What marks this disc
out from the tens of other harp concert
discs? For a start it is generous. Look
at the timing. More significantly we
have here a number of works that are
not all that common on disc. Only the
Boieldieu is easily found elsewhere.
The Pierné, and Saint-Saëns
are unusual items but the Renié
concerto here has its world premiere
Renié was a
celebrated harpist although of a generation
that just missed the fame that came
with recordings on the international
stage from the 1950s onwards. She died
in 1956 with her life work in teaching
reflected in the publication of her
‘Complete Method’ in 1946. She was a
pupil of the Belgian harpist Adolphe
Hasselmans for whom she wrote her only
concerto. This work is in three movements
each warmly romantic (tr. 6 2.03) looking
towards the twentieth century through
Tchaikovskian spectacles rather than
back to Boieldieu's Mozartian classicism.
The second movement shows a wonderful
awareness of impressionism while keeping
its feet firmly in Saint-Saëns
territory. De Maistre's lucid tone matches
the clarity and opulence of the writing.
Required listening for anyone who would
like a slightly Slav-toned impressionistic
concerto - opulent yet with no surrender
The Boieldieu is a
lovely work and an urgent must-buy for
the many admirers of Haydn and Mozart.
The composer was a son of Rouen (where
one of the Seine bridges bears his name).
The Mozartian business of the concerto
contrasts with the grave melancholy
of the middle movement which proceeds
in character with the equivalent adagios
of Mozart's piano concertos 23, 24 and
27. The final movement is enchanting;
all the more so when de Maistre plays
with such attention to the quieter dynamics.
Two concertos and two
concert pieces. For a work written in
1919 the Saint-Saens is more classically
inclined but at first and at the end
looks towards Egmont. A gracious
tune used at 2.28 breaks the spell.
This tune is part Holst (I love my
love) and part Slav. The music is
of a piece with the Renié. The
other Concert Piece is the one by Pierné.
This is perhaps the most modern (in
this context the most impressionistic)
of the four. It sometimes adopts a Tchaikovskian
manner and also dabbles Franck-like
treatments. He succeeded Franck as organist
at Sainte Clotilde.
This is not quite the
pretty-pretty assemblage you might have
expected. Even the Boieldieu might surprise
you with the Mozartian profundity of
its middle movement. A real rarity in
the shape of the valuable Renié
as well as two imaginative French concert
pieces showing sensitivity to Russian
and Impressionist voices.