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Musique Romantique Pour Harpe
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Descriptions du produit
Hasselmans : La Source Op.44, Prélude Op.52, Chanson de Mai Op.40 - Parish-Alvars : Divertissement, Op.36 - Godefroid : Bois Solitaire, Etude de concert Op.193 - Glinka : Var. sur thème de Mozart - Thomas : Echoes of a Waterfall... / Susan Drake, harpe
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If you are familiar with harp music, it has its own tone. Once or twice in my life, I have dined at a five star restaurant that employed a harpist. There are 11 tracks (playing time 52:30)
The album is pure solo harp pieces and the sleeve has explanatory notes on the music and composers, who are identified with the sound of the Romantic period from the 19th century, so they all have that lovely, flickering, shmaltzy beauty about them - the same is true of the other two albums. (I'm assuming from the samples I heard.)
My favourites are the Alphonse Hasselmans pieces, of which two appear here: "La Source" and "Chanson de Mai". Apparently, these are very well known pieces to harpists - a scan of YouTube videos will show a lot of students performing them in recitals. But it's apparent even to my untrained ear that Drake is no amateur. She handles the passages with a lot of dexterity and feeling, and brings out a certain sparkle out of them. For sure, she's an A+ harpist.
While I can't say for sure that these are definitive readings of these compositions as it's the only harp CD I have, I do find myself returning to it time and again. The pieces are well curated and flow from one to the next very smoothly so it's quite easy to listen to it the whole way through. Other highlights are John Thomas's "Echoes of a Waterfall", Felix Godefroid's "Bois solitaire" and "Etude de concert", and Mikhail Glinka's "Variations on a theme by Mozart".
A note about the recording itself. Compared to newer recordings of the harp, there's definitely an analogue quality about it - the volume is slightly lower, there's a slight hiss and buzz, tones are more mellow and rounded, and you can definitely hear the "room" sound. There's a rich earthy warmth to it, which is nice, but not sure if it's audiophile quality - some of the newer harp albums have a cleaner sound.
You really have to be a fan of the harp sound to like this album, I reckon. Also it's a narrow repertoire focusing on a very specific sound - dreamy, introspective - by a few select composers from a very specific period. Nothing 20th century about it at all. But that was the whole point of Drake's series of solo harp albums for Hyperion. Nevertheless, it's a good place to start - it definitely did that for me.