"Exploiting Hahn's bracing dexterity with rapid alternation of bowed and pizzicato passages was Tina Davidson's Blue Curve of the Earth with a lovely lyrical final section."
"Tina Davidson's Blue Curve made good use of pizzicati and rhythm and opened into a wiry, tense theme that added another layer of color to a vivid, engaging piece by this expert American composer."
"Pennsylvania composer Tina Davidson's Blue Curve of the Earth, in which angular left-hand plucking and right-hand pizzicatos give birth to a flowing, continuous passage as unbroken as an arch through space."
It Is My Heart SingingBack to top
"Tina Davidson's new compact disc, It is My Heart Singing, is emotional generous, genuinely uplifting music. Those who know Terry Riley's post-minimalist string quartets will be particularly at home with Davidson. Her music is less trippy, and ostinato more vigorous and, in general, more concentrated with distinctly American syncopation and density of events. Davidson composes in discrete modules that are strung together with great intuition; she creates a continuous flow, which means the music feel less like a journey and more like a meditation.
"Most fascinating is the triple string quartet, Paper, Glass, heard here in an overdubbed version by the excellent Cassatt Quartet: Davidson has a field day with the rich possibilities of texture. What all this has to do with paper, glass, string and wood of the title is beyond me. But I love the music too much to care."
PearlBack to top
"It is inspiring to know that the superb music, drama, and performance of modern opera can thrive despite those forces which try to bring it down.
Pearl, an opera in two acts with music by Tina Davidson and libretto by Eva Davidson, who adapted Mary Gordon's novel for the libretto, offers a clear picture of the central conflict on which the opera's two acts focus. The scenes reveal a moving drama based on political and religious strife in Ireland and a young American student's deep involvement in it, so much so that she plans to martyr herself to the cause of the religious freedom denied to the people with whom she, by inclination shy and removed from such struggles, has come to identify herself.
The great artistic strength of these exciting works, presented as works in progress under the aegis of Long Leaf Opera, does indeed give one hope for opera's continued existence."
Hymn of the UniverseBack to top
"When it comes to beautifully crafted works that speak freshly through fundamentally familiar idioms, Tina Davidson is as persuasive as they come. The Hymn of the Universe, which received its East Coast premiere in this concert at Goucher, is instantly appealing.
Davidson subtly sets all the material to music that flows with a lyrical gracefulness. The choral writing is clean, clear and immediately communicative. The accompaniment of English horn, string orchestra (originally string quartet) and marimba surrounds the vocal lines with a distinctively subtle patina. Much of the harmonic and rhythmic motion is achieved by gently alternating chords a short distance apart, in a manner that has a hint of minimalism about it. In the closing passages, the choral writing reaches a radiant height, here enhanced by a gradual reduction of lighting in the theater so that the last sounds resonated in a suggestion of cosmic darkness.
Davidson was on hand to enjoy the hearty standing ovation that followed a polished performance conducted with obvious commitment by Tom Hall."
Summer of the SwansBack to top
"Family relationships are a central concern for Marietta composer Tina Davidson, who, with her sister Eva Davidson, has created an opera for children based on the award-winning children's book Summer of the Swans. The work, a joint production of the Central Pennsylvania Youth Opera and Capitol Opera Harrisburg, had its world premiere this weekend in Harrisburg.
'At the heart of my endeavor as a composer is to continue to look at the greatest love affair that we really have, and that's with our children,' Davidson says. Summer of the Swans concerns a young girl and her relationship with her mentally challenged brother Charlie, who disappears one day while the children are watching swans at a lake. A cast of three singers, plus children's chorus and other actors performed.
The Lyric Opera of Kansas City suggested to Davidson the idea of developing the novel "Summer of the Swans," by Betsy Byers, as an opera for kids. 'I loved the coming-of-age story,' says Davidson. 'I am really interested in how people come to an understanding of difference, how they can allow their love to speak.'"
They Come DancingBack to top
"Davidson has a fine ear for instrumental possibilities and a harmonic palette that is non-abrasive without being bland.They Come Dancing begins with near-silence -- a shimmering murmur built from the tapping of fingers on strings and the toneless blowing of air through wind instruments -- and grows very gradually into an frenetic, mixed-meter dance."
Celestial TurningBack to top
"Music sometimes arrives in your life with an air of inevitability. You know you're hearing something for the first time, but your brain seems to have been secretly waiting for it. The ultimate, paradoxical effect is that of a musical homecoming with a total stranger, which happened at the premiere of Tina Davidson's new string orchestra work, Celestial Turning, at Orchestra 2001's Monday concert at the Kimmel Center.
This composer works extensively in special-music programs for inner-city schools while fulfilling commissions for the likes of the National Symphony Orchestra. Her pieces often have ethereal titles and an underlying motion you'd characterize as restless, were it not so tension-free. Similarly, Celestial Turning has a bedrock of quasi-minimalist cells of repeated melody and rhythm, over which terse gestures and graceful glissando's unfold ... the music's sharp-focused clarity of vision gives it a sense of expressive imperative - the piece says this is the way it had to be."
Beyond the Blue HorizonBack to top
"Leonard Slatkin led the orchestra in a specially commissioned 'encore' by the gifted Tina Davidson - Beyond the Blue Horizon. It is a lovely work - lively, jostling, somehow aquatic and orchestrated with clarity and precision."
Paper, Glass, String and WoodBack to top
"It is not enough that Tina Davidson goes into high schools and community centers and coaxes composition out of unsuspecting victims. She also remains a composer with a consistently persuasive voice of her own.
For Paper, Glass, String & Wood, premiered at the Fleisher Art Memorial, Davidson employed not only a professional string quartet, but two others comprised of students from Settlement Music School and The Girard Music program. The idea was for the fledglings to play elbow-to-elbow with the pros, gaining experience in real music, and as more than one optimist has put it, perhaps consider music as a career option. Such acts of altruism rarely succeed in their dual mission. They mostly achieve their social goal; it's the real-music part that gets lost in the process.
But that's where Paper, Glass, String & Wood is different. It is real music, with structure, mood, novelty, and harmonic sophistication - with haunting melodies that grow out of complex, repetitive rhythms."
Bleached Thread, Sister ThreadBack to top
"In Bleached Thread, Sister Thread, written for the Mendelssohn String Quartet (and performed magnificently by them on this disc), Davidson's stimulus is a poem by her sister, Eva, about the threads that bind relationships together. From this she creates, in music, 'a dark rich fabric full of color and boundless energy' about 'life and relationships renewed.' At the conclusion 'the piece lifts off, detaches from the earth and ascends in a glowing circular fashion.' Davidson's own poetic imagery works on our imaginations because it is allied with a tremendously solid composition. The energy and vitality of Bleached Thread, Sister Thread create a sense of journey so palpable and persuasive that the music and poetry flow together in one unified experience."
"The highlight of this concert of 'Music of a New Century' was the cantata, River of Love, River of Light (1998) by Tina Davidson. Based on Marion texts, this is an exploration of the Virgin of Guadeloupe with strongly defined rhythms and repetitions; quickness of the opening and closing phrases contrast with deliberation, in the middle repetition in Latin is a totally different melody, sensual feeling and effect. The emotional center of this piece is the High Seas section: piano, marimba and cello create a seductive rolling rhythm of strong turbulence and wind, as 'our ship flounders in the waves; the waters enter into our souls.' The fugal Alleluia movement rises to a peak in a burst of light as 'two realms become one.' The final section of Hopkins text is 'The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe,' as the instruments set a rushing, tumbling sound matching the color of the text."
The Delight of AngelsBack to top
The Delight of Angels for string quartet is "a state replete with sweet tunes layered among the strings, fragments that circle in and out of consciousness, sustaining slender, shimmering textures."
"Davidson's River of Love, River of Light sets seven texts about the Virgin Mary from sources as varied as Hildegard von Bingen, 16th century translations of Aztec sources, and a poem of Gerald Manley Hopkins. Her musical voice changed with each. A short text by Sor Juana with marimba, tumbled happily with what sounded like a Latin beat, while a meditation by Hildegard echoed with the open intervals of medieval chant. Davidson's spare use of instruments added weight to her ideas. The harp-like marimba writing in 'Hear Me, Hear Me,' the dance rhythms in 'Tla ya,' and the English horn solo in the final section intensified and clarified the mood of each. Her medieval evocation in 'Antiphon for the Virgin' and the nervous layers of choral writing in the 'Alleluia' set those above the others."
Billy and ZeldaBack to top
"Like an engrossing thriller, Tina Davidson's chamber opera Billy and Zelda explores the mystery surrounding two deaths. Premiered by OperaDelaware, the work enthralled the audience. Davidson intertwines the tragic story of a little girl accidentally abandoned in the snow by her mother and a young man whose life is cut short in war. More reflective than dramatic, Billy and Zelda unlocks family secrets as a narrator and neighbor uncover long-suppressed memories. The solo cello underlines the emotional shifts in the narration of Zelda's story, and assumes a strong dramatic presence in the haunting reenactment of her death. Unfolding in a series of poems, the death of Billy reaches a musical climax in the parents' anguished outburst over the loss of their son, before ending gently in an ensemble lullaby of transfiguring beauty."
Billy and ZeldaBack to top
"Capping composer Tina Davidson's three-year residency, OperaDelaware enlivened the world premiere of her fascinating chamber opera, Billy and Zelda. This intimate piece, set to lyrics and script by the composer's sisters, Eva and Lâle Davidson transfixed the audience seated on the stage of the Grand Opera House.
"These quiet pieces draw subtly shaded music from Davidson, whose score is filled with gracious melodies, tinged with tender sadness. Zelda's haunting death narrative is punctuated by abrasive musical effects improvised by the cellist. Billy unfolds in a series of poems, sung in aria and ensemble. Only a few spoken exchanges - there are no recitatives - interrupt the lyrical progress of the piece. Billy reaches a musical climax in the parents' grief-stricken outbursts that find resolution in the lullaby for ensemble voices, whose lines float serenely over the strings."
"A disc from CRI titled I Hear the Mermaids Singing - music by Philadelphia-based composer Tina Davidson - has given particular pleasure. Davidson's style is eclectic; each of her pieces (and there are six on her disc) has an individual sound, yet they all share certain characteristics. Her music is primarily lyrical and concerned as much with creating atmosphere as with constructing solid musical structures.
Bleached Thread, Sister ThreadBack to top
"The opening work on the disc,Transparent Victims (1987), is for multiple saxophones - all played here by Marshall Taylor, an over-dubbing virtuoso. Davidson has created accessible music of real substance. The other works on Davidson's disc are equally effective, particularly Bleached Thread, Sister Thread, played with intense commitment by the Mendelssohn String Quartet."
"Tina Davidson's new collection of works, entitled I Hear the Mermaids Singing, grapples with profundity. While listening to Davidson's compositions I sense that incandescent glimmer - the fleeting 'why?' of music. Davidson knows why - you can hear it. Her music is primal. Ostinati knock calmly at the door, and thirds resound like emergency vehicle horns sans the usual impatience and anger. What remains are delightful sounds - sounds that make us human and resound in the universe. If these words sound lofty, it is the result of listening to this otherworldly music."
They Come DancingBack to top
"The freshest piece here was They Come Dancing, a 15 minute toccata written by Tina Davidson. Ms Davidson has a vivid ear for harmony and orchestral colors. Over sustained pedal tones and quietly pulsating bass patterns, diffuse harmonies - like out-of-focus Copland chords - sound forth and dance."
Tina DavidsonBack to top
"Tina Davidson is the very model of a post minimalist composer. That is not to say that her music is formulaic; indeed, it bespeaks a real artistic personality, creating a sensuous texture that can gradually move in a variety of directions - either to a more traditionally tonal gesture or to more rhythmically propulsive sections. What distinguishes this music most for me is not so much this particular sound (seductive as it is) as the manner in which Davidson shapes the telling details within the texture. She has a gift to listen very closely to the microscopic moments in her music and imbue them with real individuality and substance."
As one of the top ten recordings, "The best of 1996 in music; Tina Davidson I Hear the Mermaids Singing (CRI Emergency): a bunch of fine shorter works by the contemporary muse of Philadelphia. As always with Davidson, the material is accessible without ever being condescending."
It is My Heart SingingBack to top
It is My Heart Singing opens with a wailing, lyrical violin melody - the kind of slightly mournful tune you might expect to find wafting across a dusty Turkish town. Commissioned by the music festival, the work is a continuous, meditative swath of sound. String voices fold in and out, repeating undulating rhythms that energize the texture. It is moody and not without mysticism."
Over Salt RiverBack to top
"Tina Davidson's Over Salt River formed the emotional heart of the AIDS Songbook concert. The work begins as a lament, but gradually brightens and rises up the scale. This song became a soaring affirmation of the wonder and beauty of life in the face of death."
Fire on the MountainBack to top
"Tina Davidson's Fire on the Mountain was commissioned by the Network for New Music, and the network got its money's worth, whatever the cost. Scored for marimba, vibes, and prepared piano, the piece is rhythmically driving, with fascinatingly simple yet lovely harmonic changes. Davidson prepared the piano by inserting screws and erasers into the string. It was intriguing to compare the sound of eraser-thwarted notes and that of the marimba. The percussionists manipulated the sounds of their instruments by hitting them with different implements - rubber mallets, soft mallets, and the hard-edged wooden sticks.
"But in Davidson's case, the methods were not important; her music would be just as pleasurable if it were scored for a full orchestra or piano alone. The composer makes music satisfying by carefully managing tension and release; it's being able to bring a sense of beauty and emotion to a strict organizational structure, a rarity in any age."
Fire on the MountainBack to top
"Tina Davidson's Cassandra Sings was more interesting. This is a solemn ambitious work that begins with a wailing cadenza for the cello and gradually builds into a knotty complexity. Eventually all devolves into chaos...but the spare, beautiful choral-like melody that follows made for an effective emotional climax."
Cassandra SingsBack to top
"Tina Davidson's Cassandra Sings provides a transitional piece that bridges the avant-garde with tradition. Her music builds to a climax of tremendous richness, throwing out a soundscape that would seem to be much greater than merely four instruments can produce. An extended coda achieves a resolution of sublime dimensions."
Cassandra SingsBack to top
"Tina Davidson's Cassandra Sings is the kind of piece you want to spend some time with. The emotionally intense cello solo at the beginning, belts out a message with a melody very much like a human voice bending under strain and stress. The other instruments sit idly, mute with indifference. Slowly, the other voices rise and overtake her message with dissent. The second half of the piece is a lament. But the mournful music sends a dramatic message - one of hope. Musically the composer's work has a masterly and sensitive command of texture and a wealth of memorable melodies."
LullabyBack to top
"And the no-school school declared itself with Tina Davidson's Lullaby, a gorgeously gentle piece for variable solo instrument - in this case violin - and an accompanying group that wraps the solo lines in echoes and shadows."
LullabyBack to top
"The increasingly prominent composer Tina Davidson was represented by a sad, dreamy Lullaby, which may be performed by a wide variety of different forces. It proved entirely successful in the Wolpe instrumentation, with saxophonist sounding particularly beautiful in the vocally-conceived melodic line."
Blood Memory: A Long Quiet After the CallBack to top
"Blood Memory: A Long Quiet After the Call for cello and orchestra is deliciously lyrical, dominated by strings throughout most sections, almost a cello concerto in feel, opening with a round, sensual cello solo. I kept liking the piece more with each turn, 'til I fell in love with it."
BlessingsBack to top
Blessings (Sacred Space) for alto saxophone and full orchestra was "written for saxophone virtuoso Marshall Taylor. The piece incorporated a primordial, dissonant mutter developed in percussion and bass. Against that, the saxophone plays long low tones, and the player is asked to improvise. It grows towards a clear, bright unison before the piece seems to open into a broadly lyrical, but rhythmically urgent affirmation. The work showed its distinct profile and its innovative sounds."
Woman DreamingBack to top
"Woman Dreaming [is] a vividly descriptive piece in which darkness gradually gives way to enlightenment. The transparency of the writing enables Davidson's journey from mysterious, static phrases to nostalgic, jazzy and shimmering statements to come across with crystalline clarity. This is a tightly-knit work in which each instrumental strand adds resonance to the overall structure. Davidson has devised episodes that are succinct and telling. The colors and moods, animated at times by frisky rhythms, are beautifully deployed."
Star MythsBack to top
"My own favorite was probably Tina Davidson's Star Myths, which starts out with serene detached notes - like a science fiction movie maker's vision of space - and ends up capturing the intensity of the real thing."
DancersBack to top
"Davidson has written music that cries out to be choreographed. In a piquant performance by Reading Symphony Orchestra, Dancers conjured up whirling ghosts with weird, eerie screeches, percussion, and even vocal effects. Davidson's atonal melodies, syncopated rhythms, and a texture woven of jazz, fanfares, and abrupt changes of timbre, draw the listener into a dream space where there is no predicting what will happen next."
Two Beasts from the Forest of Imaginary BeingsBack to top
"Two Beasts from the Forest of Imaginary Beings is a phenomenal work!"
Seven Macabre SongsBack to top
"The music of Tina Davidson is making it commercial-disc debut in the recording of the complete Seven Macabre Songs (1979). Based on seven grossly sardonic - yes, macabre - poems by Howard Nemerov, each of Davidson's programmatic pieces is intended to be a poem as well, created, as Davidson says, with a 'tightness, a scarceness of development and the intensity of line inherent in a poem.' But tightness gives a false impression of the extroverted spirit of these unique songs. Sound effects such as forearm rolls, harmonics, and the lucking and strumming of the inner strings create weird and wonderful images - a lot of haunting, fun exhibitionism."
Commissioned for the 100th anniversary of the Fleisher Art Memorial, River of Love, River of Lightby Tina Davidson was inspired by her interest in the Virgin Mary of Guadeloupe, and is performed with cello, clarinet, and percussion. The texts of diverse origins in English, Latin and the Aztec language of Nahua, bring a sense of mystery and the exotic; dramatic use of vibraphone and percussion in High Seas contrasts with quiet pleas for the Virgin that remain primarily a capella and text-oriented pieces. The interlude introducing The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe is itself a breath of fresh air; the colorful and jaggedly rhythmic text by Gerard Manley Hopkins is well-matched by Davidson's swelling melody, flowing smoothly with the text's alliterations and repetitions."
Paper, Glass, String and WoodBack to top
This concert was a celebration of a variety of themes, starting with the culmination of Tina Davidson's three-year composer residency at Fleisher. The West Philadelphia composer took the occasion to celebrate the values of her own work, which stresses musical education, participation and dissemination. Paper, Glass, String and Wood is scored for three string quartets. It can also be played by one, two or any combination of three string quartets. The purpose, as demonstrated this afternoon, is to create an ensemble for musicians of different abilities, allowing students to play side by side with pros.
Davidson is unabashed about the directly metaphorical quality of this music, but her sincere and effusive style prevents the music from sounding hackneyed. All twelve players joined in "Paper," in which a dream-like state is evoked with lush, sinewy texture, with a broad, hymn-like section in the middle. "Glass," played by the pros alone, is jagged, edgy, bright.
"String" is a tapestry of woven harmonies. There was a particularly touching moment when four violins only played, and the student fiddlers, Ben Shute and Alex Seyfried, seemed aglow with inspiration. The work concludes with "Wood," symbolizing building, beginning with low strings suggesting the laying in of a building foundation.
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