with the fluidity that the Straussian style demands. This 2013 version might be remembered in a few years’ time as one of the great opera productions of the century. Impeccable.” (Margarita Pollini in Ambito Financiero June 13, 2013)

“Conducting a work like Die Frau ohne Schatten is no easy task, and the work of Ira Levin and the orchestra was totally worthy of praise.  Balancing all of the various sonorities, his baton brought out the many nuances and subtleties of the score, ranging from overflowing orchestral intensity and exacerbated agitation to poignant lyricism and mysterious and dreamlike atmospheres. The various details were well controlled by Levin and the orchestra was in a state of grace, playing with great richness of expression, which, aided by the splendid acoustics of the Colón, created unforgettable moments like the ending of the second act, the wonderful solo passages for the cello and violin and the sublime ending of the opera”  (Joel Poblete in Orfeo International June 28, 2013)

“But the great protagonist of the evening was the orchestra, the great music of Strauss under the subtle and fluid conducting of Ira Levin.” (Federico Monjeau in El Clarin June 13, 2013)

“Every aspect of the virtuosic score was treated with respect by the conductor Ira Levin, who carefully maintained the necessary balance between the pit and the stage. He was greeted with well-deserved  enthusiastic and sustained applause when he gestured to the orchestra and cast.” (La Nacion June 15, 2013)

“The highest of interpretations, headed by the orchestra conducted with great rigor and musicality by Ira Levin.” (Diego Fischermann, Pagina 12 June 13, 2013)

Rachmaninoff Aleko and Francesca da Rimini, Teatro Colón (2013)

“Ira Levin has both as as conductor and pianist an abundant experience with Rachmaninoff’s music. With this knowledge it is easy for him to bring out the strengths of both works. His conducting is unusually flexible and he animated the Estable Orchestra to an astonishingly sensitive and plastic music making. The first fruits of his work as principal guest conductor in sensitizing the orchestra to a greater awareness of stylistic differences and sound quality were very much in evidence.” (Josef Oehrlein in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, June 7, 2013)

Enescu Oedipe, Teatro Colón (2012)

“It was scenically and musically a magisterial realization, an impeccable local premiere. Ira Levin was completely at home in Enescu’s dark impressionism and obtained a very high level with the orchestra of the Colón” (Federico Monjeau in Clarin May 30, 2012)

“A spectacular production from Fura del Baus. The musical aspect was no less successful. With a sharp focus on details, Ira Levin achieved a consistent and inspired realization of the score with the Estable orchestra.” (Pablo Gianera in La Nacion May 31, 2012)

Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Teatro Colón (2012)

The Philharmonic and Levin reached the highest levels of excellence and of interpretation.The orchestra, very well conducted by Ira Levin, interacted with the violin soloist Akiko Suwanai on the same prominent plane of equality. Levin gave an intense, fitting and very expressive interpretation of Dvorak’s Sixth Symphony. To the delight of the audience the third movement was repeated as a prize.”      (Pablo Kohan in La Nacion June 9, 2012)

Colina Three Cabinets of Wonder with the London Symphony Orchestra (2011)

“This CD will, in every parameter under consideration, receive an unqualified rave from me. I was, in fact, left emotionally overwhelmed. Conductor Ira Levin does a masterful job and every detail of the orchestration is clearly audible in this superb recording. This CD is not only a must, but rises to the “desert island” level. Purchase it now!” (David DeBoor Canfield in Fanfare 2011)

“As this recording of concert works by Michael Colina featuring the London Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ira Levin reveals, the composer is an eclectic painter of expansive and colorful sonic canvases, which Ira Levin and LSO play to the shimmering and vehement hilt.” (Donald Rosenberg in Gramophone 2011)

First stereo recording of Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony in the 1899 edition (2010)

“The interpretation of Levin and the Symphony Orchestra of Norrlands Opera is excellent. To begin, it is meticulous in regards to the numerous indications in the score. There is not one questionable decision about the tempos, which Levin manages with intelligence, or the phrasing. The transparency of texture and perfectly calibrated dynamics are impacted from the first notes, everything is heard, each note as written. And this is not only attributable to the edition, but also the preparatory work as well as the minute analysis of the score. There is a great conviction behind the whole interpretation, both with the baton as well as the orchestra, which plays with a high level. It converts the recording into a vehement defense of the 1899 edition. Without a doubt this recording is one of the most interesting of the recent Bruckner panorama, a masterly reading of the Sixth Symphony on Lindoro.” (Miguel Ángel González Barrio in Diverdi, December 2010)

Wagner Tristan und Isolde and R. Strauss Die Frau ohne Schatten, Dresden Opera Festival (2002)

“Countless bravos and stormy ovations concluded the performance of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde…The real star of the evening was the Staatskapelle, giving the performance such urgent passion, such indomitable lust and magic glorification and thus gave the work it’s true breath of life. Ira Levin conducted this performance at very short notice, replacing Semyon Bychkov, and did so without rehearsals. This speaks for his sovereignty and strong nerves. The performance expressly underlined his high artistic level. Bravo!!” (Jens Daniel Schubert in Sächsische Zeitung, March 10, 2002)

“There is no doubt that this Die Frau ohne Schatten was the most sumptuous performance of this year’s Opera Festival in Dresden…  Ira Levin, who replaced the ill Marc Albrecht, was in full control of the orchestra..these were four and a half hours of great opera where time flew by…” (Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten, March 25, 2002)