The acoustics of the U of L School of Music’s Comstock Concert Hall intensifies the si- lence as Professor Emeritus Lee Luvisi takes the stage. 76-year- old Luvisi smiles at the audience, which holds its breath as he sits at the piano, adjusts his seat, and pauses.
A Louisville native, Luvisi was born in 1937. At only 14, he was admitted to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied with the great Rudolf Serkin. When Luvisi graduated in 1957, he joined the Curtis fac- ulty as the youngest member in the institute’s history, a 20-year- old professor.
Luvisi’s playing took him all over Europe, Australia, and North America. He performed with orchestras under the mythical batons of Leonard Bernstein and Robert Shaw, with eminent chamber groups such as the Julliard Quintet, and alongside artists such as violinist Itzhak Perlman, whom readers will recognize from “Schindler’s List” and President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Luvisi returned to Louisville in 1963, and taught at U of L until his retirement in 2001. Although he no longer instructs talented students, his career left a lasting impact on the school. “We continue to benefit from the musical excellence he demonstrates, his willingness to mentor new generations of faculty members, and the important legacy his teaching and performance reminds us of every time he appears,” stated Dr. Christopher Doane, Dean of the School of Music.
Wednesday evening, Luvisi performed without an orchestra, chamber group, or violinist, gracing Louisville with a solo piano recital. The program fea- tured works by Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, and Rachmaninoff. Luvisi’s understanding of the pieces was evident; his interpretations were illuminating. “Very sensitive playing,” said John Combs, a piano major.
Luvisi is a mature man and a mature musician, showing restraint in his playing, building tension slowly, until the room sears with anticipation, the audience unmoving yet in motion as Luvisi shakes violently on stage. Emotions and musical thoughts are high when Luvisi provides release. As the heartbreaking B-flat minor intermezzo of Brahms’s “Three Intermezzi, Opus 117” comes to an end, an elderly man in the balcony wraps a coat around his wife’s shoulders and takes her hand, as if shielding her from the piercing lament, and reflecting on a long past occasion still heavy on his heart.