Salzedo was to the modern concert harp what Segovia was to the guitar. He became a major force in American music shortly after moving from France to New York City. He felt the harp was neglected musically and created a library of new music for it which explored a wide range of sounds and techniques never before used with the harp. The colorful effects and sonorities in his pieces opened a whole new world for the solo harp and raised its artistic level to what we are familiar with today.
There was a terrific mono LP on Mercury of Salzedo’s own performances. I recall it was an early audiophile favorite because the harp is even more difficult to properly record than the piano. The frequency range is quite extended for a single solo instrument, and low notes on the concert harp can sometimes cause objects in the listening room to rattle or buzz with sympathetic resonances. The music is heard against a dead-silent background on this excellent recording, which was made in the Skywalker Sound studios north of San Francisco. Surprisingly I didn’t find any of the Salzedo works on this fine recital to duplicate those on the Mercury LP. The Dance Suite explores many different colors and sounds of the instrument, and includes a polka composed by Salzedo when he was only five years old. The concluding Variations on a Theme in Ancient Style realizes the most extreme effects possible on the harp, requiring considerable performer exertion. One variation employs the highest register strings in depicting the fluttering of a butterfly.
– John Sunier