I have no idea. It was so many years ago. Most likely it was a Lyon & Healy.
Do you mean that she performed as a soloist amplified? Or as a member of the orchestra? I think it is sometimes acceptable and even necessary to discretely amplify a soloist if the orchestration is very thick and constantly buries the soloist. If putting the harp on a wood platform doesn’t correct the balance problems, then go ahead and amplify. There is also the Florent Schmidt concerto for piano, harpsichord, and harp, and there is no way those three instruments are going to balance each other without amplification. It can be done so that the audience is not really aware of it. I know for a fact that the orchestra at the Opera Bastille in Paris is discretely amplified. I don’t know if the singers are too.
There is a difference between what a soloist performing with an orchestra can do successfully and what I would want to hear a single instrumentalist in the orchestra doing.
I am not a big fan of amplification usually; it has its place of course, but my personal opinion is that it is overused and too often poorly done.
Yes, Carl. Yolanda played as as soloist with the orchestra behind her. But her speakers were up front on either side of the harp, not discretely placed as you would expect. When I’ve had to, I place a small speaker behind and under my bench, and it’s not turned way up. Just a little amp to bring the sound out with out having to overplay.
She played several pieces Carl, all of them were modern. She did do an encore which was a “chinese” piece that she wrote, it’s in one of her books. It was a great concert but I can’t tell the names of any of pieces, sorry. I do remember that she wove rice paper throughout the strings and as they weren’t needed she (very ballet like) pulled each piece of paper out and let them float to the floor. Lots of modern Salzedo technique. With the exception of amplification, Saul would have been pleased! lol (Sorry Saul, I couldn’t resist that one)
I do think American orchestras tend to overplay. I blame insecure brass players out to prove something, forcing everybody else to keep up, and American audiences who enjoy having their eardrums blasted to pieces. A lot of European orchestras now have to dial it down since a lot of places have
I recently attended an orchestra concert here in Boston which Gunther Schuller conducted. After the concert there was a talk-back and someone in the audience complimented him on how quietly he got the orchestra to play. He commented that in his opinion most orchestras, and most conductors, play everything much too loud, and this was a real beef with him.
After the talk-back was over, I went up to him and told him a story that my teacher Pierre Jamet had told me years ago. Jamet was at a piano recital and Debussy was there too. At intermission Debussy came up to him and said, “You can always tell a good pianist by how quietly he plays.” Gunther said to me,”That’s exactly what I’m talking about.” The point is, you have more color and more dynamic range when you can play very quietly. I also think that a big crescendo coming out of that quiet fabric is much more moving than if it is emerging from an already loud context.
One of my complaints about virtually all orchestra harpists regardless of their school of playing is that, when they play solo repertoire, they play way too loud. They play as if they were doing Wagner in Royal Albert Hall. I realize that they have to play in a much higher dynamic range in an orchestra, but they need to learn to shift gears for solo repertoire. If I were to set up an imaginary volume scale, with 1 being extremely quiet, and 10 being FFF, most orchestra players operate in the 5 to 10 range in their orchestra work. But they need to dig into the range of 1 through 4 when they play solo.
This is definitely an issue for harpists since we have the laws of physics against us in an orchestral setting. I have worked hard to increase my volume while maintaining a rich, resonant sound, and it can be difficult especially in passages where the harp can scarcely be heard buried beneath a large string section. The harsh tone of overplaying is quite unpleasant especially in contrast to the natural tone of the harp. There is a hard edge at the beginning of the sound that drops off and leaves less resonance than when not overplaying. Specific technical advice for achieving maximum dynamic with quality tone could be useful in this thread. I work to increase the relaxation between plucking, as well as releasing from joints further out the louder the sound that is required.
It is mostly an issue with orchestra, since the pedal harp has plenty of projection as a soloist or in most chamber settings. In that case it is mostly just a matter of listening to your instrument in a responsive manner. I also play a light-tension folk harp which requires a different sort of touch. Adjusting between the two is easiest if my focus is on the sound and responding to it.
I am always interested to hear further input on specific technical advice to maximize the entire dynamic range with the most ideal tone. Both ends of the dynamic range can cause the tone to suffer.
Julietta-I’m sure our orchestra harpist readers can compile a list of “inaudible harp parts” that are written against a backdrop of the whole rest of the orchestra playing. No amount of yanking the strings is going to overcome that. What’s interesting is that ‘overpulling’ or overplaying the instrument doesn’t really increase the volume. It just changes the sound coming out and somehow makes it less pitch oriented and more noise oriented. The harp, like all instruments, has a maximum volume it can put out, and any attempt to get more than that causes a breakdown in the basic sound.
Only a few composers really knew how to write for the harp. In the symphonic realm, Mahler, Debussy, and Ravel come immediately to mind. Maybe Rimsky-Korsokof too. They seemed to know that when the harp plays, you have to have very little else going on or the harp will be completely covered.
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