Medieval and Renaissance Music for the Harp

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    emily-granger on #151921

    I am working on a research paper on the music that was written for the harp from antiquity until 1750.

    jennifer-buehler on #151922

    Did you know that there is a Historical Harp Society?

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #151923

    Music was not written for the harp in antiquity. Music was created and it was played on what they had to play with, which was pretty often a harp. The harp was it, in my opinion. We ruled. It was only the organ that had specific music, because of its nature, and then the claviers of different types, and because they were new, music had to be designated as being for them, but everything was for the harp. Only as the keyboard instruments and guitars grew in popularity did harp music begin to be separated from the other instruments. That is my theory and I am sticking to it. In other words, back then, the harp was the norm, not the exception it is now.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #151924

    If you are looking to perform early music, you can play almost any single line in an ensemble piece, play bass, play octaves and fifths, it is wonderfully free.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #151925

    There is a small book on the history of the Irish harp by Joan Rimmer, that was one of the earliest books I found, and Roslyn Rensch’s books. I think you need to frame your paper differently, as it reflects a contemporary view, not a contemporaneous view. The earliest manuscripts of classical music for harp that I can think of would be the Sonata by C.P.E. Bach and the Handel Concerto. If you go on to the Mozart Concerto and the early harp methods, you will then see the development of technique and figurations that continue through the 19th century. It is all about figuration and how composers fill time between chord progressions. Mainly, you see the repeated note 4111111 as in Dussek, and the arpeggiated chords and patterns 4321 and variants thereof. The next composers to write the most for harp are J. L. Dussek, a very important composer, and L. Spohr. By the 19th century, you also see a disparity of sorts or distinction between the serious composer and the harpist-composer, such as Nadermann, Bochsa, Dizi, etc.

    The concept of designating a piece for performance on only one instrument and writing in an idiomatic fashion is a 19th-century one. Beethoven wrote about the need to separate harp and piano writing.

    Concerti by many composers: Handel, Schenk, Mozart, Eichner, Albrechtsberger, J.C. Bach, Dussek, Spohr.

    Solos by Handel, Bach, Beethoven, Dussek, Spohr.

    Chamber music by J.C. Bach, Albrechtsberger, others.

    They didn’t necessarily see the harp as limited, perhaps, until the double-action rendered relatively unlimited. Writing diatonically was perfectly suitable. I believe I have answered some of your questions. Catalog searching should turn up more sources, and check back issues of the American Harp Journal. We did have music by Telemann, Graun and other German composers that was lost in WWII. Here’s a tip: study old publisher’s catalogues to see what was in print. Some have been reprinted.

    Tacye on #151926

    About this ‘limited’ thing- multi course harps, such as the baroque triple which was enthusiastically adopted by the Welsh are coming back into vogue for their lack of the limitations of pedal harps, see especially cross strung harps.

    A lot of music, as has been mentioned, was written for various instruments, unfortunately music written for ‘harp, guitar or keyboard’ has tended to be poached away from the harp – just as the continuo parts have been.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #151927

    Just as you say, when a library has a score and the music says harp or piano, it is catalogued under piano with no harp indication at all!

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #151928

    One more clue: the use of “harpege” and “harpeggio” in keyboard music. It means harpists were already indulging in complicated arpeggios at that time. Also, the piece by Mudarra, “”Contrahaze la harp da Ludovico” or something like that, is a depiction of the improvisation or playing by a famed Spanish harpists in the baroque period. That gives you an idea of what his playing was like.

    Dwyn . on #151929

    I’d recommend contacting Mike Parker via his website

    patricia-jaeger on #151930

    Emily, I have printed music, and two cassettes, of “The Renaissance Harp”. The harpist is Elena Polonska, and the cassettes are CT 2307 and CT 2314, recorded by Vox Turnabout, a profuct of The Moss Music Group, Inc. (New York, Toronto, London, Amsterdam). Copyright 1974. New York address is 48 West 38th St, New York NY 10018. The pieces range from the 12th century through the 16th century. Composers such as Blondel de Nesle, Landino, Ventadorn, Paumann, Barbigant, Henry VIII,, De La Torre, and many Anonymous are represented, and the instruments playing in the group include lute, psaltery, Irish harp, rebec, crumhorn, zarb, vielle, viola da gamba, medieval harp, recorder, schalmey, percussion, and others. The recording group is called The Camerata.

    emily-granger on #151931

    Hello All,

    Thanks for the replies.

    Tacye on #151932

    Don’t overestimate the speed of take up following the invention of pedals!

    paul-knoke on #151933

    Hi Emily

    The Handel concerto was written for the triple harp. There has been some debate about what kind of harp C. P. E. Bach was writing for. It may well have been the triple as well, and there’s some evidence that the sonata was intended for harp accompanied by harpsichord.

    The earliest repertory for pedal harp that’s well-documented and readily available are the six sonatas by Hochbrucker (1762) and the first method book by P. J. Meyer (1763). Both are included in the first volume of harp methods and treatises published by Fuzeau, and both contain a lot of music that’s well worth study and performance.

    Hope this helps!

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