CARLOS SALZEDO Works for Solo Harp – Ballade; Scintillation; Five Poetical Studios; Suite of Eight Dances; Variations on a theme in the Ancient Style – Alice Giles, harp – Tall Poppies: “Bolmimerie” – Works for 7 harps – SHE – Tall Poppies:

by | Jan 30, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

CARLOS SALZEDO Works for Solo Harp – Ballade; Scintillation; Five Poetical Studios; Suite of Eight Dances; Variations on a theme in the Ancient Style – Alice Giles, harp – Tall Poppies TP137, 67:36 [Distr. by E1] *****:

“Bolmimerie” – SALZEDO: Bolmimerie; Rumba; EDWARDS: Arafura Arioso; SCHULTZ: The Meaning of Water; CALCRAFT: Sevenfold Amen; WESLEY-SMITH: Alice in the Garden of Live Flowers; Seven Widows at the Gates of Sugamo; BACH-SALZEDO: Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring; LECUONA: Malaguena; ORTIZ: Venezolana; ANON.-SALZEDO: Pavane (XVI Century) – SHE Seven Harp Ensemble – Tall Poppies TP204, 64:48 [Distr. by E1] *****:

Carlos Salzedo, who lived until 1961, was the great 20th century innovator and genius of the concert harp – something like Segovia was for the guitar. A force in the contemporary music of his time, he was also a pianist, composer, teacher and conductor. He also arranged many works by composers for the harp, and brought the harp to its present place as a colorful solo instrument, not just providing accompaniment to other instruments or impressionistic color in the orchestra. He founded the International Composers Guild with Edgar Varese.

The strongest part of Salzedo’s influence in the musical life of the first half of the 20th century was probably his many compositions for the harp. Many of his works have extraordinary brilliance and require great virtuosity in performance. He created many entirely new sounds that could be procured on the harp, and notated the smallest gestures that would add to the color or mood of the music. His book on the Modern Study of the Harp explained his various inventive tonal effects, and it became the prime reference for a growth of contemporary music for the harp.

Scintillation of 1936 is one of the composer’s best-known harp works. Based on idealized dance patterns, it demonstrates a wide range of tonal expression – as do all the works on this program recorded in Bavaria by the noted Australian harpist Alice Giles – her fifth CD for this label.  Many years ago there was a Mercury mono LP titled Scintillation recorded by Carlos Salzedo himself, but this CD is better sound and in stereo of course.


In the late teens of the last century Salzedo wrote some works for an ensemble of seven concert harps and encouraged other composers to do the same.  Bolmimerie – the title of the second CD – was one of the results. He even tried to form a touring ensemble of four dancers and four harps. Bolmimerie was originally composed for a 1919 film pantomime in which Salzedo collaborated with scientist and filmmaker Lee de Forest – who also created radio tubes. It accompanied a mini-ballet dedicated the Russian dancer Adolph Bolm.  The work by Australian composer Ross Edwards is an arrangement for seven harps of the second movement of his guitar concerto, with two harps playing the solo guitar line and the other five constituting the “orchestra” portion.

Martin Wesley-Smith is an eclectic Aussie composer, whose vocal and choral works are set to the lyrics of his twin brother Peter. His two pieces here are wildly different from one another. The Alice in Wonderland work derives from Lewis Carroll’s story, and is in his “Pat-a-Cake” style, using a simple triad is in childrens’ songs. “Seven Widows at the Gates of Sugamo” requires the seven harpists to also sing the words, aided by a choir. They concern the allied war crime trials that condemned to death over 1000 Japanese soldiers and officers. The arrangements of the Bach, Lecuona and Baroque selections for the seven harps are a delight.

SHE was founded by Alice Giles and its members are graduates of the Australian National University.  They perform many newly-commissioned Australian works and have performed all over Australia as well as on the ABC there. I’ve already confessed to being a nut about ensembles of identical instruments, and how many multiple harp ensemble recordings are there? It’s a wonderful sound.

— John Sunier

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