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Robert D. Levin

Robert D. Levin playing the Rönisch piano in the Music Museum of Barcelona (Museu de la Música de Barcelona)
This article is about Robert D. Levin, the American pianist and musicologist. For the Norwegian pianist, see Robert Levin (Norwegian pianist).

Robert D. Levin (born 13 October 1947) is a classical performer, musicologist and composer, and is the artistic director of the Sarasota Music Festival.


  • Education 1
  • Academic career 2
  • Contributions to composition 3
  • External links 4


Levin attended the Brooklyn Friends School and Andrew Jackson High School, and spent his junior year studying music with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He attended Harvard, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude in 1968 with a thesis entitled The Unfinished Works of W. A. Mozart.

Levin took private lessons at Chatham Square Music School, Conservatoire National Supérieur and the Fontainebleau School of Music in:

Academic career

After graduating from Harvard, Levin was named head of the theory department at the Curtis Institute of Music. He was subsequently appointed associate professor of music and coordinator of theory instruction at the SUNY Purchase, and full professor in 1975. From 1986 to 1993, he served as professor of piano at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg in Germany. In 1993 he became professor of music at his alma mater, Harvard University, and still is. In 1994 he was made Dwight P. Robinson Jr Professor of the Humanities at Harvard, and was a head tutor from 1998 to 2004. In 2012, as Humanitas Visiting Professor of chamber music at Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, University of Cambridge, he gave two lectures entitled Improvising and Composing Mozart and a concert with Academy of Ancient Music.

Levin's academic career has included teaching and tutoring performance practice (especially involving keyboard instruments and conducting, with an emphasis on the Classical period) in addition to music history and theory.

Contributions to composition

Levin has completed or reconstructed a number of eighteenth-century works, especially unfinished compositions by Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach.

His completions of several unfinished Mozart works, including the Requiem in D minor and Great Mass in C minor, are considered his most important achievements. In the Mozart Requiem, he reconstructed an Amen fugue from Mozart's own sketches. John Eliot Gardiner commissioned him to write missing orchestral parts to five movements of cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach, such as Ach! ich sehe, itzt, da ich zur Hochzeit gehe, BWV 162. As a performer, he is best known as soloist in Classical-era piano concertos in general, and those of Mozart and Beethoven in particular, in which he robustly re-creates performance practice of the composers' time such as by improvising cadenzas and shorter embellishments in the composers' style.

Levin has also composed several works, including the following:

  • Two clarinet sonatas (1961; 1967–68)
  • Two Short Piano Pieces (1966–67)
  • Bassoon Sonata (1965–66)
  • Woodwind Quintet (1965)
  • Piano Quartet (1964–65)
  • Piano Sonata (1962)

External links

  • Robert D. Levin at Harvard University Department of Music
  • Musician With a Mission (article in Harvard Magazine May-June 1995
  • Rayfield Allied profile
  • Videos of his two lectures on Improvising and Composing Mozart at the University of Cambridge, October 2012
  • SEED article about improvisation, heavily featuring Levin
  • (1991)On The Edge - Improvisation in MusicRobert D. Levin in Derek Bailey's documentary on YouTube

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