Colin Davin, guitar (USA) and Emily Levin, harp (USA) - Sunday, June 11, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.


Guitar and Harp
Cleveland Institute of Music, Mixon Hall
Sunday, June 11, 2017, at 7:30 p.m.

Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)  

    Ma Mere l'Oye (Mother Goose Suite) *
        Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant (Pavane of Sleeping Beauty) - Lent
        Petit Poucet (Little Tom Thumb / Hop o' My Thumb) - Très modéré
        Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes (Little Ugly Girl, Empress of the  
            Pagodas) - Mouvt de marche
        Les entretiens de la belle et de la bête (Conversation of Beauty and the
            Beast) - Mouvt de valse très modéré
        Le jardin féerique (The Fairy Garden) - Lent et grave

Will Stackpole (1990)

    Banter, Bicker, Breathe


Dylan Mattingly (1991)

    La Vita Nuova (and other consequences of Spring) - World Premiere

Manuel de Falla (1876–1946)

    El Amor Brujo
        Introducción y escena ('Introduction and scene')
        En la cueva ('In the cave')
        Canción del amor dolido ('Song of suffering love')
        El aparecido (El espectro) ('The apparition')
        Danza del terror ('Dance of terror')
        El círculo mágico (Romance del pescador) ('The magic circle')
        A media noche: los sortilegios
        Danza ritual del fuego ('Ritual fire dance')
        Escena ('Scene')
        Canción del fuego fatuo ('Song of the will-o'-the-wisp')
        Pantomima ('Pantomime')
        Danza del juego de amor ('Dance of the game of love')
        Final – las campanas del amanecer ('Finale – the bells of sunrise')

* Arranged by the Davin-Levin Duo

Please silence all electronic devices, including cellular phones, wristwatches, and pagers. Photography, video or audio recording are not permitted during this concert.


Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), despite his fame as one of France’s greatest composers, is something of a misunderstood musical figure. Although often lumped together with Debussy as a leading voice of musical Impressionism, Ravel rejected that label, as well as comparisons to Debussy. Ravel’s compositions are rigidly structured (Stravinsky sometimes called him a “Swiss watchmaker”) while simultaneously rich in harmonic innovation and cultural influences as far reaching as music from Madagascar, Spain, Indonesia, and American jazz.

His suite inspired by children’s stories, Ma mère l’Oye (Mother Goose) was composed between 1908 and 1910, and dedicated to the children of his friends Cipa and Ida Godebski. Charles Perrault’s famous collection of 1697 provided the inspiration for the first two movements. “La Belle au bois dormant” (Sleeping Beauty) tells the tale of a princess cursed to a century-long sleep deep in an enchanted forest, who is only awakened by a kiss from a prince. “Petit Poucet” (Hop-o’-My-Thumb) is the story of a child, small in stature but great in intellect, whose cunning saves him and his brothers from a murderous ogre. Grotesquely, his tricks involve switching headwear with the ogre’s daughters in the middle of the night, resulting in the ogre mistakenly killing his own offspring. Ravel’s meandering music, however, focuses on the earlier, less gruesome episodes of the tale, in which the boy’s path of breadcrumbs is eaten by birds, leaving him and his brothers lost in the woods.

“Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes” (which clumsily translates to “Little Ugly Girl, Empress of the Pagodas”) is based on a fairy tale from Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy, in which a princess in cursed to be the ugliest girl in the world and quarantines herself to a tower. She becomes the object of the Green Serpent’s love, who himself turns out to be a similarly-accursed king from a faraway land. The music embraces the fin de siècle fashion of incorporating elements from the Far East into the European classical style. The use of pentatonic scales has the added benefit of suiting the technical demands of a children’s piano piece; both main themes are played entirely on the black keys of the piano.

“Les entretiens de la Belle et de la Bête” (Conversations of Beauty and the Beast) comes from the collection of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, and paints an evocative musical picture of the well-known story of the beautiful, pure-hearted Belle, and the beast who, through her love, is transformed back into the handsome prince he once was. While the magical, chorale-styled “Le jardin féerique” (The Fairy Garden) is not explicitly narrative, its function in the 1912 ballet version of the work is to depict Sleeping Beauty finally awakened from her hundred-year sleep.

Originally written for piano four hands, Ravel orchestrated the Ma mère l’Oye in 1911, and transformed it into a ballet in 1912. The arrangement presented here for harp and guitar is based on the original version of 1908-1910.

American composer Will Stackpole (b. 1990) sometimes refers to his works as “meta-musical,” in which some aspect of the process of creating a piece comes to define the piece itself. Such is the case in Banter, Bicker, Breathe (2016), as Stackpole describes the challenge of writing for the combination of harp and guitar:

The guitar and harp are two instruments that are very alike in sound and therefore challenging to differentiate. On top of that they each present unique and bizarre challenges of any instrument to composers in terms of how they're played. As I began getting my materials together, I kept thinking about the similarities and differences that would make this combination of instruments so beautiful together but so difficult to manage. One evening I was explaining (read: complaining about) this conundrum to my fiancée when the premise for the piece finally jumped out at me.

Banter, Bicker, Breathe is my attempt to translate into music the different types of conversations that take place between a couple. In the music you'll hear a story being told by two voices, handing off the narrative at lightning speed, a confrontation made up of back and forth jarring interruptions and exclamations, and lastly a whispered bit of comfort. Neither the harp nor the guitar is meant to represent any one person or any type of role in a relationship. There are no secret little codes to link one side of the dialogue to any real-world example. Instead, the sound that is produced aims merely to represent the interaction between two people.

Stackpole is the founder and artistic director of Focal Point New Music, an initiative which pairs student composers with a specific instrument that is underrepresented in new music. Banter, Bicker, Breathe was composed for Emily Levin and Colin Davin, and premiered on that series in 2016.

The music of composer and multi-instrumentalist Dylan Mattingly (b. 1991) takes inspiration from diverse sources, including American folk music, Olivier Messiaen, and microtonal singing from Polynesia and Central Africa. La Vita Nuova (and other consequences of Spring) (2017), however, is drawn from literature, in this case Dante Alighieri’s work of the same title (excepting the parenthetical). A sweeping collection of sonnets alongside other poems and prose, it is Dante’s exploration of love – romantic, courtly, and divine – through the lens of his own lifelong unrequited love for Béatrice Portinari. Mattingly cites this particular sonnet from the narrative:

A day agone, as I rode sullenly
Upon a certain path that liked me not,
I met Love midway while the air was hot,
Clothed lightly as a wayfarer might be.
And for the cheer he showed, he seemed to me
As one who hath lost lordship he had got;
Advancing tow’rds me full of sorrowful thought,
Bowing his forehead so that none should see.
Then as I went, he called me by my name,
Saying: “I journey since the morn was dim
Thence where I made thy heart to be: which now
I needs must bear unto another dame.”
Wherewith so much passed into me of him
That he was gone, and I discerned not how.

According to the composer: “The piece is really several paradises — an offering of imagination, visions of Spring not contextual but ideal, removed from time, of the moment of first warmth, first love, first life.”

The work was commissioned by the Davin-Levin Duo, and receives its world premiere at the 2017 Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival.

Perhaps the most important Spanish composer of the 20th century, Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) bridged the divide between a cosmopolitan modern style and a nationalistic Spanish sound. While critics were often mixed in their opinions of his success in fusing these influences, the synergy in Falla’s music gave him a unique and powerful voice that defined the Spanish art music of the time.

Perhaps no work of Falla’s elicited such critical bickering as his gitaneria (gypsy ballet) El Amor Brujo (Spell-Bound Love), a collaboration with the theatrical couple María and Gregorio Martínez Sierra. Interestingly, it was attacked from both sides of the stylistic spectrum: the decision to cast the popular flamenco performer Pastora Imperio in the lead role was viewed by some as a failed attempt to bring “low” art to the formal stage, while the use of impressionistic harmony in the vein of Debussy and Ravel drew charges of cultural in authenticity. Then as now, attempts at musical crossover seemed to meet resistance from purists on all sides. Nonetheless, the lasting popularity of El Amor Brujo more than a century after its creation would seem to vindicate his approach as an undeniable success.

The piece exists in several versions, with substantial changes to the plot between its premiere in 1915 and its final “definitive” ballet version of 1925. In the original production, the young gypsy woman Candelas is trapped by her attachment to an unfaithful lover. Summoning otherworldly forces, she diminishes and terrifies him, declaring her power and independence. These bold feminist undertones are largely absent from the 1925 version, which is the basis of the arrangement heard here. In that form, Candelas’ unfaithful tormentor is the ghost of her deceased husband, who harasses her in a nightly “Dance of Terror,” preventing her from a relationship with the young Carmelo. Candelas and the other gypsy women attempt to stomp out the spirit in the dramatic “Ritual Fire Dance.” When the specter endures, Candelas enlists the help of Lucia to take her place and seduce him in the “Dance of the Game of Love.” The ruse proves successful: the spirit is vanquished, and as dawn breaks, Candelas and Carmelo can love freely.

—Colin Davin, 2017