Harp Concertos by Audiophile Audition, Anaïs Gaudemard
Harp virtuoso Anais Gaudemard shines in three concerted masterpieces for the instrument with various ensembles.
Harp virtuoso Anais Gaudemard (b. 1991) loves the harp “because of all we ignore about it…a limitless instrument.” The three works Gaudemard has recorded are “among the most beautiful ever written for that instrument and…reveal its sound versatility.” The 1965 Harp Concerto of Alberto Ginastera enjoys that Argentine master’s colossal sense of color, combined with his rhythmic flair. The instrument achieves several characters in the course of the three movements, including a jarring, percussive quality and then its strumming, guitar effects. The opening Allegro giusto ripples with rhythmic energy, as does the last movement Liberamente capriccioso – Vivace, with its long, glossy, solo cadenza. The presence of the 6/8 malambo dance impulse adds to the kinetic fervor of the piece. In the second movement, Molto moderato, a moody haze settles over the music, not so distant from Bartok’s notion of “night music.” We sense the virtuosic coordination required between Gaudemard and conductor Hussain to achieve the fervent momentum of the last movement’s Vivace section.
Debussy conceived his Danse sacre, Danse profane in 1904, having accepted a commission from Gustave Lyon, who wished to display his new chromatic harp. The work became a set piece for the Royal Brussels Conservatory entrance candidates. Debussy exploits two distinct modalities, Dorian and Lydian, with a series of scalar patterns that resound in archaic progressions. The two sections conform to “religious” and “erotic” designations, with rhythmic impulses absorbed by Debussy’s interest in Spanish and Basque music. The medievalism of the first dance has its complement in the syncopated lilt and lush harmonies of the second. Given my familiarity with Nicanor Zabaleta’s classic rendition of this score, I find Gaudemard’s version equally plastic and alluring; high praise, indeed.
The Concerto inC by Boieldieu (1800) reflects the composer’s essentially operatic approach to music. The opening Allegro brillante projects a courtly elegance, the progression of themes equivalent to those presented in a concerto by Viotti or Paganini. With Gaudemard’s entry we savor a series of lovely cascades in diaphanous textures. The Concerto had its great exponent in French harpist Lily Laskine (1893-1988), whose career Gaudemand may well emulate. The Andante lento communicates a charm quite in keeping with Mozart’s model, augmented by harmonies from early romanticism. The French Rondeau: Allegro agitato could easily be attributed to Vieuxtemps or Viotti for its noble flair and grand gestures.