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Marie-Martin MARCEL (1769-1861)
Nocturne en quintetto Op. 14 [17:08]
Deux trios sur des thèmes de Mozart [9:20]
Nouvelle grande sonate Op. 31 [28:44]
Rachel Talitman (harp); Benjamin Braude (violin); Myriam Czaja (violin); Nathan Braude (viola); Gilad Kaplanski (cello)
recording dates and venues not stated
HARP AND COMPANY CD505012 [55:12] 


Experience Classicsonline

The first instalment in the works of the French Harp School from label Harp & Company, is, fittingly, of the works of the Vicomte de Marie-Martin Marcel, who founded the School. According to the helpful liner-notes, Marcel’s students included other influential harp instructors for
London’s Royal Academy and the Paris Conservatoire. An early adept at the harp, Marcel found, in his early teens, that he would do just as well to instruct himself. Out of the country during the Revolution, his properties were seized. Considered by the government an absentee, his time trying to get re-entry into France was spent in England, where he achieved some prominence. All ended well — his properties in France were returned to him and he was able to resume his career in his native country. 

The opening Nocturne for harp and string quartet is his only piece for such an ensemble. It begins as a sort of dreamy barcarolle, with the strings providing snatches of thematic material as the harp slowly arpeggiates. The strings give way for the proper entrance of the harp. The lines of the opening movement are clean and the piece overall has a wonderful sense of poise and balance. The Minuetto movement that follows reminds one of the Handel Op. 4 No. 6, if not in the overall instrumental forces, then in the general tone of the movement. The final Rondo, however, requires a good deal more from the harpist than the Handel, with constant movement, all while demanding utmost clarity. The piece is light on its feet, and shuns heavy-handedness as well. Rachel Talitman strikes a perfect balance with the ensemble. 

The first of the two Trios, based on themes by Mozart, starts with a delightfully graceful adaptation of the Andante movement of K542, followed by the famous alla Turca movement from the Piano Sonata No. 11, K331. The version found here on this disc doesn’t achieve quite the vibrancy of the original in its coda, but remains an immensely enjoyable listen. 

The second trio borrows exclusively from Mozart’s chamber music, with an opening Adagio based on the slow movement of the K 254 piano trio, with the harp taking the keyboard role, followed by a variations movement based on K 481. What strikes the listener in both movements is the poise of the adaptation — the first trio has the greatest immediate appeal, but the second — especially the variation movement — shows wonderful sensitivity to the original and has been a favourite of this reviewer for repeated listening. 

Closing out the disc is the Grande Sonate for unaccompanied harp, which, like the Op. 14 Nocturne, opens with a slow introductory adagio, wonderfully played by Talitman, followed by an allegro movement with technical demands aplenty. As with the other pieces on this disc, the writing and the playing never fail to delight. One of the illustrations in the book is of the title page of the duets, which also evidently included a duet for two performers on one harp. Perhaps that will show up on volume two. As for this reviewer, what is on this disc is certainly enough to have me looking forward to future releases. Other intriguing releases of harp repertoire can be found on their website.

David Blomenberg



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