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The Romantic Harp
Marcel GRANDJANY (1891 – 1975) Fantasy on a Theme of Haydn, Op. 31; Marcel TOURNIER (1879 – 1951) Vers la source dans le bois; Nino ROTA (1911 – 1979) Sarabanda and Toccata; Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863 – 1937) Impromptu-Caprice, Op. 9; Manuel de FALLA (1876 – 1946) Spanish Dance No. 1 from ‘La Vida Breve’; Gabriel FAURÉ (1845 – 1924) Une Châtelaine en sa Tour, Op. 110; Impromptu, Op. 86; Kelly-Marie MURPHY (b. 1964) Harp Concerto ‘And then at night I paint the stars’ – III: Scintillation (Cadenza); Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891 – 1953) Prelude in C, Op. 12, No. 7; Carlos SALZÉDO (1885 – 1961) Ballade, Op. 28
Judy Loman (harp)
rec. St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, 13-16 July, 21-23 Aug 2003.
NAXOS 8.554561 [59:25]

There is an earlier disc with Judy Loman, "Harp Showpieces" (Naxos 8.554347 - review), recorded in 1998 and also featuring compositions by the three harpists Marcel Grandjany, Marcel Tournier and Carlos Salzédo. As far as I remember it was well received and I have always liked it a lot, returning to it quite frequently when I want something soothing and off the beaten track. The harp tones are like balsam for a tormented soul – or ear for that matter when contrary to my wishes I have been exposed to noise that some people persist in calling music.

This new disc, which for some reason has had to wait for two years before being released, although entitled "The Romantic Harp" mainly draws on music from the latter part of the Romantic period, much of it written well into the 20th century when new currents were permeating the musical world. Grandjany’s Haydn Fantasy was published as late as 1953 but it definitely looks back to long bygone days and might just as well have been roughly contemporaneous with "Papa" Haydn. It is agreeable lightweight music, easily heard and easily forgotten, but extremely well played. Tournier’s Vers la source dans le bois (Towards the well in the wood), although fairly short is an altogether more substantial piece, held in a more impressionistic vein. It was written in 1922 while Nino Rota some twenty years later composed his Sarabanda and Toccata in a neo-classic manner. It is interesting to note that interest in Rota’s non-film music is growing. Gabriel Pierné’s Impromptu-Caprice is the earliest composition here and charming it certainly is. His compatriot Fauré is the oldest composer on the disc but both his pieces are fairly late compositions. Both were written originally for harp, although Une Châtelaine en sa Tour, written in 1918 for Micheline Kahn, is based on one of his songs and the somewhat earlier Impromptu, Op. 86 certainly written as a harp piece is more often heard in its piano version.

There are two transcriptions here: De Falla’s Spanish Dance No. 1 from his opera La Vida Breve is frequently heard in sundry arrangements, most often I think as a vehicle for virtuoso violinists in Kreisler’s setting. Judy Loman’s version with its wider palette of colours and dynamics comes closer to the original. She manages to integrate the whole orchestra in her lush sound-world. Prokofiev wrote his Prelude before WW1 when he was still a young man, as one of a set of ten piano pieces, but it was dedicated to harpist Eleanora Damskaya and it practically cries out to be transcribed for the harp. This is Prokofiev at his most romantic.

The piece by the Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy is the Cadenza from the Harp Concerto that she wrote in 2002 to mark the retirement of Judy Loman as principal harpist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, a position she had held since 1960. Hearing this virtuosic snippet one can only wish that Naxos would be bold enough to record the whole concerto, why not with the Toronto Symphony?

Finally Carlos Salzédo, Judy Loman’s teacher, who wrote the Ballade in 1913 and dedicated it to his teacher, the legendary Alphonse Hasselmans – Judy Loman certainly belongs to a Royal Line of great harpists! This piece needs a harpist of great virtuosity, and that is what it gets. Judy Loman shows here, and in the rest of the recital, her superior technique and her brilliant musicality, and since the recording was made under the supervision of Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver, whose marvellous guitar recordings I have often hailed in my reviews, there is no doubt that this is a disc that no lover of harp music should miss. Keith Anderson’s booklet notes, from which I have culled some of the background information, are as usual helpful.

Göran Forsling

 

 



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