Tannhäuser Act 2, scene 4 – difficult spot

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    Olivier Herbin on #146431

    Dear orchestral harpists, I need your input !

    Is there a trick fingering to Tannhäuser Act 2, scene 4 (der Sängerkrieg)? the part in double-handed 16th notes, right after Tannhäuser’s first cue “O Wolfram, der du also sangest”, that runs at half note = 66. It is very exposed. I’m using the Paris version.
    Is that section usually played as is,

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #146432

    If you mean parallel arpeggios, there are two or three tricks, some of which are in the ABC of Harp Playing by Lawrence and Salzedo. One is to play a chord on the beat in the left hand and single arpeggio above. One is to take the first note of the right hand in the left hand thumb, 14 3 2 1, and the next note of the left hand in the right hand 4 3 2 14, or you can do the same with three notes at a time. You can also omit one note and use that to jump an octave and play the next bit, which Bea Rose invented, and is in her book, I’m pretty sure. Another option would be to use 24 13 fingering, alternating hands.

    Olivier Herbin on #146433

    Both hands are mostly playing three octaves apart,

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #146434

    I see the issue. I would play the first three notes of each group of four in the left hand, as the fourth note is a repetition. Another way would be to play it an octave higher so it is clearer, anything below 5th octave C. It is too muddy as written, but it depends on the score, which you can download. Or you could double the right hand in the bass, as long as it is the same chord-tones. Or, play chords on the beat in the area written.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #146435

    I just had a look at this, and the only way that it would be playable as written is if a second harpist took the bottom line. Then both harpists could split the line between the left and right hands. I would be very interested to hear from an opera harpist and see what solutions they found.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #146436

    I just listened to this and it sounds like there is fairly thick orchestration right at that place, so you could get away with some editing. It goes by so fast in the recording that I couldn’t even make out whether the harpist was playing those patterns or just playing quick figures in the right harmonies. Elsewhere in this act, though, the harp is really virtuoso and exposed. Check the entire score at the Petrucci music Library and then you will have a better idea of what you can edit out.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #146437

    The score on page 240 and 241 of the second act on Petrucci Music Library shows what else is happening while the poor harpist jumps through flaming hoops. There is some cover, but not a lot. At least the first bass note is covered by the bassoon. I would have a Plan B ready; if the part is impossible to do well even with editing, play something brilliant but manageable in the right harmonies. It goes by so fast.

    Olivier Herbin on #146438

    So here goes my massively edited solution :
    – both hands play eight 16th-notes per beat.
    – left hand plays one octave higher than written: 32123212 per beat, up and down on the same strings, playing the exact harmony given by the first three notes of each beat. Running opposite is the right hand: 12321232, playing the exact notes written at each half-beat. That opposite feel is actually in the original part, towards the end. It still gives the impression of broken patterns, as it goes so fast.

    In the words of Elizabeth, I would describe my editing as just a “brilliant sounding version with the right harmonies”, when no soft editing seems possible and time is short. It is very playable, enjoyable (!), with some possibilities for baton eye contact (!!).

    Olivier Herbin on #146439

    Great inspiration !
    I tried leaving out the last written note of each beat, both
    hands. It’s doable (on blessed days), but musically not flowing. And making that seven
    regular notes per beat would be awkward with the singer’s part. I also played with both hands just doing the treble. It is manageable. A 2nd harp could play bottom line one octave higher.

    Olivier Herbin on #146440

    Thank you for all your very much appreciated advice. I ended up doing like you said. My idea for the RH comes from a recording where it is all quick figures as well. The Petrucci score for the harp part I was handed is on pages 559-560 (Paris appendix), but that very spot is exactly the same (following triplets are different).
    Discovering that massive scene 4 came quite as a shock. I have the feeling it is less notorious (amongst harpists) than the act I, scene 2 excerpts ?

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #146441

    I only meant to leave out the fourth note of the left hand, while the right hand plays as written, so you have the flow you want. Balance is hard to tell from a recording, that is so dependent on the conductor, the engineer, and the harpist. But it is typical of Wagner to overdo it in every sense. I remember talking to Rheinhardt Elster during an intermission of Tannhauser at the Met, and he adjourned me rather quickly, explaining that he had so much coming up that he had to prepare, and he was tuning the whole time. It is a marathon.

    It would seem to me that opera harpists definitely should have a league for sharing information.

    I would like to have the harp parts for arias that are accompanied by harp, but for some reason, the Rossini operas are mostly not available as public domain (downloads). That is puzzling. How do you know which of his operas have harp? Some don’t, some do.

    Conny S. on #146442

    As far as I know, nobody plays it original.
    Common is to play 16th notes in the right hand and 8-s in the left. It is just important to have the correct harmonics 🙂 Wagner himself told that what is too difficult should be made easier.

    Have a nice day!

    Olivier Herbin on #146443

    Thank you very much for sharing !!
    Would you happen to know where I can read more about Wagner’s own telling on what is too difficult to play ?

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #146444

    Salzedo’s rubric was: speculate on the harmony. In other words, play what you wish that simulates what is written, and is the same harmony.

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