Great technique is a given today, but even on that sliding scale harpist Emily Levin was a standout. The new principal harpist of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra this season, Levin, in Grandjany’s Rhapsodie pour la harpe, drew nuanced timbres and textures while making the mechanics of her instrument disappear.
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. Levin played from peak to peak, exhibiting technical wizardry and artistic intuition throughout.
The most striking effect, intended to evoke the voice of the Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum (1898-1975) and heard at the outset, is the harpist’s haunting vocalization of a drooping semitone through cupped hands into the instrument’s soundboard. Emily Levin sang it well and played beautifully throughout.
The opening performance set the stage, with an exquisitely rendered Rhapsodie pour la harpe, music by Marcel Grandjany, presented by Emily Levin. A well-played harp is naturally delicate and tonally alluring, certainly the case with Levin’s presentation, but she enhanced these qualities with a measured sense of pacing that gave the music a palpably theatrical feeling.
...straightforwardly communicative, emotionally intense expression...
I entered a bit skeptical of a program devoted entirely to an instrument with an inherently limited timbrel and dynamic range, and left as a new fan of this superb new ensemble [Dallas Harp Quartet], the members of which demonstrated not only their own wide range of musicianship, but the expressive versatility of their chosen instrument.