Do you remember?
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Harp: range & pedals
What not to do:-
A pedalling nightmare!
Homer nods: –
Even the good and great can make mistakes. Here’s Richard Strauss writing for harp in Don Juan – the groups of four in the left hand are fine but the quintuplets that follow for the right hand are straightforwardly impossible (and don’t go thinking he’s the only one – Wagner’s harp parts are justly notorious!)
To start at a specific movement just click on its title.
Debussy was canny: commissioned by the instrument manufacturers Pleyel for a piece to showcase their new cross-strung chromatic harp (look no pedals!) he wrote his Danses Sacrée et Profane so that they were playable, for the most part, on the pedal instrument as well, as in the performance below. Pleyel’s hope of breaking Erard’s monopoly on harp making was a flop and the pedal harp is very much still with us. (This ‘Battle of the Harps’ also resulted in Erards’ commissioning Ravel’s Introduction et Allegro!)
Chanson dans la nuit: a short piece by harp virtuoso/composer Carlos Salzedo. From Æolian Flux (aka glissando) to Xylophonic sounds, Salzedo explored and catalogued the brilliant prismatic sound world of the instrument.
André Caplet was a friend and sometime amanuensis of Debussy’s. Conte Fantastique is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s Mask of the Red Death. It’s not usually done with a narrator but it certainly seems to work – listen to how well the harp does creepy!
Last week we heard from Mozart’s father; here’s the wunderkind himself in Concerto for Flute and Harp in C K. 299, a commissioned work written in Paris for the flute playing duc de Guînes and his harpist daughter.
In contrast, a concerto for solo harp by the Argentinian composer, Alberto Ginastera which includes many of the techniques pioneered by Salzedo (see above). You can detect the influence of Latin American folk music and it’s also a pretty good piece!
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