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Harp Spotlight Frankly Music

Program Notes: Harp Spotlight with Frankly Music


Concert: Tuesday, January 28, 2020 @ 6:30 pm CST

Violinist Frank Almond brings Harp Spotlight (part of his acclaimed Milwaukee chamber series, Frankly Music) to Guarneri Hall! Kelsey Molinari, harp, and Marta Aznavoorian, piano, make their Frankly Music and Guarneri Hall debuts, joined by versatile returning cellist Alexander Hersh. Works by Saint-Säens, Vaughan Williams, Robert Schumann, and Salcedo.

Full program details and tickets

Carlos Salzedo (1885-1961): Chanson dans la Nuit

Carlos Salzedo is widely credited as the father of modern, virtuoso harp playing. His innovations expanded the expressive range of the instrument. Salzedo’s influential career included 4 years as principal harpist of the Metropolitan Opera under Arturo Toscanini as well as solo appearances with many prominent American Orchestras. Salzedo founded the harp department at the Curtis Institute and served on the faculty of The Juilliard school, training a whole generation of harp players. Salzedo’s output as a composer includes a number of works for other instruments alongside works and arrangements for solo harp. Originally intended as a study in Salzedo’s 1955 Method for the Harp, Chanson dans la Nuit has become a standard in the harp repertoire. In Chanson dans la Nuit, Salzedo displays his penchant for glissando in an evocative work full of nocturnal whimsy and earthiness.

Camille Saint-Säens (1835-1921): Fantaisie for violin and harp, Op. 124

Among the most precocious of all child prodigies, Camille Saint-Säens went on to live a long and prolific life, remaining a proud traditionalist composer throughout. Even as the impressionist movement began to overtake 19th and early 20th century French compositional style, Saint-Säens continued to adhere to the Germanic traditions associated with Brahms and Mendelssohn. If not an innovator, Saint-Säens was nonetheless an inspired master with unimpeachable command of his craft. Late in his career, at the age of 72, Saint-Säens composed his Fantaisie for violin and harp for harpist Clara Eissler and her sister, violinist Marianne Eissler. The work reflects a mature effort by the composer to achieve clarity through thinner textures. The result gives Fantaisie for violin and harp a fresh and uplifting character through which the audience is effortlessly levitated by long, fluent lines and sheer sonorities.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958): The Lark Ascending, arr. violin and harp

One of Vaughan Williams’ most beloved and iconic works, The Lark Ascending (1914), was originally scored for violin and piano, but is more often performed today in its re-scoring for solo violin and orchestra. Based on George Meredith’s 1881 poem “The Lark Ascending,” Vaughan Williams’ musical interpretation is now far better known than the poem. At the head of Vaughn Williams’ score are 12 lines from the poem, beginning: “He rises and begins to round/ He drops the silver chain of sound,/ Of many links without a break,/ In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake…” Frankly Music’s setting for violin and harp evokes Celtic sensibilities, adding an additional layer of beauty to this revered 20th century work.

Robert Schumann (1810-1856): Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 63

The best known of Schumann’s three piano trios, Op. 63 in D minor was written in 1847 at the end of what had been a period of depression, illness, and low productivity for the composer. Schumann had written of Mendelssohn’s D minor piano trio in glowing terms after its premiere in 1840 and it seems likely that the Mendelssohn served as inspiration, if not the model, for Schumann’s Op. 63. The piece is a full-blown romantic utterance in four well developed movements, among the strongest of Schumann’s chamber music output.

An interesting side note for tonight’s concert is that the piece was premiered by violinist Karol Lipinski (1790-1861) on the 1715 Stradivari violin that bears his name—the same violin that Frank Almond will play in tonight’s performance!

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