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Carlos SALZEDO (1885-1961)

Mirage (1921) [3.31]
Idyllic Poem (1921) [4.30]
Suite of Dances (1971): Tango [2.26]; Rumba [1.33]
Quietude (1916) [2:36]
Marcel GRANDJANY (1891-1975)
Children's Hour Suite (1950) [11.38]
Bernard ANDRES (b.1941)
Alkermes Three Pieces (1989) [8.45]
Eastern Europe Traditional
Maria Walks Along the Shore [2.08]
The Nightingale Came Flying[2.28]
Celtic Traditional
The High Mountains [1.29]
Little Red Lark [1.30]
Smash the Windows [1.00]
American Traditional
Little David Play on Your Harp [1.15]
My Lord, What a Mornin' [2.05]
Give Me Jesus [2.42]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
A Ceremony of Carols: Interlude (1943) [4.08]
Carolyn Mills (harp)
rec. Symphony House, Wellington, New Zealand, undated
ATOLL ACD602 [54:10]

This disc has been around for some years but despite the somewhat hair-shirt presentation its performances certainly demand and deserve review. The soloist is American harpist Carolyn Mills who was appointed principal harpist with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and in 2002 was still living in Wellington – hence her recording for Atoll.

The recital centres around works by that most important harp composer, Carlos Salzedo, but also includes a charmer by Marcel Grandjany, another elite performer and composer for the instrument, as well as a series of traditional airs from various countries.

Salzedo’s Tango and Rumba come from his Suite of Eight Dances which has strongly absorbed Latin American musical roots. They’re among his best known and most often played works and they receive an alert colouristic reading here with fine rhythm. The title track, Mirage, and Idyllic Poem are mini tone poems, in effect, and come from Salzedo’s set of five Poetical Studies. The former is the more glittery, deftly coloured, whilst the latter is the more refined, elusive, and strangely haunting. That old grand master of harp playing and composing, Grandjany – some may well recall his recordings, not least his live performances at the Library of Congress which were released by Bridge - is represented by his Children’s Hour Suite. If this suggests a cosy fireside, then that wouldn’t be too wide of the mark. Taking the precedent of, say, Schumann’s Album for the Young, Grandjany translates little episodes for the harp – falling off a pony, a bugle episode, trying to stay awake, playing in the garden and so on. They’re played with communicative élan by Carolyn Mills. Quietude is a well-titled piece by Salzedo and its lulling warmth easily survives the recording process.

One of the valuable things about this recital is its promotion of Bernard Andres’s Alkermes. Andres was the principal harp of the French Radio Philharmonic at the time and combined his day job with a wide composing portfolio. This is an ingenious three-movement piece with the yearning songfulness of its central movement leading on to what Mills rightly calls the ‘xylophonic’ energy of its finale. The sequence of traditional airs and Spirituals adds variety to the programme and we venture from the American South to the European East-Central. The High Mountains is an especially deft example of Mills’s elegance and affinity with her material. The recital ends with Britten’s Interlude from A Ceremony of Carols, a piece often taken independently by harpists for performance.

It ends a charmingly well-balanced and thoughtful disc.

Jonathan Woolf



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