Paul Conway’s Salzedo article
Carlos Salzedo’s name is probably known to many, but I imagine that his music, apart from a couple of little pieces, isn’t. He was a virtuoso harpist, and made his Paris debut aged 18 on both harp and piano. Toscanini invited Salzedo to play at the Metropolitan Opera, in New York, and in 1909 he went to America without knowing a word of English. A few years later Salzedo, flautist Georges Barrère and cellist Paul Kéfer formed the Trio de Lutèce – it was for this group that Salzedo made his masterly arrangements of Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite
and Ravel’s Sonatine
. He was involved in the new music circles in New York, and, with Edgard Varèse, who had emigrated to America in 1915, he co–founded the International Composers Guild which presented the works of the most prominent contemporary composers in concert. Salzedo was recognised as one of the greatest harpists and he was responsible for the creation of a repertoire for his instrument.
His own music is well worthwhile and demands our attention (see reviews by Christopher Thomas: string quartets
). This recital by Alice Giles is a timely reminder of a fine composer and one who knew how to treat the harp as more than just a colouristic effect.
is a relatively early piece and it’s straightforward in its language, Perhaps it’s slightly backward-looking; there’s an amount of Fauré here, not to mention a hint of Alphonse Hasselmans, Salzedo’s teacher at the Paris Conservatoire, who wrote a number of concert études of which La Source
), op.44 is still sometimes heard. Scintillation
is just that – it scintillates. Written immediately after a trip to Mexico, the composer created a work which is, according to the notes in the booklet, “constructed on the basis of idealised dance patterns”. It’s a florid work, and one which is full of everything Salzedo knew the harp could do – almost a compendium of harp technique. It’s impossible not to relate to this vibrant music.
The Poetical Studies
are the work of an experienced composer, and whilst they don’t yet speak in the subtle language of Scintillation
, they have much to say in an evolving vernacular. The first is a touch Debussyian – such as a more advanced Arabesque
– the second mysterious and quiet, the third a kind of archaic dance. A beautiful nocturne, with lots of harmonics is placed fourth and the final movement is a return to impressionism and sustained harmonies. This is a lovely work, which takes its time gradually to tell you its story.
The Suite of Eight Dances
starts with a gavotte and minuet and ends with a tango and a rumba. This is a very pleasing lighter piece, necessary after the heavier works which have preceded it. To end, the wonderfully varied Variations sur un thème dans le style ancien
, where each variation is a different kind of study.
This is a most welcome issue, for we do not know anywhere near enough about Salzedo or his music. Alice Giles is a fine player and this is a very authoritative performance. What’s more, as it only duplicates two items – the Suite of Eight Dances
and the Variations sur un thème dans le style ancien
– with Sarah Schuster Ericsson’s Salzedo recital (Cambria CD 1151
) one can have both disks and enjoy a variety of this fascinating composer’s music. Don’t miss him.