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The Romantic Harp
Grandjany Pierne Faure de Falla Salzedo Rota
The importance of France in late romantic harprepertoire will be evident from the repertoire included inthe present recording, culminating in the Ballade of thegreat French harpist Carlos Salzedo, who went on todevelop a wide range of possible techniques andsonorities. It was largely through the work of Frenchperformers and teachers that the instrument developedfrom an elegant salon appurtenance to an essentialfeature of the modern orchestra, with an independentand characteristic repertoire of its own.
Born in Paris in 1891, the harpist Marcel Grandjanyhad his early musical training with a relative, JulietteGeorges Grandjany, winning a scholarship at the age ofeight to study the harp with Henriette Renie. A year laterhe started classes of solf?¿ge at the Conservatoire, where,from 1902 until 1910, he was a pupil of AlphonseHasselmans. He made his Paris debut with the ConcertsLamoureux Orchestra in 1909, and after a relativelybrief period of military service was from 1915 to 1918organist and choirmaster at the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. Hisconnection with America came with a period of fourteenyears as a teacher at the American Conservatoire atFontainebleau, and, after his London debut in 1922, hisfirst appearance in New York two years later.
He toured widely in Europe and North America andwas co-founder of the Quintette Instrumental de Paris,for which composers such as Vincent d'Indy and AlbertRoussel wrote works. From 1936 he made his home inAmerica, taking out American citizenship in 1945. Hetaught at the Manhattan School and from 1938 at theJuilliard School as well as for some time also inMontreal. Distinguished as a performer and as a teacher,he also wrote a quantity of music for the harp, all of itwell suited to the instrument, including originalcompositions and transcriptions. His Fantaisie on aTheme of Haydn, Op. 31, an introduction, theme andfive variations, was published in 1953.
Marcel Tournier was also a pupil of Hasselmans atthe Paris Conservatoire. One of the five sons of a Parisluthier, like his brothers he followed his father's demandthat all should learn a string instrument, entering theConservatoire at the age of sixteen. He studied harmony,counterpoint and composition with Lenepvu, Caussadeand Widor respectively, and won the second Prix deRome in 1909. He succeeded Hasselmans at theConservatoire in 1912, continuing there until 1948,when he was succeeded by Lily Laskine. He had astrong influence as a teacher, while his compositions forthe harp make a significant addition to the repertoire ofthe instrument. His impressionistic Vers la source dansle bois (Towards the fountain in the wood) was writtenin 1922.
Precocious as a composer, with an oratorio firstperformed when he was twelve, Nino Rota studied at theMilan Conservatory, thereafter taking private lessonsfirst with Ildebrando Pizzetti and then with AlfredoCasella. His career brought a long association with BariConservatory, of which he was appointed director in1950. A versatile composer, he wrote some eighty filmscores, including collaborations with Fellini, Zeffirelliand Visconti, and the score for Coppola's TheGodfather. His Sarabanda e toccata for harp, its neoclassicalform suggested in its title, was written in 1945,three years before his concerto for the instrument. TheSarabande moves from a chordal opening to a feersection, while the Toccata suggests the musicallanguage of Poulenc.
A pupil of Jules Massenet and of Cesar Franck at theParis Conservatoire, Gabriel Pierne succeeded the latteras organist at Ste Clotilde, later distinguishing himself asa conductor, notably as deputy and then successor toEdouard Colonne at the Concerts Colonne. HisImpromptu-caprice, a well-known showpiece for theharp, dates from 1887. It starts with a cadenza, beforethe introduction of a melody of particular charm, whichis to return in conclusion, after a livelier Bolero at theheart of the work.
The first Spanish Dance from Manuel de Falla'sopera La vida breve has lent itself to a variety ofarrangements, whether for violin or guitar. It is perhapseven more effective in a harp transcription that adds awider range of sonorities. The opera itself, finally recastin two acts, was first staged in Nice in 1913, when thereseemed no immediate prospect of performance in Spain,where it had, in 1905, been awarded first prize in acompetition for Spanish opera. The dance is heard in thesecond act at the wedding of Paco and Carmela, after theformer's betrayal of the young gypsy girl Salud, who, inthe final scene, is to die at his feet.
The French composer Gabriel Faure studied at theEcole Niedermeyer in Paris, where, by good fortune, hemet Saint-Sa?½ns, who was then teaching the piano at theschool, and was later his deputy organist at theMadeleine. He eventually secured a position at the ParisConservatoire, of which he became director in 1905.
Faure's musical language bridged a gap between theromanticism of the nineteenth century and the world ofmusic that had appeared with the new century,developing and evolving, but retaining its ownfundamental characteristics. His harmonic idiom, withits subtle changes of tonality and his gift for melody, iscombined with an understanding of the waycontemporary innovations might be used in a mannercompletely his own. He made an unforgettablecontribution to French song repertoire, and his UneCh?ótelaine en sa tour ..., Op. 110, for harp, written in1918 for the harpist Micheline Kahn, is derived from asetting of a poem from Verlaine's La bonne chanson.
The song, Une Sainte en son aureole (A Saint in herhalo) continues with a second line that gives the harppiece its title, the character of the work summarised inthe following lines Tout ce que contient la parole /Humaine de gr?óce et d'amour. Faure's Impromptu,Op. 86, also known in a version for piano, was originallywritten in 1904 for harp as a morceau de concours forthe Conservatoire.
The Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy haswon a considerable reputation and a number ofimportant awards in her own country and in the UnitedStates. Her concerto for harp and orchestra And then atnight I paint the stars ..., its title taken from a letter ofVincent Van Gogh to his brother, was commissioned bythe Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the TorontoSymphony Orchestra to mark the retirement of JudyLoman as principal harpist and is dedicated to her. Itsthird movement, Scintillation, a title earlier familiarfrom Salzedo, is in the form of a cadenza that can beheard as a piece by itself, in its original context leadingto the final movement of the work, Morning Sky.
A musician of unusual precocity, Sergey Prokofievcompleted his composition studies at the St PetersburgConservatory in 1909, continuing there in the pianoclass of Anna Esipova, pupil and former wife ofLeschetizky. It was in these years, from 1906 to 1913,that he wrote a set of ten piano pieces, the seventh ofwhich, Prelude, was dedicated to his fellow-student, theharpist Eleanora Damskaya. The Harp Prelude easilylends itself to transcription for the harp itself, withromantic cascades of notes in music that lacks anythingof Prokofiev's frequent astringency.
A graduate in piano and harp from the ParisConservatoire, Carlos Salzedo moved to New York in1909, serving initially as principal harpist in theMetropolitan Opera Orchestra under Toscanini. He wasactive in the promotion of new music, established theharp department at the Curtis Institute and taught at theJuilliard School. As a composer and performer heexercised a strong influence on harp performance,exploring the possibilities of the instrument and itsvaried timbres. His Ballade, a standard virtuoso elementin modern harp repertoire, is one of a set of three piecespublished in 1913, and, as a re