Mr. Lowenthal’s Lecture

Philip Hoover


I first had the privilege of meeting Mr. Lowenthal when I was 11 years old and played Mozart’s “Ah, vous dirai-je maman” for him. Much to my surprise following my performance, he proceeded to sing the verses to this Twinkle Variation in French and then wrote it down for me so I would also know it. Just as I was so impressed then, I was amazed by Mr. Lowenthal’s vast knowledge of French history, language, literature, and music. His command of repertoire, ability to cite spontaneously key phrases in the French language, and then play the relevant music passages on the piano was absolutely stunning.

I truly enjoyed hearing not only about the time period during which these French composers lived, but also about their relationships with each other. Debussy’s music, which is so appreciated and enjoyed today, was greatly disliked by Saint-Sean’s. He so disliked Debussy’s music that he tried to keep Debussy from being elected to the honorary society during that time. It shows that just the passage of time can often greatly affect the perception of music.

When I listen to and play French composers in the future, I will bear in mind so much of what Mr. Lowenthal shared. For example, in the music of Fauré, I will listen more closely to the harmonic progressions and the way Fauré modulates back to the tonic. I will try to listen and emphasize the unique chromaticism. Lastly, it was also interesting to learn some fun facts like who are the six French composers. I am sure someday being able to cite Poulenc, Milhaud, Honegger, Durey, Tailleferre, and Auric will come in handy!