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Glossa GCD 921303, 2009
This has to be one of the most intruiging and high-register recordings yet of Welsh triple harp music. Mara Galassi, an Italian baroque harpist, has put together a programme of harp music by or attributed to Handel, and this of course means dealing with the blind Welsh harpers who were working in London at that time, and for whom Handel composed his harp music. On this CD Mara plays Eric Kleinmann’s lovely replica of the triple harp made by David Evans in London in 1736. This elegant, gilded instrument is the perfect harp for Handel with its crisp treble voice and big thundering bass. However you will see no mention in the detailed liner notes that the copy is actually a mirror image: in 18th century London, Handel’s harpers played left hand treble, right hand bass, using triple harps set up for this orientation. Mara’s reversed replica allows her to continue using the normal continental orientation of left bass, right treble.
The programme is a very informative mixture, from ordinary sources of Handel’s music, to the Handel-attributed selection collected by Edward Jones for his Music and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards in 1784. I would have liked to see more exploration of the traditional crossover here, with some of blind John Parry’s extraordinary variation sets, but even without those this is a great selection.
For the second half of the CD Mara plays an original early 19th century Érard pedal harp, in some interesting settings of Handel’s music by Bochsa. The more classical sound of the pedal harp reminds us of the unique voice of the triple harp heard in the first half.
This is a really excellent CD and highly recommended to anyone interested in 18th century harp music, or the crossover between the ancient British oral traditions and the mainstream of European baroque and classical music.
£1.80 (UK only - select for overseas postage)
£4.00 (Airmail within Europe)
£5.00 (Airmail outside Europe)
Il Viaggio di Lucrezia
Glossa GCD 921301, 1999
Mara Galassi presents a programme of solo baroque Italian harp (arpa doppia), framed as ‘the journey of Lucrezia’ which is described in the liner notes in a series of fictional letters from harpist Lucrezia to her patron. Mara’s harp is a copy of the Barberini, the biggest and most luxurious of the extant surviving Italian baroque harps, and her playing vividly demonstrates the power and capability of this instrument. Highly recommended for anyone interested in other historical harp traditions.
Out of print
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© Simon Chadwick
First published August 2009.