Combining Parts

  • Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #151972

    A colleague recently wrote to me and complained about the combined harp one and two parts he receives and is asked to play, and he is upset that harpists are actively participating in making combined parts available, thus reducing employment for second harpists and the value of the parts, to paraphrase. I know my teacher was dead-set against it, and said if you are first harp, only play the first harp part and leave out any of the second. For those of you who have regular positions, do you have any say over the hiring of a second harpist? For those of you who free-lance, how do you handle such requests? I think I would say, would you ask the principal flute to play flute two as well?

    tony-morosco on #151973

    I think that even if we put aside the issue of reducing employment for second harpists, the fact is that if a piece was composed for a specific set of instruments by altering that you are altering the composer’s work.

    I was always taught that ultimately the orchestra is there to bring the composer’s vision to life. You can’t do that if you make major alterations to it and start mixing it up to suite your own needs.

    Serve the music. That should be the musicians motto. You don’t do that by messing with the composer’s vision.

    vince-pierce on #151974

    “Serve the music.”

    Tony – I completely agree. If a composer wrote for more than one harp, he intended for the piece to be performed that way. Maybe not with 17 harps, as some composers are wont to ask for, but more than one. I don’t understand why orchestras and conductors alike seem to think of the harp as expendable, especially in areas where they are readily available. Pieces like Firebird, La Mer, Mahler Symphonies, and Rhapsodie Espagnole should always be performed with more than one harp. Unfortunately, it seems like most orchestras have only one harpist on a regular basis, and the principal harpist has no choice but to combine parts per the conductor or music director’s request. I think it would be an impressive (and brave) gesture of a principal harpist to play only the 1st part when they are asked to play both. I have to admit, though, that in my experience playing orchestral clarinet, that I have been required to play as many as four instruments (C, B-flat, A and Bass clarinet for Mahler 2) in a concert or piece, or combine parts (like when I did Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi and had to play the separate Clarinet/Bass clarinet parts). That’s not to mention my musical theater experiences, but that’s a different situation altogether. I guess it’s not an issue that only harpists have to deal with. Certainly the other members of the string section have it the easiest…

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