Charles Emile Levy

From Wind Repertory Project
Charles Émile Lévy

Biography

Charles Émile Lévy (9 December 1837, Strasbourg, France – 12 February 1915, Paris) was a French pianist, conductor and composer of dance music who wrote under the pseudonym Émile Waldteufel (which is German for "forest devil").

His grandfather and father were both musicians; his mother Flora Neubauer, originally from Bavaria had been a student of Hummel and had met Haydn; she was a keen singer and dancer also.From a Jewish Alsatian family of musicians, the original family surname had been Lévy. His father Louis had a respected orchestra, and his brother Léon was a successful performer. When Léon won a place to study violin performance at the Conservatoire de Paris, the family followed him there.

Émile received his first lessons from his father and the local musician Joseph Heyberger; after his arrival in Paris he was able to take elementary classes from Laurent at the Conservatoire de Paris, followed by advanced studies under Marmontel. Among his fellow pupils was Jules Massenet.

The young Émile was obliged to halt his studies and work at the Scholtus piano factory owing to the financial situation of the family, but soon took a room in rue de Bellefond in order to concentrate on composing. During his time at the conservatory, Louis Waldteufel's orchestra became one of the most famous in Paris, and Émile was frequently invited to play at important events.

At the age of 27, Émile became the court pianist of the Empress Eugénie. He also led the orchestra at state balls.His appointment by Napoléon III to the musical direction of the balls led him to participation in the events in Biarritz and Compiègne; at the latter he met many other musicians and artists and also accompanied the Emperor playing the violin.

At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War Lévy enlisted and was stationed in the Basses-Pyrénées. After the defeat of France, the Second French Empire was dissolved and his home town became part of Germany for the rest of his life. After the Empire, the orchestra still played at Presidential balls at the Élysée. At this time only a few members of the French high society knew of Émile; he was nearly 40 before he became better known.

In October 1874 Lévy played at an event that was attended by the then-Prince of Wales, future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom. The Prince was enthralled by Lévy's Manolo waltz, and was prepared to make Waldteufel's music known in Britain. A long-term contract with the London-based editor Hopwood & Crew followed. Through these means, Lévy's music was played at Buckingham Palace in front of Queen Victoria. Lévy dominated the music scene in London and became world famous. During this period he composed his best known works, many of which are still heard today around the world. He became best known for the waltz Les Patineurs (The Ice Skaters), composed in 1882.

Lévy gave concerts in several European cities, such as London in 1885, Berlin in 1889, where he enjoyed a friendly rivalry with Johann Strauss, and the Paris Opéra Balls in 1890 and 1891. He continued his career as conductor and writing dance music for the Presidential Balls until 1899 when he retired.

Lévy composed at and for the piano (often for performance at court) before orchestrating each work. He conducted with a stick rather than the then-customary violin bow. The typical orchestra consisted of strings and a doubled woodwind section, two cornets, four horns, three trombones, and ophicleide or euphonium, along with percussion. Lévy's music can be distinguished from Johann Strauss II's waltzes and polkas in that he used subtle harmonies and gentle phrases, unlike Strauss's more robust approach.


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