hi, I’m a Boston composer and have recently completed the first two movements of my first piece for full orchestra, a violin concerto. I wonder if anyone could take some time to review the harp part – I’m not at all sure about what I’m doing and know that time is needed for pedal switching. I’ve tried attaching the pdf of the part as a photo – we’ll see if it works.
Hi Kimbertly, thanks for letting me know. It’s probably easier for all just to link to it. It’s here: http://www.richardratner.com/pdfs/vnconcertoone-Harp.pdf
Two cents from an amateur harpist so take it for what it is:
From a pure formatting standpoint, I assume your software will let you clean up the arpeggios towards the end at some point, to get the hooks away from the ledger lines and off of the note heads. A couple spots were hard to read and there was one place where the note was completely obscured. If that Andante is half note = 60, that section might be very difficult to play cleanly with much volume. If it’s based on the quarter note it will be more playable. If you want it to fly and be dramatic, there might be some chordal glissando options that would get the effect better and let the harpist really rip them. They could use pedals to run up and down pentatonic scales in those keys pretty easily and at a solid f or ff, though there might be issues getting all the pedals changed in time in the places where there is part of a beat between runs in different keys. The first movement to Pines of Rome has a lot of glissandi that change directions in tempo if you want to see how they can be notated.
137 and 139 could be written as glissandi since that’s probably how they’ll be played. I’d set out the first octave so the harpist can see the desired accidentals and write in the pedal markings as they see fit. Preprinted pedal charts seem prone to misprints. Some composers spell them out below or between the staffs, such as “C – D – E# – F – G – A -B#” though players usually have their own conventions for how and where to spell out pedal changes and will rewrite it to something they can read at a glance. In addition, even composers who write a lot for the harp (I won’t mention one in particular since he’s famous and still alive) often leave something out so I’m checking them against the printed notes anyway when I’m marking a part.
I’d probably use an A sharp to play the last note of 505. The b-flat will get cut short compared to the other notes when the player puts their finger back down to play the B natural. I think most people will mark that anyway so it’s not a big deal if there is a theory reason to have it written a B flat.
Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ve cleaned up those arpeggios – Sibelius has a tough time with dividing figures between staves. My main concern was whether a player could switch pedals in time to change harmonies the places with arpeggios or chords. The Andante is about quarter = 80, then goes to 88, so I guess it’ll be ok?
Do you want the sound of glissandi or fingered?
On pedals I find more than a pair a second (noting one left and right to a pair!) or maintaining that density for an extended period will send me looking for ways of simplifying matters.
How much do you want rhythmic demisemiquavers and how much any arpeggio sound? There are a number of places (eg the start of bar 111) where there are nine note runs which would tempt me to leave a note or two out to accomodate only playing with 8 fingers.
Again on the readability, it would be kind if you tidied up the accidentals too – they make harpists’ feet twitch! Eg the natural on beat 3 of bar 113 and sharps most of the way down the descent in bar 117.
Thank you for your reply. I’ll first address the accidental issue. I’m using Sibelius, which in my view is the best notation program available. It does, however, have its weaknesses, one of which is dividing figures between the hands on a grand staff. Those superfluous accidentals have been eliminated, but it wasn’t easy (Sibelius users will understand when I say I could not delete them, but had to hide them). A few of the cautionary accidentals, I have left in. The new part is up on the website. If you think it is still not good, I can get rid of those, too. In the arpeggio figures, by “nine-note runs”, do you mean from bottom to top notes? If so, are you suggesting that having only eight from bottom to top, i.e. a septuplet instead of 8 demisemiquavers, which I suppose are 32nd notes on this side, would be much easier? If so, I believe that would sound fine. Essentially I’m hoping that you or someone can advise me whether there are parts that are either impossible or needlessly difficult, by which I mean, with a small change that would not affect sound much, it would be much easier.
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