American classical guitarist Colin Davin to enliven Bach for Dubai fans
The lack of music composed for classical guitar, according to Colin Davin, is both “a blessing and a curse”.
The solo programme the American virtuoso will perform in Dubai today is defined by its sheer dynamism: pieces are drawn from both ends of music history, with styles that can be polar extremes. This is as much the result of necessity as it is an aesthetic statement.
Each half of the concert will begin with a Bach work, self-transcribed by Davin for guitar, commencing with the baroque master’s Violin Sonata No 3, and returning after the interval with the Cello Suite No 6.
“Bach often transcribed for other instruments,” says Davin, speaking from his home in New York City. “So in a similar vein, it has become tradition in the guitar world to liberally transcribe pretty much any work by Bach we can get our hands on.”
Both pieces date from the early 18th century, while the rest of the programme is devoted to works from the second half of the 20th century – creating a distinct juxtaposition in texture, harmony, mood and approach.
The evening’s opening half will close with 1985’s Clocks, a frantic, frenetic composition that replicates the “off-kilter” drive of ticking timepieces, composed by Grammy-winning American composer Joan Tower.
Davin’s concert programme will close with Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal after John Dowland. Described by the musician as “just one of the real masterpieces of guitar repertoire”, the piece takes the familiar form of variations on a theme but played in reverse – so instead of stating a melody and gradually growing more complicated and oblique, Britten’s composition does the opposite, only revealing the pure, original melody at its close. The melody in question is Dowland’s 1597 song Come, Heavy Sleep – the “sleep” interpreted as a metaphor for the release that comes in death. “I always like to end my concerts with people thinking of death,” says the 29-year-old, who captured his rendition on the 2011 album, Infinite Fabric of Dreams.
Entitled Monuments, this solo programme stands apart from Davin’s many ongoing collaborative projects, including duets with soprano Estelí Gomez and harpist Emily Levin.
Davin began playing guitar at the age of seven, encouraged by his father, an amateur blues player. After hearing a performance by his future tutor, the virtuoso Jason Vieaux, by the age of 10 Davin was set on his future career path as a classical musician – despite flirting briefly with jazz, rock and pop “socially” in his teens.
Those skills come in handy when performing new commissions in contemporary ensembles, which often require a single player to double on banjo and mandolin.
“You have to be able to play anything you can pluck,” Davin says.
In the meantime, straight after Dubai’s concert, Davin will be returning to Kabul for a fourth stint teaching at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. “It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” he says.
• Colin Davin performs at The Fridge, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, today at 8pm, Dh50
Updated: July 12, 2016 04:00 AM