Classical CD Reviews

True North Harp Duo [TrackList follows] – Lynne Aspnes & John Wickey – Soundset Recordings
Minimal Harp [TrackList follows] – Floraleda Sacchi, concert harp – Decca

An interesting pair of concert harp CDs.

Published on June 8, 2013

True North Harp Duo [TrackList follows] – Lynne Aspnes & John Wickey – Soundset Recordings SR1034, 54:09 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Minimal Harp [TrackList follows] – Floraleda Sacchi, concert harp – Decca 476 3172 ****:

The True North harp duo first played together in 1992, then broke up for a period and are now reunited, and this album was recorded in Tempe, AZ in 2010. Only one of the half-dozen composers here wrote a work originally for two harps: Dominick Argento. The others are arrangements, with two of them from harpist John Wickey. The renowned Carlos Salzedo, sort of the Andre Segovia of the concert harp, was responsible for two of the Mendelssohn arrangements.

The concert harp is not an easy instrument to record properly, and two of them double the challenges. This CD is extremely well done, with clear and full-range sonics.

TrackList:  Mendelssohn: 3 Songs Without Words; RAMEAU: 2 Excerpts from the opera Dardanus; FRANCK: Prelude, Fugue and Variation in b; DEBUSSY: 3 Preludes for Piano from Book I; ARGENTO: The Angel Israfil; RAVEL: Mother Goose Suite


This album from Floraleda Sacchi was recorded in Italy in 2008 and was released earlier by Decca in the UK and US, but this specific CD comes directly from Italy, in a SACD-style corner jewel box, and was just received. In her notes, harpist Sacchi says she selected the works for this project not only using minimalism but also exploring various fundamental modes and themes of humanity. She says they are all simple linear pieces with an atmosphere that seems constantly to recall and lead back to the natural harmony between humanity and the whole. The works tend to eliminate all that is unnecessary—a legacy of Zen.

Sacchi’s notes, in both Italian and English, describe in some detail the works of the nine composers represented in the recital. While four of them are represented by only a single work, the others have from two to five tracks.  Lou Harrison is noted for bringing Eastern music into his works, as well as creating many compositions for the harp. His two entries are both influenced by East Indian culture.  Henry Cowell’s The Tides of Manaunaun was written for either piano or harp as a prelude to an opera based on Irish mythology. The Philip Glass five-movement work uses themes the composer wrote for both a theatrical production of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis plus other from his score to Errol Morris/s film The Thin Blue Line. Nicola Campogrande is a young Italian composer, who uses a bit of Beethoven’s Für Elise in the middle of his harp pieces. The three short pieces by Ligeti can be said to be in minimalist style, though Legeti was not really a minimalist. The first piece repeats the “A” used for tuning the orchestra, and the second was included in the soundtrack of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. The last composer, Michael Nyman, coined the term minimalist. He says all of his music starts out as piano music. His two selections here come from two films: Gattaca and Wonderland.

TrackList: 

Lou Harrison (1917-2003):
Music for Harp: Jahla, Avalokiteshvara
John Cage (1912-1992):
2 Pieces for Harp: A room°, In a landscape
Henry Cowell (1897-1965):
The tides of Manaunaun°
Philip Glass (1937):
Metamorphosis° (Moderate, Flowing, Moderately fast, Flowing, Moderate)
Nicola Campogrande (1969):
Tilidadodin* (2008)
Arvo Pärt (1935):
Pari intervallo
György Ligeti (1923-2006):
Musica ricercata: (n. 1 Sostenuto°, n. 2 Mesto, rigido e cerimoniale°, n. 3 Tempo di valse°)
Peter Machajdik (1960)
Nell’autunno del suo abbraccio insonne*
Michael Nyman (1944):
The morrow°, Jack° 

° & * = world premiere recordings

—John Sunier




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