Harp Music of Debussy, Charriere, Thomas, d’Almivare and Blank [TrackList follows] – Duo-harpists Geneviève Chevallier and Christine Fleischmann – VDE-Gallo (Gall) CD-1401, 52:25 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
This album is a celebration of Swiss harp composition and performance. The two performers here studied, and now make their living in ensembles and academic institutions in Switzerland. Geneviève Chevallier is harp soloist with the Orchestre de Chamber de Geneva and has performed with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. She has taught at the Fribourg Music Academy and now at Geneva’s Music Academy. Christine Fleischmann now teaches in the Music Academy of Lausanne and has accompanied choirs on recordings. This is their third recording together.
Chevallier and Fleischmann commissioned two of the five works on this disc. First is La Forȇt Enchantée by contemporary Swiss composer Caroline Charrière (b. 1960), completed in 2007. Charrière was born in Fribourg and studied flute and composition in the U.K., turning full-time to composition in 2000. She has received several commissions, teaches now at the conservatory in Fribourg, and leads several choirs. The piece is a pleasant pastoral view of a magical wooded world.
The last composition on the disc is also a commission, this time from 2010 by William Blank, born 1957 in Montreux. He is currently Head of the Contemporary Music Department at the University of Lausanne. He admires the Taoist “way of being, acting and thinking” and the Far-Eastern influences shine forth in his selection on this disc called She Yin. It calls for non-conventional playing of the harp – sounds evocative of oriental instruments.
The other three composers represented are John Thomas with his piece Souvenir du Nord, Pierre d’Almivare with Duo, and Claude Debussy with two of the four sections of his Petite Suite, originally for piano four-hands. John Thomas (1826 – 1913) was a Welsh-born composer, and the harpist to Queen Victoria. His piece here consists of variations on Welsh folk tunes. Pierre d’Almivare (1772 – 1831) was a composer, harpist with the Paris Opera, and harp tutor to Empress Josephine, His charming piece is typical of 18th-century chamber music. The best-known composer on the disc is Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918). Listeners will likely recognize the melodies here, as they’re among Debussy’s most-transcribed.
The recording company VDE-Gallo is a small Swiss establishment located in Lausanne, with a short but impressive list of classical recordings. The firm is sometimes confused with the larger Gallo Records in South Africa, and with Gallo Wines of California. Gallo Wines has actually obtained a restraining order on the Swiss company and its rooster logo, necessitating distribution in the U.S. under the Gall label through Albany Music Distributors.
The fold-out packaging of the album features an attractive tree design on the cover, complemented by a tree-ring motif on the booklet pages and the disc itself. The pages describe the composers and the music adequately in French. But the translation from French to English is laughable throughout. And the booklet says nothing about where, when, and by whom the recordings were made. But these are minor issues.
The major point is that this is intelligently chosen music, beautifully played. If you like the sound of a solo harp, this doubles your pleasure.