MUSIC REVIEW: Harpist Emily Levin

The glorious harp

By Peter Jacobi


On Saturday evening in First United Church, the USA International Harp Competition presented in concert the most recent recipient of its Bronze Medal, Emily Levin, a very young and formidable talent who did her undergraduate work in the Jacobs School with the eminent Susann McDonald as her harp mentor and now has started additional studies, for a master’s, at the Juilliard School.

If she’s at Juilliard to gain another academic credit, so be it. If it’s to enhance excellence, I wonder, because Ms. Levin is a remarkable performer already.  She played some 90 minutes, maybe more, of music, all from memory, all in necessarily shifting styles, all with total assurance, all in smashing fashion. She is a winner.

Her repertoire on Saturday, which she titled “Songs without Words,” was wide and varied.  She began the recital with Marcel Grandjany, the legendary French-born American harpist, a smashing performance of his “Rhapsodie,” which allows harp and harpist a world of opportunities to shape beauty.  She ended with “Variations on a Theme in the Ancient Style,” by another legendary French-born American, Carlos Salzedo, a piece that requires every possible skill to realize and which Levin certainly realized, so much so that the audience with enthusiastic applause begged for an encore. She responded generously with Franz Liszt’s “The Nightingale,” as transcribed for harp by still another legend, the French harpist and composer Henriette Renie.

In between, one heard a new work of Impressionistic nature, “Nebula Blooming,” by the Japanese composer Sayo Kosugi; Bach’s elegant French Suite Number 5; a subtle Spanish Dance Number 1 by Enrique Granados and a fiery and famous one by Manuel de Falla, the Number 1 from “La Vida Breve;” Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Harp, and Liszt’s “Un Sospiro” (again in a Renie transcription). Levin played from peak to peak, exhibiting technical wizardry and artistic intuition throughout.


© Herald Times 2014

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