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Complete Chamber Music, volume 5
Marcel Grandjany Rhapsodie
Alphonse Hasselmans La Source
John Parry Sonata no 2
Marcel Tournier Images
Henriette Renié Dance des Lutins
Sophia Corri Dussek Sonata
Carlos Salzedo Scintillation
Elias Parish Aldars Introduction, Cadenza & Rondo
Lynn Palmer Classical Suite
John Thomas The Minstrel's Adieu to his Native Land

Judy Loman (harp)
Recordings made in April 1998
Naxos 8.554347 [75:47]
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Judy Loman has been principal harp of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra since 1960 and is regarded as one of North America's foremost performers on, and teachers of, the harp. This fascinating disc, spanning the music of three centuries, provides an authoritative overview of the instrument's development as well as of its solo repertoire. Outside the ranks of harpists, the names of the composers are probably totally unfamiliar (the Dussek was not the composer of piano pieces some of us struggled with in our childhood, but his wife), though some of the pieces may well be: I would not have been able to name the composer of La Source, for instance, but the music was instantly recognisable.

The supreme merit of Loman's performance is her uncanny mastery of every facet of the instrument's timbres, with regular suggestions that it is a piano, harpsichord or guitar to which we are listening, rather than just the harp's characteristic glissandi and près de la table effects. And her clarity of articulation and evenness of touch are no less remarkable. Each of these pieces is a winner, but I particularly enjoyed Grandjany's Rhapsody (1921), an improvisation on a Gregorian theme akin to Tournemire's similarly inspired works, Salzedo's Scintillation (1936), post-Ravel in idiom with a pronounced Latin-American flavour, and The Minstrel's Adieu, whose theme may well have been inspired by Purcell's Dido's Lament.

A further delight of this disc is Julia Seager's accompanying programme booklet, rich in basic information about the harp, its development and repertoire, but spiced with intriguing incidental information: did you know, for instance, that Queen Victoria had a court harpist (John Thomas, appointed in 1871)?

No harpist should be without this disc. I would also recommend it to owners of eating and drinking establishments: if they must have 'background music', they should choose this in preference to the mindless 'pop' they usually serve up.

Performance is faultless and the sound splendid though somewhat larger than life - this is not how one would hear the harp in concert hall or recital room..

Adrian Smith



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