GLIERE & JONGEN: Harp Concertos; RODRIGO: Concierto de Aranjuez – Anneleen Lenaerts, harp/ Brussels Philharmonic/ Michel Tabachnik – Klara

GLIERE: Harp Concerto, Op. 78; JONGEN: Harp Concerto, Op. 129; RODRIGO: Concierto de Aranjuez – Anneleen Lenaerts, harp/ Brussels Philharmonic/ Michel Tabachnik – Klara, 67:02 (5/12/15) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Currently serving as principal harpist of the Vienna Philharmonic, Anneleen Lenaerts (b. 1987) inscribed these three effective harp vehicles 2-5 June 2014. The most familiar work, that by Joaquin Rodrigo, offers his own arrangement of the guitar original, specifically for Nicanor Zabaleta.  The Gliere Concerto for Harp (1938) finds its initial impetus in the legacy of Ksenia Erdely (1878-1971), the founder of a dynasty of Russian harpists. Joseph Jongen conceived his own Harp Concerto in 1944, and it stands as his final concert opus.  Jongen, a Belgian musical phenomenon, borrows heavily on a Gallic tradition that includes diverse elements from Faure, Debussy, D’Indy, and Stravinsky.  Jongen’s own muse of the harp, Mirelle Flour (1906-1984), helped to create the piece, premiered it, and recorded it under the direction of Ferdinand Quinet.

From first note to last, the Gliere Concerto provides the harp extended opportuniuties for mellifluous runs, the cadenza passages straight out of Tchaikovsky ballets.  Arpeggios, gliassandos, and block chords suffuse the writing, but Lenaerts’ facility renders any technical demands academic.  The clarinet introduces the secondary tune, romantic in the same tradition as Glazunov and Rachmaninov.  The second movement, a theme and (six) variations, projects a folk idiom.  The tune itself has a drooping figure that has a vague consonance with the opening theme of the Brahms E Minor Symphony. Individual stringed and wind instruments add to the charm of the coloration, which often resembles music by Saint-Saens. The last movement, marked Allegro giocoso, proffers the hybrid sonata-rondo form that enchanted Haydn. The music combines a Viennese charm with a Russian national style, akin to Tchaikovsky Fourth Suite, Mozartiana.  At moments, the score sounds like an enchanted pas de deux from a Russian romantic ballet.

Joseph Jongen (1873-1953) enjoys a repute based almost exclusively on one work, his 1926 Symphonie concertante, Op. 81 for organ and orchestra.  His two-movement Harp Concerto opts for a multifariously hued, chamber-music texture, with divisi and pizzicato strings and paired winds, two horns, triangle, cymbals, and celesta.  The opening, aerial (and modal) texture will likely remind auditors of both Debussy’s Sacred and Profane Dances and Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro. Jongen fuses the Moderement anime to the succeeding Andantino in the Mendelssohn concerto manner.  The solo cello joins the harp for some lovely harmony. The last movement, Allegro Vivo, begins with an expansive, three-minute recitative-cadenza that impressively showcases the diaphanously sonorous instrument Lenaerts controls. The orchestra chimes in with a prominent set of cymbals and high winds. The theme exhibits pentatonic aspects in the Ravel “Balinese” mode, topped by the triangle and cymbals. When the horns join in for an expansion of the rhythm, composer Jongen becomes a boulevardier or a true disciple of Vincent D’Indy.

The 1940 Concierto de Aranjuez celebrates the Palacio Real de Aranjuez, southwest of Madrid. Like Falla of the Alhambra, Rodrigo seeks to evoke an atmosphere of the Bourbon kings and regal luxury.  Much of the first movement invokes a fandango that vacillates between 6/8 and ¾. Lenaert’s harp moves idiomatically through the “guitar” filigree, often swirling in the manner of toreador’s magical veronicas.  The Andalusian saeta or lament for his ever-popular Adagio that sings in the manner of an exalted nocturne.  In Rodrigo’s words, “I wanted an imaginary instrument with the wings of a harp, the heart of a piano, and the soul of a guitar.” The meditation takes us into a cadenza from Lenaerts that sets us up for the impassioned statement, tutti, of the grand theme. The last movement, Allegro gentile, utilizes brass instruments for the folk effect in tandem with the harp. The various counterpoints add a neo-Baroque sensibility to this aristocratic treatment of Spanish folk idioms.  The sonic image for both Ms. Lenaerts and Maestro Tabachnik, courtesy of engineer Walter De Niel, has been delightfully quiet and alert.

—Gary Lemco

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