Pianist BRUCE LEVINGSTON will appear in concert with guest artists ETHAN HAWKE and PHILIP GLASS at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall at 8 PM on the evening of March 22nd, 2006. This special program will include works by Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Glass and others including the world premiere of Lisa Bielawa's The Lay of the Love and Death. Gala tickets include best seating in the house and a Champagne Veuve Clicquot reception after with the artists. For tickets call CenterCharge at 212-721-6500. For special seating, group and other discounts or more information please call 212-627-3534. (READ THE REVIEW -- MUSIC AND STARS AT BRUCE LEVINGSTON’S FIFTH ANIVERSARY GALA FOR THE PREMIER COMMISSION)
We've been seeing Bruce around the hotel for a number of years now, and in addition to being a fine pianist he's also one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. We first gave him our standard interview, and he wasn't too forthcoming, leading us to suspect there was something wrong with out questions. (He did reveal one interesting piece of information, however: unlike 90% of the people we ask Ethan Hawke is not the most famous person he's ever riddden in the elevator with.) When we asked Bruce about his work he produced one of our most interesting interviews.
Tell us about the music you play?
I play keyboard music from Elizabethan times to the present. Since the piano is my instrument, I often focus on music written by pianist/composers such as Chopin and Schumann, although I deeply love Bach and Scarlatti and play many of their works written for the harpsichord. I never tire of Schubert, who is a kind of magical musical alchemist and the same may be said of Debussy. But Brahms, Chopin, Liszt and Schumann are also real mainstays on my programs. They were so completely composers for the piano and knew how to use every resource it offered to them. Beethoven, who was a very great pianist and whose music I also love, was often writing with other instruments in mind, or else some kind of futuristic piano. At any rate, it is very difficult to completely realize his aesthetic on the piano. Yet the music is so great, one must, of course, try. I think one must almost be (or become) like him in some way to play him. I definitely have sides that are like him, but my inner personality probably leans more towards Schubert and Chopin.
I also play many works by living composers. In 2004, I gave the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winner William Bolcom's New York Lights which is a piano concert transcription of the aria Bolcom wrote for the opera A View from the Bridge with longtime Chelsea residents Arthur Miller and Arnold Weinstein.
How did you become interested in the work of Philip Glass? I saw a painting of Glass made by Chuck Close. It made me start to think about how Chopin, Liszt, and Satie had been painted and drawn by their contemporaries such as Delacroix, Ingres and Picasso and how in turn many of these composers had also made musical portraits of figures of their time. (Incidentally, Virgil Thomson composed a whole series of musical portraits of people he knew while they sat for him in his
apartment in the Chelsea Hotel.) When I saw the Chuck Close portrait of Glass I thought that it would be wonderful if Glass composed a portrait of Chuck Close. A few months after I had this idea, I happened to meet both Close and Glass at a reception in New York. I told Glass about my idea and he agreed on the spot to write the piece. I immersed myself in his work and developed a renewed appreciation for his remarkable contribution to art and music. He is one of those rare figures who
truly changed the course of history in his field. I gave the world premiere of A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close in the spring of 2005 at Lincoln Center and recorded it that following summer. The CD containing the work (along with music of Ravel, Messiaen, and Satie) called Portraits, has just been released on Glass' label, Orange Mountain Music.
What inspired you to work with Ethan Hawke?
I had met him at some point before he lived at the Chelsea. However, we really came to know each other better once he moved into the hotel. We often walked our dogs around the same time! Ethan has a deep love of music and literature. When I told him about my work with Philip Glass, he recounted hearing Glass perform with Allen Ginsberg. I told Ethan I actually had the musical score that they performed together. His enthusiasm for this work ( as well as Ethan's wonderful artistic abilities) inspired our collaboration.
Tell us about the pieces you will play at your upcoming concert?
In addition to the Glass/Ginsberg work called Wichita Vortex Sutra, we will also perform the finale to Glass' masterpiece Einstein on the Beach. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours (which was made into a film with a memorable score by Glass), and Academy Award-winning actress Estelle Parsons will perform with us in this amazing ensemble piece. We will be premiering a work by the outstanding young composer Lisa Bielawa and there will also be guest
musicians Colin Jacobsen, a brilliant violinist, Jesse Blumberg, a great baritone, and Alexandra Montano, an incredible mezzo-soprano who will join me in other works of Glass as well as music of Bach, Chopin and Messiaen. Philip Glass and I will also perform a piano duet from his Orphée and we will both play solo works as well. He will play some of his fantastic piano Etudes and I will play some beautiful works of Chopin and Liszt.
How long have you lived at the Chelsea?
Why did you decide to move into the Chelsea?
I needed a place that would tolerate piano practicing.
How did you score your apartment?
The actress Jennifer Bassey told me to move in and arranged it with Stanley Bard.
Do you think there is a creative energy in the Chelsea?
Amongst other kinds of energy.
How has living in the Chelsea affected your creative development?
I'm afraid to say.
What other creative people at the Chelsea or elsewhere have influenced your development?
Countless people who have lived or even visited the hotel have had an
impact on my life.
Who is the most famous person you’ve ever ridden with in the Chelsea elevator?
Well if I stick to my field and true Chelsea Hotel figures it would have to be Virgil Thomson.
What’s the best/worst thing that has ever happened to you at the Chelsea?
Do you know if any famous folks have lived in your room?