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
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.