Levidis — Poème Symphonique for Ondes Martenot and Orchestra (1928)

90 years ago today, on December 23rd 1928, Maurice Martenot premiered "Poème Symphonique" (op. 43b) by Dimitrios Levidis (1886–1951) at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, conducted by René-Emmanuel Baton (1879–1940).


Originally composed for violin and orchestra (as op. 43a), Levidis rescored the "Poème" for Martenot's new instrument with dummy keyboard, exploiting many of its new capacities including (according to Laurendeau) the addition of transposition buttons which enabled rapid "glissandi trillés". Martenot and Levidis met with critical acclaim for their accomplishment, encouraging a repeat performance in Philadelphia under the baton of Leopold Stokowski.


Surprisingly, despite its importance to the history of both classical and electronic music, and the fact that the scores survive in multiple copies (published, holograph and reduced for piano) there is still no recording of this piece, nor indeed of the great bulk of Levidis' music. Hopefully this will soon change.


For now, here is Levidis 1908 "First Greek Sonata", composed twenty years before the "Poème", when Levidis was ~22:

Charlie Draper