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French Concertos for the Harp
Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937)
Concert Piece in G flat Op. 39
François-Adrien BOÏELDIEU (1775-1834)
Concerto in C Op. 82

Allegro brillante
Andante lento
Rondo: Allegro agitato
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Concert Piece in G Op. 154
Henriette RENIÉ (1875-1956)
Concerto in C minor (premiere recording)

Allegro risoluto
Allegro con fuoco
Xavier de Maistre (harp)
Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie/Shao-Chia Lü
Recorded in Görreshaus 27 November to 1 December 2001
CLAVES CD 50 - 2206 [67.33]
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This disc constitutes a varied diet of four works for the harp covering 120 years, going back to 1800 in the case of Boïeldieu, then jumping a century on to Renié in 1901, Pierné in 1903, and Saint-Saëns in 1919. The first two works are full of grace and charm, not music that sets the world alight, but very tuneful and relaxing. In 1829 Berlioz took the instrument into more dramatic territory with his Symphonie fantastique in which two of the instruments feature in Le Bal. The finale of Boïeldieuís concerto (track 4) seems to sum up the style of what came before. De Maistre plays deftly and with great delicacy and the orchestra bursts forth as if in frustration at the ritornelli, but despite its limited range of invention itís all very stylishly presented. Piernéís concert piece falls into that trap of the single-movement works, too short to programme at thirteen minutes and not enough room for manoeuvre when it comes to variety. It is good salon music at best. Saint-Saëns did much the same but had the maturity to pack all the detail in (he had only a couple of years to live in his 86 years). For the widest variety of what the harp can do this is the work (track 5, 2í 00") which best demonstrates its flexibility of tonal colour and dynamic range, quite the quietest pp you will ever hear. Of the four composers featured here only Henriette Renié was herself a harpist, taking first prize in the instrument at the age of twelve at the Paris Conservatoire. Unsurprisingly this is the most attractive of the compositions featured here, showing the instrumentís widely varied potential. Itís an interesting work, not as advanced as one would expect of someone who was an exact contemporary of Ravel, too firmly embedded in the 19th century, but it makes an interesting addition to the harp repertoire, particularly its winsome Adagio (track 7), though the finale is weak and disappointing. The bookletís essay states that this is a first recording, though this is not reiterated on the box.

Xavier De Maistre is not only a trained political scientist and economist, but also happens to be the harpist of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and a fine soloist of considerable experience in Europe. He is ably supported by the Koblenz-based Rheinische Philharmonie, who do their best for the limited musical content of these four compositions.

Christopher Fifield



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Concert Piece in G-flat major for Harp Op.39

Concerto in C major for Harp Op.82

Allegro brillante
Andante lento
Rondo: Allegro Agitato

Concert Piece in G major for Harp Op.154

Concerto in C minor for Harp and Orchestra

Allegro risoluto
Allegro con fuoco

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