Oscar Levant Work Photo

From The Columbia Album Set M-508

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Who was Oscar Levant? Besides being one of George Gershwin's closest friends, he was a true renaissance man ala 1920s,30s& 40s. He was a gifted composer, brilliant solo pianist, wise-cracking movie actor, (he played Gene Kelly's pianist buddy in the movie version of "American in Paris") and an author. This photograph was scanned from the inside cover of his Columbia album, "Oscar Levant in a Recital of Modern Music," (COL M-508).

Oscar Levant was born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1906. In the liner notes for his 1942 album of Rhapsody in Blue, (COL MX-251) he started his auto-biographical sketch by commenting: "I was born, like many other children whose parents happened to live in Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh, December 27, 1906. It has always been a regret that the event could not have been delayed four days, so that I would have been born in 1907. As it is, I'm reckoned as a nineteen-sixer, and thus thirty-five at the present time, (1942) when I am really only thirty-four." He died in California in 1973.

As the title suggests, this album is a collection of a number of lesser-known "modern" (ca late 1930s) musical pieces by such composers as George Gershwin, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and others including one of Oscar's own compositions, "Sonatina: First Movement: Con ritmo", (COL 17336-D/CO 32411).

Below is a listing of all the records in this outstanding collection classical piano solo pieces:

CO 32288/17333-D
1. Prelude I - 2. Prelude III

CO 32287/17333-D
Prelude II

CO 32412/17334-D
Les Collines D'Anacapri

CO 32409/17334-D
Jardins Sous La Pluie

CO 32289/17335-D
1. Prelude in A Minor - 2. Polka

CO 32410/17335-D
1. Etude I - 2. Etude II
Jelobinsky, Op. 19

CO 32413/17336-D

CO 32411/17336-D
Sonatina; 1st Movement: Cons Ritmo

Besides this collection, the W.A.M.S. library boasts two other of Levant's classical albums on Columbia. The previously mentioned three 12-inch collection of "Rhapsody in Blue" (COL MX-251), and the three 12-inch collection Chopin piano pieces, "Oscar Levant plays Chopin" (COL M-649; ).

In his second book, "Memoirs of an Amnesiac" he did mention playing for the Brunswick artist Ben Bernie in the twenties, but he didn't mention if he recorded with him. He did cut his own version of "Rhapsody" for that label though, to help Brunswick compete with the 12-inch Paul Whiteman/George Gershwin Victor version, (VIC- 35822-A/B). This two-sided piece was arranged by Ferde Grofe', composer of the Grand Canyon Suite, (COL M-463). WAMS has the VIC & COL, but not the BRN. But we do have a few Ben Bernies though. With or without Oscar, is anyone's guess at this point.

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