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Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Alphonse HASSELMANS (1845-1912)
Harp Works
Chanson de Mai, Op. 40
Conte de Noël, Op. 33
Rêverie
Nocturne Op. 43
Gnomes, Op. 49
Ballade
Confidence for harp and cello, Op. 24
Valse de concert, Op. 4
Gitana, Op. 21
Prière for harp and cello
La Source, Op. 44
Rachel Talitman (harp)
Noé Nathorp (cello)
rec. no details supplied
HARP & COMPANY CD505034 [56:00]

Harp and Co are a small but very productive company and their speciality is unsurprisingly clear. At the heart of their catalogue of thirty-plus CDs is the harp and the harpist Rachel Talitman. This Belgian company, based in Brussels, is immersed in the repertoire of France and the Pays-Bas. They do however make forays further afield. Standing to one side from the more popular mixed recital of miniatures approach they will, as here, concentrate on one composer, as often as not. In this case we have eleven works by Alphonse Hasselmans, a nineteenth century Liègois. All but two are for harp alone.

The lively Chanson de Mai flows pleasingly along. Conte de Noël is, as the title suggests, more in the nature of a fantastic fairytale narrative as is Ballade. Reverie may be a dream but it is a melancholy one. The Nocturne is more tuneful than suggestive and there is even a hint of Spanish sultriness about it. Gnomes has charm and bass-deep grotesquerie about it. These Gnomes are cousins to Grieg's trolls from Peer Gynt. Valse de Concert resounds with delicacy and commandingly grand statements. Gitana plays with Iberian shadows and ancient courtly dances - coal black and glinting silver points. Talitman is joined by Noé Nathorp (cello) for Confidence and Prière. Each spins a long and toastily soulful legato over the harp's plangently decorous tracery. Prière is a touch sentimental. The disc ends with another harp solo, La Source. This has strong forward drive: urgency as well as romantic afflatus.

The music enjoys a very close-up recorded perspective. It's an agreeable effect and has unblushing impact. Talitman's harp positively basks in such microscopic attention. The supportive liner-note which sketches in the composer's life is in French and English.

The Harp & Co catalogue would be well worth exploring. I have not heard the following discs but if I get the opportunity to hear them I will report further: Jean-Michel Damase harp concertos (CD 5050-06), Andres harp concertos (CD 5050-09), Damase chamber music (CD 5050-18) and Jean Cras (CD 5050-24).

Rob Barnett