The Davin-Levin Duos relaxing debut album, Banter, couldnt have come at a better time – The Dallas Morning News

Posted: April 22, 2020 at 4:47 pm


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Dallas Symphony Orchestra principal harpist Emily Levin and Colin Davin, professor of guitar at the Cleveland Institute of Music, have teamed up as the Davin-Levin Duo.

At this point in the pandemic, relaxing chamber music seems a better antidote for stress than a gargantuan Mahler symphony.

So along comes the debut album of the Davin-Levin Duo, composed of Dallas Symphony Orchestra principal harpist Emily Levin and Colin Davin, professor of guitar at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Titled Banter, it couldnt arrive at a better time.

Arrangements of pieces from the 20th century (all transcribed by Davin and Levin) bookend two works commissioned by the duo in 2016 and 2017.

The first commission, Banter, Bicker, Breathe (2016), by Will Stackpole, evokes different conversations that occur between a couple, according to the composer. The piece opens with agitated flourishes in the guitar and harp that build to a sudden exclamation. Levin then plays a repetitive pattern over which Davin spins out a soothing melody that gradually becomes more dissonant.

At times, the music seems to meander without any sense of direction. More captivating is the conclusion, in which Levin plucks ethereal notes in the upper register of her instrument against continuous murmurings in the guitar.

La Vita Nuova (and other consequences of Spring) (2017), by Dylan Mattingly, builds off the tranquil mood established in the ending of the Stackpole piece. Mattinglys music, which draws inspiration from Dante Alighieris La Vita Nuova, divides into three main sections, followed by a coda.

In the first, a progressively rising figure repeats and varies over time. In the second, a slow, intimate dialogue creates a serene backdrop, and melodic fragments blossom in the guitar. The third part explores the upper registers of both instruments and evokes an unsteady feeling with cross-rhythms between guitar and harp. A return of the opening figure brings the piece to a satisfying conclusion.

Ravels music often lends itself to arrangements. Pieces like La valse and Pavane for a Dead Princess work equally well on a piano alone or played by a full orchestra. Ravels Mother Goose Suite, which exists in both piano and orchestral versions, is another example. Inspired by actual fairy tales, its atmosphere of childlike innocence is effectively conveyed in the Davin-Levin transcription.

Although Philip Glass Etude No. 6, originally meant for piano solo, sounds cheesy in its made-for-Hollywood melodies that alternate with arpeggiated chords and fast scalar patterns, the transcription at least injects some color into the music.

Manuel de Fallas El amor brujo (Love, the Sorcerer), first composed for ballet and orchestra, is missing the fiery energy of winds and trumpet in the introduction, but it does close on an uplifting note, with a repeated tune in the harp that soars over rolling arpeggios in the guitar. Performances are assured and idiomatic throughout the collection.

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The Davin-Levin Duos relaxing debut album, Banter, couldnt have come at a better time - The Dallas Morning News

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April 22nd, 2020 at 4:47 pm

Posted in Relaxing Music