Salzedo, Theme and Variations, and Techniques

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    Not sure what forum to put this under….

    I’m researching Salzedo’s Theme and Variations for a grad school project in performance practice. I’m having a difficult time finding resources, since there is relatively little harp info out there.

    I would greatly appreciate any information you can share about this piece and French/Salzedo/etc harp technique, any good books, articles, websites, etc, that might help with researching this topic, and the best recordings of this piece.

    Any thoughts from those of you in Salzedo’s “harp student lineage” about his playing and philosophy would be wonderful too!

    Thank you!


    If you want to know about technique then the best place would be with Salzedo’s own pedagogical works.

    Modern Study for the Harp

    Method for the Harp

    The ABC of Harp Playing

    The Art of Modulation

    Any of these will give you an understanding of Salzedo’s approach to playing.

    If you want to learn more about Salzedo himself Dewy Owens wrote an excellent biography, From Aeolian to Thunder: A Biography of Carlos Salzedo.

    As for recordings I recommend Salzedo himself. There is a set of CDs from various live radio performances he has done, including Theme and Variations. It also has some excellent interviews with him, as well as some later interviews with various people who knew him. It is called Salzedo On The Air.

    If anyone can comment directly on the piece itself it is probably Saul. Hopefully he will come along soon.


    Thank you for that rousing introduction, Tony.

    Few people outside the school know that there is an oral tradition to the Salzedo method, as well as the written. Fortunately, Lyon & Healy published the revised Variations as Salzedo wanted them done, except for the notation of the harmonics. I prefer the original tempi of the Leduc edition, but the revised are more feasible for most people. You should meet with someone who studied with Miss Lawrence or Miss Chalifoux in particular, to learn how his sounds should be executed.

    Some of the stylistic issues is that there is very little romantic-style expression in Salzedo’s esthetic. A little bit goes a long way, just a hint of a tempo change, nothing overt. These are classical variations in that sense. However, that changes when you get to the Prelude. There the rubato is great. Salzedo’s tenutos are very exaggerated. In Mirage, you would hold the bass note for at least the time of three sixteenths. In the Prelude, perhaps two of the sixteenths, and it usually played slowly and thoughtfully. Listen to Lucile Lawrence’s recordings of it. He is very accurate in his notation, and expected it to be followed to the note. Any more than that, you have to get in person. Hopefully that is possible, where-ever you might be.

    I think you might need to change the focus of your topic, depending on the length. If you make it on Salzedo’s performance style in general, not only that piece, you will have more to say.


    You should meet with someone who studied with Miss Lawrence or Miss Chalifoux in particular, to learn how his sounds should be executed …

    If you decide to contact an accomplished harpist that studied with Alice Chalifoux, you might consider contacting my former pedal harp instructor.

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