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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I just played William Bolcom's Graceful Ghost Rag for the composer himself.  We had an interesting chat about if and how much to swing his rags, and classic ragtime in general.  He compared it to notes inégales in Couperin's music.  What a thrill!...the man is a genuine genius.  October 26, 2015

Charles Rosen wrote that harmony and counterpoint are essentially the same thing, even though we think of them as contrary concepts.  This makes sense from a certain perspective.  I think that pitch and rhythm are - in essence - also the same.  October 19, 2015

Bizarre - and wonderful - to be working on Janceck and Couperin these days.  Both are - in completely different ways - foreign to me...like visiting unknown lands where exotic tongues are spoken.  October 12, 2015

Learning about a minor master of Ragtime, Charles L. Johnson.  A lifelong Kansas City resident, his biggest hit was Dill Pickles Rag, a lovely little piano piece!  October 5, 2015

The Italian language is so beautiful!  Case in point: words for "wind": vento, venticello, arietta, brezzolina, zeffiretto, brezza, zeffiro, rovajo, aura, refoio, corrente, bora, ponenino, alito, spirito, turbine, raffica... the list goes on!  September 28, 2015

Lots of reading on Joplin and the ragtime era.  So fascinating!  Another analogy: The rag and the cakewalk are to Joplin what the mazurka and the polonaise are to Chopin.  September 21, 2015

Prokiofiev is at his best in smaller forms.  He's a master of great tunes and awesome piano writing, but he was (mostly) out of his element with larger forms.  Maybe that's why he's such a great ballet composer...great tune after great tune for dance.  His first symphony is truly great: it's just four really short pieces...not really a symphony.  And even though his orchestration is sometimes colorful, I still feel it's like half-baked broadway orchestration...  September 14, 2015

Another analogy: Debussy is to Monet as Fauré is to Cézanne as Ravel is to Matisse as Poulenc is to Dufy.  Composer-painter analogies may be tenuous, but - for me at least - it helps clarify a milieu.   September 7, 2015

My analogy of the day: Mahler is to Klimt as Schoenberg is to Schiele.  August 31, 2015

As I begin The Merry Widow, I'm thinking back to playing Lehar's music on Lehar's piano in Lehar's house in Bad Ischl, Austria.  August 17, 2015

My Cunning Little Vixen score just arrived.  Such haunting and stunning music.  I'm new to the world of Janacek and I can't wait to explore it.  August 10, 2015

Returning to a classic - Zen in the Art of Archery - in search of focus and inspiration.  August 3, 2015

Summer reading continues with the Figaro Trilogy of Beaumarchais.  July 27, 2015

Now that I've just read Prosper Mérimée's subpar novella Carmen, I'm content to stick to Bizet's masterful opera.  July 20, 2015

I'm delighted to be working on a production of Rossini's first opera, La Cambiale di Matrimonio.  July 13, 2015

My mind's palate is salivating at the thought of summer reading!  With some time on my hands, I'm also studying French this summer.  Verlaine is making more sense, but I still couldn't order a baguette!  July 6, 2015

Finally reading Goethe's Faust -- in the Walter Kaufmann parallel translation.  June 29, 2015

Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 16.  Boy oh boy do I have a lot of notes to learn...  June 22, 2015

Starting to memorize the libretto of Salome.  Still scandalous after more than a century, it's shockingly graphic even aside from the striptease, beheading and necrophilia!  Had to look up "brünstig," the German word for being "in heat."  Nasty!  (And fabulous.)  June 8, 2015

Drilling archaic Italian for Il Trovatore with Cincinnati Opera.  Mi Vendica!  With a dream cast!  May 25, 2015

Brahms's First Symphony.  A triumphant and incredibly bittersweet culmination of my tenure with the Akron Youth Symphony.  I will deeply miss these amazing young musicians.  May 12, 2015

Putting the finishing touches on my script for Aesop's Fables - my theater piece told through the music of Bizet, Beethoven, Mozart, Debussy and Ravel.  Looking forward to these 16 concerts for 3000 kids!  May 10, 2015

Warhorse of warhorses!  Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto with AYS concerto competition winner, Kyle Shin.  At 13 years old, Kyle has both the chops and the heart for this beast of a piece.  May 3, 2015

Le Travail du Peintre.  Another song cycle that combines music (Poulenc,) poetry (Éluard,) and art (Picasso, Chagall, Braque, Gris, Klee, Miró, Villon.)  Poulenc was one of the most literary of composers.  (Schumann, Britten and Rorem come to mind as a few rivals.)  And he was certainly THE most visual of composers.  April 30, 2015

There are a lot of (incoherent?) notes in Hindemith's Concerto for Woodwinds, Harp and Orchestra.  He could really churn it out!  I'm reminded of my teacher Günther Firlinger's childhood maxim from shortly after World War II: "Hindemith - weg damit!" (Hindemith - away with it!)  April 13, 2015

Months of work are culminating this week in Cry, the Beloved Country - the semi-staged, cantata-like version of Kurt Weill's Lost in the Stars.  Especially gratifying is the reunion with my beloved cast of our Porgy and Bess.  April 6, 2015

Studying Elgar and Stravinsky for a Link Up concert with the Akron Symphony.  Alex Cha, my principal cellist from the Akron Youth Symphony, is featured in the Elgar concerto.  We're thrilled to share symphonic music with 2000 public school students this week.  March 30, 2015

At the piano again.  Practicing the d-minor concerto of Mozart.  This is Mozart at his most Beethovenian...anachronistic, I know!  And I'm planning some slapstick antics for the Farewell Symphony.  The world would be a better place if we all had more Papa Haydn in our lives!  March 22, 2015

COSÌ FAN TUTTE!!!  I adore Mozart's every note and Da Ponte's every syllable.  I could spend my whole life in the perfection of the operas of Mozart.  March 16, 2015

Covering a great program of "Four Rivers" for Christopher Wilkins this week: Blue Danube, Moldau, Ellington's The River, and the mightiest river of them all, the Rhine!  Conducted the Schumann in rehearsal last night at 10 minutes' notice!  March 12, 2015

Preparing to work with a top notch youth orchestra in Rochester.  Berlioz, Stravinsky, and my first time doing Brahms Academic Festival Overture.  I can't hear this music without smiling.  March 2, 2015

I'm captivated by presidential memoirs these days.  The 90s seem like ancient history in Bill Clinton's My Life. His troubled youth in Hot Springs is beautifully touching.  And Obama's Dreams for My Father is as eloquent as it is candid.  Bravo, Mr. President!  February 23, 2015

Scenes from Fidelio and Peter Grimes. Britten's storm scene is terrifying!  "Old Joe has gone fishing..."  February 16, 2015

Studying for a surprise "valentine" for the ASO audience: Elgar's sweet and sincere Salut d'amour, with just the right dose of rubato.  It musn't be maudlin!  February 9, 2015

My beloved youth orchestra's winter concert is coming up.  A piece for each family, then a showpiece for the whole orchestra: Brandenburg 3, Mozart c-minor Serenade, Fanfare for the Common Man, and Kodaly's Hary Janos.  I'm planning some choreography for the Bach!  February 2, 2015

On my desk today are Apollinaire's poetry and Dufy's woodcuts in preparation for Poulenc's Le Bestiaire.  What a magnificent amalgamation of words, visual arts and music.  January 26, 2015

Reading Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country in preparation for Weill's Lost in the Stars.  I was delighted to learn that Stephen Sondheim shares my opinion that Weill's American (Broadway, Gershwinesque) music is better than his German (mondernist) period.  January 19, 2015

Getting chills working on the score of Dvorak's Cello Concerto.  And I can't wait to hear Jonah Ellsworth play it this week.  Dvorak's best piece?  Superlatives like "best" are hollow, but it's certainly the most transcendent music he ever wrote.  January 5, 2015