Sarah Bullen, principal harpist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was recently featured in the Chicago Sun-Times for her performance of Debussy’s Dances sacrée et profane with the CSO, conducted by Riccardo Muti. Kyle MacMillan’s review references her “feathery touch and sparkling command,” praising her ability to “convey the subtle musical hues of Debussy’s coloristic writing.” He commends Muti and the strings for their delicacy: “Muti made sure the balances were just right and the harp was never overshadowed.” Impressively, the program included three other harp-heavy works: Debussy’s Nocturnes, the suite from “Swan Lake” and “Francesca da Rimini,” op. 32, both by Tchaikovsky. MacMillan adds, “Though Bullen was directly in the spotlight in ‘Sacred and Profane Dances,’ she was featured virtually all evening long, including a lovely solo in Scene, the fourth section of the suite.”
Bullen last performed the Dances with the CSO in 1999, two years after joining the orchestra. Prior to that appointment, she was the principal harpist with the New York Philharmonic and the Utah Symphony. She regularly performs as a soloist, having been featured over 50 times with orchestras around the world. Outside of her performance career, she taught at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University until 2016 and was the chairperson of the harp department at the Manhattan School of Music. Bullen has also authored two volumes of Principal Harp: A Guidebook for the Orchestral Harpist and co-authored the Anthology of Harp Duets. She studied with Marcel Grandjany, Mildred Dilling, and Susann McDonald, and graduated from the Juilliard School.
Bullen was also featured in a recent CSO profile and in a Chicago Tribune review. You can view her extensive lessons on orchestral excerpts at Harp Column Academy or read more about her in Harp Column’s July-August 1997 issue.