Getting sick of those pedals…..!! Chromatique harp

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    Alison on #251024

    try this for size, only read about this once before for a performance of the Debussy Dances – he’s got his work cut out….

    Philippa mcauliffe on #251027

    Tournier (no fan of the chromatic harp) was only half-joking when he once said that the only way to get rid of the chromatic harp department at the Paris Conservatoire was to marry its professor (which he did, she was the Belgian Renee Lenars).

    balfour-knight on #251028

    I am reminded about Henriette Renie saying that she caused Pleyel to invent this chromatic harp with her joke about “all of these pedals,” ha, ha! The tone of this harp is rather peculiar, too, compared to a usual pedal harp. Sylvain certainly did a great job playing it, though!

    Have a great day,

    carl-swanson on #251032

    Balfour- I’ve heard a chromatic harp in person several times. Because of the high tension, it has a metal “fin” like a boat keel behind the soundboard. For this reason, the chromatic harp has a rather “tubby” sound, without a clear, full attack when the string is released. Chromatic harps sound different from all 20th century harps, but they sound really different from an Erard, which has the most beautiful full sound when the string is released.

    Debussy initially had no issue with the chromatic harp when he wrote the Danses. He had met with Gustave Lyon, the president of Pleyel, who showed him what the chromatic harp could do. The result was the most chromatic music Debussy ever wrote for harp. But over the years he grew to detest the chromatic harp, because he heard its shortcommings.

    I heard Sylvain play something on Chromatic harp(not Girl with the flaxen hair) 3 years ago at a concert he participated in at Gargilesse. It was gorgeous. He is one of the most musical harpists I have ever heard. And the technique necessary to play chromatic harp is so different from pedal harp(it has to be much shallower articulation) that I’m amazed he was able to play it. On the same program he also played a double or triple strung harp- I can’t remember which-and also pedal harp!

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by carl-swanson.
    balfour-knight on #251060

    Thanks Carl and Wil!

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #251561

    The link to Hedwig’s theme will not open. But that was wonderful to see Sylvain playing the chromatic harp. I can’t imagine re-programming my fingers to play in such a different way. He is an extraordinarily gifted harpist, conductor, harp builder, and very nice person as well! I’ll never forget his amazing performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations at the World Harp Congress in 2011.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #251738

    It seems odd that he chose a fairly diatonic piece to demonstrate a chromatic harp. That harp sounds very much like Erard harps on recordings. And so much muffling.

    wil-weten on #251741

    @ Elizabeth, I just adapted the link and do hope it will work now.

    @ Saul, a rather high tensioned chromatic harp needs a lot of muffling. This has to do with the fact that contrary to a pedal of lever harp when only the strings that fit the key of the piece resonate along with the strings played, when playing a relatively high tension strung chromatic harp, so much more strings tend to resonate along with the strings played.

    wil-weten on #251742

    O dear, it happened again… I just adapted the link to Hedwig’s theme in my message of several weeks back and now that whole post has dissappeared…

    So, @ Elizabeth, here comes a working link to Hedwig’s theme on a chromatic harp played by Christine Palethorpe;

    balfour-knight on #251746

    Wil, that link worked perfectly for me, and I hope, for Elizabeth. What a delightful rendition of Hedwig’s Theme, almost “other-worldly” on that great sounding chromatic harp!

    Thanks so much!
    Harp Hugs,

    David Pinnegar on #255822

    I’m doing some experiments with the Chromatic harp and am concluding that its reputed tonal shortcomings may be caused by or alleviated by the tuning. Tuning to the tone bars provided by Pleyel in the head of the instrument can be remarkably better than tuning to equal temperament as given by an electronic tuner.

    Best wishes

    David P

    Alison on #256324

    I hadn’t known before that the original printed chromatic harp version of the Debussy Danses is still available from Durand and distributors.

    carl-swanson on #256334


    The conductor’s score to this day has the chromatic harp part, not the Renie transcription in it. Occasionally the conductor will question the harpist as to why the discrepancy between what he is seeing and what he is hearing.

    balfour-knight on #256406

    All the more reason to keep conductors informed, I dare say. It is the same with the Nutcracker cadenza to the “Waltz of the Flowers.”

    Harp Hugs,

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