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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Romantic Harp Concertos, Boieldieu, Parish Alvars, Viotti; Marielle Nordmann, Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, Jean-Pierre Rampal

I love a harp well-played. In fact, to adopt an old Coca-Cola slogan from my youth, to me things go better with harp. I could probably listen to the "Howdy Doody" Theme Song and like it if it were played properly on the instrument.

So the new release Romantic Harp Concertos (Newton Classics 8802205) is right up my alley. Marielle Nordmann is the harp soloist and she is very good. Jean-Pierre Rampal conducts the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra in a nicely wrought way for the orchestral accompaniment.

Needless to say, this music is many leagues above the "Howdy Doodie" Theme Song. We get two major concertos, one each by Boieldieu (1775-1834) and Parish Alvars (1808-1849), and and a single movement from Viotti's (1755-1824) "Violin Concerto No. 19," as arranged for harp and orchestra by Nordmann.

I've had a rendition of the Boieldieu for many years as released on LP in the early '60s. It was quite serviceable but the version here is sonically and musically superior. The work has a particularly fine final movement in minor that has a very attractive theme for harp.

The Parish Alvars and the Viotti works are new to me. They do not seem quite as vital as the Boieldieu but they are wonderful to listen to for the engaging harp parts and Nordmann's talented way with them.

The music has a compactness typical of the late-classical, early-romantic period. Each movement has an autonomy that nevertheless works together with the others in all the ways you would expect. And there are some remarkable solo passages for the harp throughout. Maestro Rampal does it all justice.

In short this is a highly engaging set, very nice to hear. If you love the harp it will give you what you want. Even if you don't these are works that deserve the light of day and our listening time.

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