“From the very first measures, conductor Ira Levin offered an interpretation full of energy and passion, marked with a great sense of theater. The orchestra of the Suisse Romande responded perfectly to his intentions, with the silky and luminous sounds of it’s greatest nights.”
Claudio Poloni in Concerto Net, March 1, 2018
Schumann Scenes from Faust, Suisse Romande, Geneva, 2018
Ira Levin is known internationally for the great versatility of his musical activities. He has conducted over 1200 performances of 95 operatic titles and is equally at home in concert, with a vast symphonic repertoire. He has worked with many leading instrumentalists, composers and stage directors and conducted at important opera houses and orchestras worldwide.
He studied with the legendary pianist Jorge Bolet at the Curtis Institute, later becoming his teaching assistant. Also at Curtis, he had coachings with Felix Galimir, Mischa Schneider and Mieczyslaw Horszowski, played under Leonard Bernstein and worked for two years with Max Rudolf, one of the leading conducting teachers of the 20th century, until being engaged by Michael Gielen in 1985 for the Frankfurt Opera.
He held posts as assistant conductor at the Frankfurt Opera (1985-88), principal conductor of the Bremen Opera (1988-1996) and the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Düsseldorf-Duisburg (1996-2002) and as the principal guest conductor of the Kassel Opera (1994-1998).
He was the Music Director and Artistic Director of the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro (2019-2021), the National Theater of Brazil in Brasilia (2007-2010) and the Teatro Municipal in Sao Paulo (2002-2005), bringing these organizations international acclaim. He introduced important works including 3 operas by Janacek (Jenufa, Katja Kabanova, Makropulos Affair), Mahler (Symphony No 10), Shostakovich (Symphony No. 4), Sibelius, Busoni, Reger, Enescu, Schoenberg, Schmitt, Schnittke, Jolivet, Corigliano and many others to Brazil.
He was the Principal Guest Conductor of the legendary Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires from 2011-15, where he conducted 12 major opera productions, including the American premieres of Enescu’s Oedipe and Glanert’s Caligula, and many symphonic concerts.
His appearances as guest conductor include, among many others, New York City Opera, Grand Theatre Geneve, Semper Opera (Dresden), Leipzig Opera, Frankfurt Opera, Montpellier Opera, Norske Opera in Oslo, Norrlands Opera in Umea, Cape Town Opera, Rio de Janeiro Opera, Theatro Sao Pedro in Sao Paulo, Dublin Opera, Düsseldorf Symphony, Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Duisburg Philharmonic, Hannover State Orchestra of Lower Saxony, Bruckner Orchestra in Linz, Badische Staatskapelle in Karlsruhe, Bremen Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan, Portuguese Symphony Orchestra in Lisbon, State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra, Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra and all of the major orchestras in Brazil.
Ira Levin’s recordings include two CDs of works by the American composer Michael Colina with the London Symphony and Colina’s Requiem with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, all on the Fleur de Son and distributed by Naxos. The first studio recording of the 1899 first edition of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6 appeared on the Lindoro label. His recording of works by Reger with the Brandenburg State Symphony, including his orchestration of the Bach Variations and Fugue opus 81, appeared on the Naxos label in October 2020 to great critical acclaim.
His over 40 publications include over several transcriptions for piano and cadenzas to Mozart concertos in addition to orchestrations for large orchestra of Busoni’s monumental Fantasia Contrappuntistica, Liszt’s Fantasy and Fugue on BACH, Franck’s piano quintet, five works by Rachmaninoff, Reger’s Bach Variations opus 81, Respighi’s Violin Sonata in b-minor and Brahms Piano Sonata # 3 opus 5. All of these are published by Edition Tilli of Finland and the complete orchestrations are also appearing in study score format in the “Repertoire Explorer” series of the Munich publisher Jürgen Höflich.
An accomplished pianist, Ira Levin was the first-prize winner of the American National Chopin Competition in 1980. He continues to appear in recital and concert, often leading concertos from the keyboard as well, including works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin as well as Brahms’s second concerto, which he played and conducted on very short notice after a major soloist cancelled. The first CD of his own piano transcriptions was released on the Lindoro label in 2007.
“This was just about the highlight of the entire season, above all the performance of the orchestra, conducted with true authority by Ira Levin. His version found the exact expressive tone for every moment, whether refined or austere and harsh. His strong rhythmic sense always placed the orchestra where it should be, as a support to the singers and stage.”
Verdi Don Carlos, Teatro Colón
(Jorge Araoz Badi in La Nacion September 22, 2016
“The hero of the evening was the conductor Ira Levin. The interest maintained by the fascinating melodicism of Massenet was scrupulously sustained in the orchestra under the hands of the conductor. Ira Levin achieved a special transparency and above all contributed to create the indispensable sensual climate while avoiding an overly sentimental approach as happens in so many versions.”
Massenet Werther, Teatro Colón
(Jorge Araoz Badi in La Nacion April 16, 2015)
“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 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.”
Berlin Symphony in Berlin Philharmonic Hall
(Christoph Schlüren in The Listener, November 18, 2013)