Reinecke: Harp Concerto Op. 182 - Zabel: Harp Concerto Op. 35 - Parish-Alvars: Concerto for Two Harps Op. 91
- CD 2607
- 5 Diapason
From the luxurious salons of the nobility to the great romantic concert halls
After having completely charmed the nobility; the harp soon found a place of honor in bourgeois salons during the Restoration period. A symbol of universal harmony whose sonorities gave birth to images of forests filled with nymphs and magic waters; it sparked the imaginations of countless romantic poets singing the praises of Ossianic bards and ancient times. The instrument’s enchanted aura quickly opened the doors for it to opera houses and symphonic orchestras. And the Romantic cult of the solo artist led to the appearance of countless virtuosos speeding throughout Europe with a concerto in their baggage in order to shine in the limelight in front of an orchestra; the harp; of course; did not remain locked in the salons but would also accompany these professional musicians on their travels.
And it was for these virtuosos that the industrial revolution brought forth patented improvements that gave the harp pedals; thereby enabling it to acquire an eloquence comparable to other modulating instruments such as the piano. And finally the invention of the double-action harp by Sébastian Erard; a famous maker of pianos; created fantastic new possibilities of music making for the great Romantic harp virtuosos.
Instrument construction and virtuosity came together in the person of Elias Parish Alvars (1808-1849); the father of modern harp technique. During the 1820’s he spent his years of apprenticeship studying the instrument and working for harp maker Schwieso and Grosjean at Soho Square in London.
During the course of his brilliant career he did not shy away from challenging the piano; performing Beethoven’s piano concertos and Chopin’s sonatas. In 1833 he appeared together with pianist John Field; inventor of the nocturne. And in 1838 he dedicated his Fantasy; Op. 35; to Swiss pianist Sigismond Thalberg whose “three-hand” technique had been inspired by the playing of the young harpist. Parish Alvars’ virtuosity was so great that Berlioz christened him “the Liszt of the harp” the day after a concert in Dresden in 1842.
His virtuoso technique gave birth to countless new special effects such as double; triple and quadruple harmonics; parallel glissandos; and enharmonic modulations to distant keys. And with his pedal technique he mixed sharps and flats (for example; c-sharp with d-flat); thus establishing connections between notes belonging to very different tonalities. Aside from certain German influences (Weber; Moscheles); the Concerto in D Minor follows the style of Italian models such as the fantasy brillante on opera arias; a work obligatory in the repertoire of every virtuoso and a style that he employed in his Grande fantaisie; Op. 58; on Rossini’s Moses.
The dialogue between the solo instrument and the orchestra will charm even the most adamant antagonist to instrumental ornamentation. The “three-hand” technique in the harp enrobes the melodic material in sumptuous; colorful arabesques while at the same time retaining the integrity of the dialogue. After being taught by his composer father; Carl Heinrich Reinecke (1824-1910) departed in search of fame in 1845 on the first of a series of concert tours that would lead him throughout all of Northern Europe.
Soon thereafter he turned to teaching; in Leipzig; where he made the friendship of Mendelssohn and the Schumanns; and in Paris; where among his students was Liszt’s daughter who sang the praises of his “magnificent legato” and his “lyric touch”. Professor for composition; conductor; director of the Leipzig Conservatory (1897); member and then honorary doctor of the Berlin Academy; he crowned a brilliant career split between artistic creativity and theoretical reflection with a number of academic laurels. As pianist and pedagogue; his albums for the young have remained popular; particularly appreciated for the verve and charm of their melodies.