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Marcel TOURNIER (1879 – 1951)
Vers la source dans le bois (1919/22)
Paul HINDEMITH (1895 – 1963)

Harp Sonata (1939)
John CAGE (1912 – 1992)

In a Landscape (1948)
Peggy GLANVILLE-HICKS (1912 – 1990)

Harp Sonata (1951)
Luciano BERIO (born 1925)

Sequenza II (1963)
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913 – 1976)

Suite for Harp Op.83 (1969)
Toru TAKEMITSU (1930 – 1996)

Stanza II (1971)
Paul STANHOPE (born 1969)

The Arch Window (1997)
Marshall McGuire (harp)
Recorded: Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, March 2001
ARTWORKS AW 036 [68:10]



The present release provides a fascinating survey of works for harp composed during the 20th century by composers of hugely different musical horizons. These range from the impressionistic writing often associated with this instrument to the more experimental approach. Moreover, this disc is a generous offering of the well-known as well as of rarely heard pieces; all deserve to be heard.

Tournier’s Vers la source dans le bois is, with his equally popular Au matin, a fine example of French impressionistic writing for harp, whereas Hindemith’s Harp Sonata has deservedly become a 20th Century harp classic, if ever there was one.

On the other hand, Glanville-Hicks’ delightful Harp Sonata written for Nicanor Zabaleta and John Cage’s In a Landscape, originally written for prepared piano, are most welcome novelties. The former is a brilliant, colourful work designed to display its dedicatee’s masterly playing while the latter is John Cage at his most subtle and his most accessible.

Britten’s substantial Suite for Harp Op.83, written for Osian Ellis, has the lion’s share here, and quite deservedly so, for this may be the most important harp work written during the last century. Its short movements cleverly exploit the instrument’s resources to the full and make-up a varied suite of neatly contrasted character pieces capped by a beautiful Welsh hymn (a tribute to the work’s dedicatee).

Berio’s Sequenza II is the least-known of the Sequenza series written all through Berio’s composing career. The earlier pieces of the series were all fairly short technical studies whereas some of the later ones, such as the Sequenza XII for bassoon, are fairly lengthy and substantial works. Apart from a few "new techniques" sparingly used, the Sequenza II is a quite accessible piece of music. Takemitsu’s early Stanza II (1971) also explores some modern techniques and is the most experimental work here though, again, it displays the composer’s customary poetic feeling enhanced here by his limited use of some electronics.

Stanhope’s appropriately colourful The Arch Window is the only Australian work in this collection. This beautifully crafted work might well become a standard in its own right.

This generous, varied and well planned selection deserves much attention for the quality of the music and for McGuire’s immaculate playing. Most welcome indeed.

Hubert Culot


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