Ida Levin RIP

I am sad to report that, 19 years to the day after I recorded her performing Schulhoff's Sonata for Solo Violin for Stereophile, Ida Levin passed away on Friday November 18, after a lengthy battle with leukemia. She was 53. Our condolences to her family, her fellow musicians, her students, and to all who, like me, were thrilled by her playing.

At the recording session, Ida played the demanding Schulhoff Sonata with passion and fire. As the Nagra-D's reels turned and I followed the score, I was struck by how privileged I was to be able to witness a true virtuoso in action, breathing life and fire into the dead notes on the music's printed page, her violin lighting up the warmly sympathetic reverberation, filling Santa Fe's Loretto Chapel with glorious sound.

Ida's Schulhoff performance, along with her interpretations of Janácek's Sonata for Violin & Piano and Enescu's Sonata No.3 for Violin & Piano, both with pianist Diane Walsh, appeared on Stereophile's Duet CD, which was released in 1998. As a tribute to Ida, from now until January 1, 2017, we are offering this CD to our readers free of charge (though we will still have to charge shipping and handling). To obtain a copy of Duet, please call (toll-free) (888) 237-0955 and mention that you read this article on Stereophile's website.

From the booklet notes for Duet: Ida Levin was born in Santa Monica, California. She began her violin studies at age three, and made her professional debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at age 10. The recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a former Levintritt Artist, Levin was invited by Rudolf Serkin to appear with him in a joint recital for President and Mrs. Reagan, broadcast by PBS as In Performance at the White House. She made her Carnegie Hall debut as soloist with the American Symphony Orchestra, and appeared as soloist with the New York String Orchestra under Alexander Schneider at both Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.

Ida was a longtime participant at the Marlboro Music Festival and the Open Chamber Music in Cornwall, England, a member of the Boston Chamber Music Society, and was a regular guest with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and Houston Da Camera. In her too-short life, Ida recorded for Philips, EMI, Dynamic, Music Masters, and Nonesuch, as well as Stereophile, and has written for Strings magazine.

In my last email from Ida, in February 2016, in response to my mentioning her poor health, she responded "Yes, I have been to hell and back this last year and a half, but, thank God, am doing much, much better and gradually resuming my normal life!" Sadly, that normal life was all too short in length. You can find appreciations of Ida here and here, and a short video interview from 2014, where she discussed her love of Tchaikovsky's string quartets here.

dalethorn's picture

Amazement, awe, and sorrow. Thanks for doing this.

Glotz's picture

God bless her soul.

God bless everyone this holiday season.

volvic's picture

I appreciate Stereophile sharing Ms. Levin's music with us and how sad that sometimes we only discover great musicians only after they have passed. My sincere condolences to her family during this terrible period.

dalethorn's picture

Got the CD earlier today - on my third play now. I don't know how I missed it, but this is one recording I could recommend at full audiophile price. It reinforces my opinion that the recording makes a much greater difference in the quality of the listening experience than the gear, assuming the gear is audiophile grade. The Janáček and Enescu have an close intimate quality, while the Schulhoff sounds bigger with more reverb. The difference is made more interesting because of the quality of the recording.

volvic's picture

Worked from home on Monday and listened to it several times, agree about the differences in acoustics for each piece. Just a beautiful performance, thanks again Stereophile for sharing. I am truly sorry this talent had to leave us so soon.

John Atkinson's picture
dalethorn wrote:
Got the CD earlier today - on my third play now. I don't know how I missed it, but this is one recording I could recommend at full audiophile price.

Glad you liked it, Dalethorn. Thanks.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile