Lazare Lévy

Lazare Lévy

Lazare Lévy (sometimes seen in a hyphenated version: Lazare-Lévy[1]) (18 January 1882  20 September 1964) was an influential French pianist, organist, composer and pedagogue. As a virtuoso pianist he toured throughout Europe, in North Africa, Israel, the Soviet Union and Japan. He taught for many years at the Paris Conservatoire.


Lazare Lévy was born of French parents in Brussels, Belgium. After early lessons with an English piano teacher there,[2] he entered the Paris Conservatoire at age 12 in 1894. The noted pedagogue Louis Diémer supervised the young boy's studies, and Lévy received a Premier Prix in 1898. He also studied harmony with Albert Lavignac and counterpoint with André Gedalge. Among his comrades and early music partners were Alfredo Casella, Alfred Cortot, George Enescu, Pierre Monteux, Maurice Ravel, and Jacques Thibaud.

At age twenty, Lévy made his début récital at the Concerts Colonne, under Édouard Colonne' s own baton, in Schumann's A minor Piano Concerto. In the front row of Lévy's earliest recitals was Camille Saint-Saëns, who considered him to possess "that rare union of technical perfection and musicality."

Lazare Lévy premiered works by French composers of his time, including Paul Dukas and Darius Milhaud. He was also an early champion of Isaac Albéniz, whose "Iberia" (Book I) he played in 1911.

In his twenty-fifth year, Lévy co-authored a Méthode Supérieure for piano published by Diémer (whose assistant he became), though he would later advocate a much more personal and innovative piano technique, involving more hand and arm technique than pure finger technique, with the cushioned part of the fingers going deeply into the key.

Lévy was a distinguished professor of piano at the Paris Conservatoire, first as a temporary teacher (1914–16 and 1920-3) and then as Cortot's successor (1923–40; reappointed 1944-53).

As a Jew in occupied France during the Second World War, his life was held in balance yet he survived only through constant movement and vigilance, hiding, adopting aliases and using false papers. The Conservatoire position he had held was nevertheless given to Marcel Ciampi and Lévy never recovered it. His youngest son, Phillipe, a prominent resistance fighter, was betrayed to the Gestapo by two French Nazi collaborators, captured, then transferred to the Drancy concentration camp where he was recognised as a Jew and tortured by SS officer Alois Brunner.

Among his pupils were Agnelle Bundervoët, John Cage, Teodor Cosma, Marcel Dupré, Lukas Foss, Valentin Gheorghiu, Chieko Hara-Cassado, Monique Haas, Clara Haskil, Yüksel Koptagel, Oskar Morawetz, Michel Plasson, Georges Savaria, Kazimierz Serocki, Solomon, André Tchaikowsky, Henri Betti, and many other virtuosos mostly known in France nowadays. See: List of music students by teacher: K to M#Lazare Lévy.

Lazare Lévy died in 1964, aged 82.



  1. Music Web International
  2. Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed, 1954, Vol. V, p. 155
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