Welcome to the personal website of conductor Levi Hammer, a musician of remarkable range and versatility who is invigorating the world of classical music today. Here you can follow Levi's diverse activities, learn about his life, read the latest written by and about him, and stay in touch with him through the web!
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On Levi's Desk
Just finished Gide's The Immoralist. It's scandalous subject matter isn't as shocking as the manic virtuosity with which he writes. Nietzsche and Wilde lurk behind Gide's shoulder. It must have shattered Belle Époque sensibilities. February 27, 2017
I've been exploring the origins of the Protestant tradition I grew up in by reading Martin Marty's "Martin Luther." I admire Luther's "wrestling with God" and his commitment to reason and scholarship and music. And the ambiguities of his legacy are such that, even putting his life in its historical context, he calls to mind the dangers of extremism. Perhaps my favorite detail is the time Luther stormed out of a church service when the congregants failed to improve their bad singing! February 20, 2017
I am overwhelmed by John William's (the author, not the composer) Stoner, which is "simply a novel about a guy who goes to college and becomes a teacher," according to Tom Hanks. Quintessentially American in its plain and sad language, it captures the silent struggles we all face. In my copy I've copiously underlined passages like "The person one loves at first is not the person one loves at last, and...love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another." And the poetic epiphany the young Stoner experiences with Shakespeare's 73rd Sonnet directly parallels my own teenage musical epiphany with Copland's Appalachian Spring. February 13, 2017
Maurice Ravel’s L’enfant et les Sortilège is absolutely PERFECT. It conveys – all in 45 stunning minutes – childish tantrums, maternal tenderness, math lessons, American ragtime, copulating cats, cruelty, compassion, brashness, sophistication, lusciousness…in short, it conveys everything! Ravel – ever the chameleon – can imitate the music of other cultures, improve it, and somehow simultaneously make it 100% French. Lots of music is great, but not much is perfect. Mozart also regularly achieved perfection, and perhaps that’s why Mozart and Ravel go so well together. L’enfant, like his Mother Goose music, reaches deep into the soul of both the adult and the child. Or perhaps another way of saying this is that through this piece the adult finds his innocent child-like core, and the child perceives a previously undiscovered profundity and sublimity in the universe. If I had to choose my favorite music, this poignant piece may well be it. February 6, 2017
The original version of Petrushka (from 1911) was quintessentially Russian, and should be played as such. Stravinsky’s revision (from 1947) is really a new piece, filtered through his stylistic evolution (neoclassicism) and his geographical displacement prompted by world events (he moved to America.) Like in his Symphony in Three Movements from 1945, I hear a uniquely American incisiveness. Thus Petrushka 1947 is both a Russian and American piece. Such are my thoughts from the pit of the Komische Oper! January 30, 2017
I’m immersed in the absolutely perfect sound worlds of the Komische Oper’s production of Petrushka and L’enfant et les sortilèges this week. This is glorious programing at its best. January 23, 2017
I was called at the last minute to play a Mahler 2 rehearsal at the Konzerthaus for Ivan Fischer, one of my musical and humanist heroes! Fortunately I know this music well, and the challenge in rehearsal is refrain from weeping during the last two movements. January 16, 2017
I’m saddened by the passing of Rayna Barroll Aschaffenburg, a beautiful person who gave everything of herself to her students. I’m grateful for her friendship and her artistry. January 9, 2017
I’ve been working with the singers of the Berlin chapter of “Opera on Tap.” It’s a fun way of sharing opera and having a great time…all while sipping beer! I’m particularly excited for excerpts from Der Freischütz and I Capuleti e i Montecchi this week. January 2, 2017
I’m using the holidays to rest, and am engrossed in Patti Smith’s memoirs “Just Kids.” The writing is so beautiful that tears flowed down my face for entire chapters. I can empathize with her early struggles and the sacrifices one has to make for art and beauty. It also makes me want to immerse myself in more American music of the 60s and 70s…Smith herself and Dylan especially. December 26, 2016
Got called at the last minute appear in a film about Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, the Leningrad. The super cool actor Florian Panzner plays Shostakovich, and I play the hands of Shostakovich! December 19, 2016
Like a lot of great – and popular – works (Beethoven 5 is the supreme example) Boheme never gets easier. It moves so fast that the slightest lapse in concentration can wreak havoc! December 12, 2016
Am conducting a new production of Boheme with Puccini’s Toaster, a wonderful company here in Berlin. So nice to come back to this old friend of a piece, and with such an awesome cast and creative team. December 5, 2016
Back from the Gemäldegalerie. My eye always lingers on paintings of musicians. November 28, 2016
Visit to Charlottenburg Palace. The Watteau paintings were amazing. My obsession with Watteau began simultaneously with my obsession for Verlaine, French poetry and the exquisite art of the French mélodie. November 21, 2016
A sober visit to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial. Poigant. November 14, 2016
Visited Potsdam and Frederick the Great's music room at Sanssouci where old J.S. Bach improvised on the "royal theme" (devised by C.P.E Bach?) that eventually became the Musical Offering. November 7, 2016
PRESS RELEASE: Levi Hammer has been promoted to the position of Associate Conductor of the Akron Symphony
"Levi Hammer led a stirring performance from memory. The ASO musicians gave Hammer a fraternal solo bow when he was called back to stage."
"Hammer was the superb soloist in Maurice Ravel's Concerto in G. Playing with authority and a crystalline touch, Hammer was rock-steady but full of excitement in both the opening and closing movements, then turned utterly calm for the wonderful Adagio."
"Though the baton is alluring, Hammer should keep a hand or two on the piano as his career advances. He’s good at it."
"We don't often have a chance to convey this, but I think the kids are very fortunate to have such an articulate, passionate, and accomplished conductor at the helm." -Sung Cha, parent of Akron Youth Symphony cellist Alex Cha