Unusual Harp Harmonic Notation

Posted In: Repertoire


  • Participant
    MusikFind1 on #219841

    A pre-publication scan of a modern engraving of a work composed in 1936.
    The notation shows what the composer wrote.
    Ideas on hand placement and fingering would be welcome.
    Please send opinions to proofer1@comcast.net

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    Participant
    Tacye on #219927

    Do you have any more indication of the character of the work, and specifically arpeggiation? How much else is going on in the orchestration so is pp a solo harp pp or matching the rest of the orchestra on their pp?


    Participant
    MusikFind1 on #219934

    Thanks for the reply.
    These are the ending measures of a three movement symphony. Strings, WW, Hns are marked pp.
    Fl. 1. Ob. 1, Vn. 1, Vn. 2, Va, are playing high pitched legato melody lines. The lower instruments are playing half note chords. Is it possible for the harp to play the chord and have the top note as a harmonic?
    Is there an example of this type of writing in other orchestra works?


    Participant
    Tacye on #219952

    Yes it is possible to play the top note as a harmonic and stick a finger or fingers out underneath to play natural notes, but I have never come across this outside solo works composed by harpists. It is an advanced technique, and those are high strings for harmonics.

    Personally, my starting point in bar 174 etc would be taking one more note into the left hand (probably both, if a slow arpeggiation is wanted). That won’t work in bar 179 and the stretch would be too big for my right hand. I would probably not make all the notes in the end and drop at least the RH natural pitch E which is at the same pitch as the LH harmonic E. Realistically, I would probably drop more notes, or revoice the chords depending on audibility.

    The other option I can theoretically see for the last two chords would be to use the second harmonic on the F(b) string, instead of the 1st on the C, but I think I have only once used a 2nd harmonic in performance and would not be confident about getting it to sound, and there is a risk of audibly playing the Fb which is not in the chord.


    Participant
    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #220162

    This would not work well as written. The left hand is busy with a different chord, and the right hand cannot play multiple harmonics. As Tacye suggests, the left hand, if big enough, could play the bottom note of the right hand chord. But those harmonics are on strings which are too short to make good harmonics. Another solution would be to play those harmonics as single natural notes an octave higher, and take as many notes as you can in the left hand. What piece is this? Has anyone ever played it?


    Participant
    carl-swanson on #220165

    I suspect that this composer read about Salzedo’s method of writing harmonics where they sound, and not where you play them. If that’s the case, then you would roll the chord and the left hand would quickly replay the note an octave lower than the harmonic note, as a harmonic. If that is the intended way of playing the chords that end in a harmonic note, then I think I would play the lowest note in the chord with the left hand, the next three with the right hand, and the harmonic(an octave lower than written) with the left hand.


    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #220727

    It is obviously impossible to play those harmonics except on the string indicated, as you have just played the c an octave below in the chord. However, for good writing, the chord tones need to be moved to the left hand so the right hand only plays the harmonics. That said, the harmonics are too high to be played well. This composer had no idea how to write for the harp. I think the busy harpist would simply play the notes as written and ignore all the wishful harmonic notations. One has to see the full score to see what doubling there is and how to adjust the part in context.

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