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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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Levi's Latest

Working on Mozart recitatives. The text must be firmly in the mind and dripping off the tongue. Le parole in bocca! So much of our work is drilling and contemplating...drilling and contemplating. It's easy to forget to contemplate, but that is the essential part. July 4, 2016

Just read Zweig's novella Chess Story, which I received as a very sweet gift from my lovely Cincinnati friend Atarah Jablonsky, who was born in Jerusalem in 1927. She's a Zweig fan, as am I. Check out her inscription in Hebrew. June 27, 2016

Recovering from the premiere of Fellow Travelers. In addition to Greg Spears's amazing music, I met Thomas Mallon, the author of the novel on which the opera is based. June 20, 2016

Following the Orlando massacre I'm even more thankful for our work on Fellow Travelers. As our stage director, Kevin Newbury, put it in rehearsal, art has the power to change lives. And this piece - performed with conviction and power and pride - is a heartwrenching statement that love is love is love... June 13, 2016

Just finished watching The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. So fascinating how this one man draws together so many threads of American society. Now I'd like to read Jeffrey Toobin's book and I'm looking forward to the upcoming ESPN documentary. May 30, 2016

Back in Cincinnati for the first rehearsal of Greg Spears's new opera, Fellow Travelers. What a pleasure it has been studying this piece. Can't wait to hear it for the first time this afternoon. May 23, 2016

Reading Fellow Travelers by Thomas Mallon, the novel on which the new opera is based. Am about half way through, and already I feel now my blood pressure rise with anger and now my eyes well with tears. It's smart, poignant, affecting writing that stimulates the mind and the autonomic nervous system. May 16, 2016

Working up the Judenquintett from Salome again. Strings may have their Don Juan audition excerpts, but we have our Strauss too! I'm trying to give each of the five Jews an individual character and motivation. My favorite line is the screaming "Sie sind nicht einmal beschnitten!" May 9, 2016

Reading a lot of Bill Bryson, my fellow Iowan, who - like my dad - was born in Des Moines in 1951 (This is the subject of his memoir.) I've whizzed through it as well as A Short History of Nearly EverythingShakespeare: The World as Stage, and The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way. Such fun reading! May 2, 2016

Relearning Boheme on short notice. Every time I come back to it, the fast music gets easier and the love music never fails to make my heart swell. April 25, 2016

How fun to return to Pierrot Lunaire! It was my first big foray into the second Viennese school, and now it feels like old hat. And I take gleeful pleasure in connecting with Schoenberg's remarkable grandson on Twitter! April 18, 2016

Fulfilling a Mahlerian adventure. For months I've been studying Das Lied von der Erde and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, both in Schoenberg's arrangements for chamber orchestra. I quickly overcame my former ignorance about Das Lied, and now I just wish I had more time to live with its beauties, its profundities, its humor, its tears, its dualities, its Ewigkeit. I pray that fate allows me to one day conduct Mahler's original. April 11, 2016

Studying Handel's Israel in Egypt in preparation for Queen City Chamber Opera's production with the fabulous Isaac Selya. What a masterpiece, and what joyous colleagues to make music with. April 4, 2016

Studying the Butterfly duet in preparation for a coaching. Puccini is so justifiably popular! And he deserves credit for his absolutely perfect orchestration. It's on par with that of Debussy, Ravel or Stravinsky. March 28, 2016

This week I'm surveying accompanied recitatives of Mozart. Each one is a tricky little challenge...the most important thing is to perfectly memorize the text. March 21, 2016

Working again on The Cunning Little Vixen for the final stretch of this production. I am constantly amazed at this stunning music - it's a magical sound-world like no other. March 14, 2016

I'm taking a beginning ballet class. I'm embarrassingly untalented, but I'm enjoying learning about new ways to move and the body awareness that comes with it. March 7, 2016

Amazing the vastness of the repertoire! I've somehow never done the Fledermaus Overture and the Sprecherszene from Magic Flute. Now I'm learning and memorizing them in a jiffy!...one does what one must... February 29, 2016

Working on the opening scene of Rosenkavalier - up until Baron Ochs's entrance. I want to lick and taste this music...so delicious! February 22, 2016

In New York for some meetings, but am planning to see some sights too! Heading to the Guggenheim now. February 15, 2016

I have loved Shostakovich's first symphony since I was a teenager, and now I'm getting around to actually studying it and learning the tricky little piano part. February 8, 2016

Recovering from Salome! This was the perfect way to learn my first Strauss opera...gradually over many months with a cast dedicated to perfecting every detail, even in the glorious Jew Quintet. The more intricate Strauss becomes, the lighter - Mozartian - it must be played. An extraordinary experience through which I've learned enormously. February 1, 2016

I risked a mid-winter drive to Atlanta to hear Runnicles conduct the Missa Solemnis. It's glorious how Beethoven can shock the ear after 200 years! On the drive home I was caught in a Kentucky blizzard and spent 24 hours stuck in my car - mostly listening to a very cool jazz station. January 25, 2016

Back from a quick trip to Ann Arbor to visit Martin Katz. Martin occasionally whips my fingers back into shape and keeps me artistically honest. I really count on the continued guidance of great mentors. January 18, 2016

After long languishing on the back of my desk, The Guilty Mother finally got read: it's the least giocoso of Beaumarchais's Figaro Trilogy but delightful nevertheless. The characters are so real, so human! Susanna, Figaro, the Count and Countess...I feel that I know and love them.  And the scandal between The Marriage of Figaro and The Guilty Mother - the brief, furtive affair between Cherubino and the Countess resulting in an illegitimate son - makes them all the more empathetic.  January 11, 2016