Music Review—Tales from the Crypt

2

—by John Wickey

Sifting through the dusty piles for harp gold.

John Wickey is guest Music Review Editor for Harp Column.

John Wickey is guest Music Review Editor for Harp Column.

There’s an oft-repeated quote from one of Beethoven’s letters decrying the lack of distinction between the music written for the harp and the piano. The master, clearly, was all for the advancement of the piano, but the quote has been used to validate the performance of piano works from the period on the harp.

Presumably, we borrow from the piano repertoire because the music is better, or better known, but the thing that has always puzzled me is this: If the harp was so popular in Beethoven’s time and so much was being published—where, oh where, is all the harp music?

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Sam Milligan Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

  2. Saul Davis Zlatkovski on

    One answer to your musical question: J. L. Dussek. Spohr was an admirer of his, and both of them had some harp studies in their pasts, which facilitated their composition of many works for harp. Backofen and Meyer are two other fine harp masters of the classical period. More and more classical period music is becoming available. It simply went out of print, or was not published in the 19th century. We are in a similar period today, where the major music publishers are not interested in the relatively small harp market. So far, anyway.
    The salon music for harp is a reflection of the overall popularity of potpourris and variations on themes from operas on all instruments. Some of Naderman’s and Krumpholtz’s music rises to a concert level of quality, as do Dalvimare and a few other figures. I find myself greatly enjoying Bochsa’s op. 32 etudes, and some of Dizi’s. It is hard to maintain an informed overview of the 19th century’s music, as it ranges so far from classical to impressionistic. But I will say, if most harpists endeavored to really learn Dussek’s first-rate music, they would spend much less time on transcriptions and potpourris.

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