Harp Visions – Lavinia Meijer = BRITTEN: Suite; PATTERSON: Spiders, Bugs; BYRNES: Visions in Twilight; YUN: In Balance – TAKEMITSU: Stanza II for harp and tape – Lavinia Meijer, harp – Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCSA 29709, 63:08 ***** [Distrib. by Harmonia mundi]:
This gorgeously recorded SACD is a selection of works written in the last 40 years for the harp. Lavinia Meijer’s attraction to modern music gives her a sense of freedom by expanding her technical and interpretative possibilities. “I also enjoy the challenge of making modern music, which is experienced by so many people as ‘difficult’, into something not only approachable but exciting,” she states in the CD notes. This disc is a testament to the sonic versatility and creativity of the harp and the sensuous pleasure it expresses.
Britten’s Suite for Harp was written in 1969 for the great English harpist, Ossian Ellis, who appears on many of the great Decca early stereo recordings. Especially haunting and sensuous is the Nocturne movement, recalling Britten’s earlier masterpiece, Nocturne for tenor and strings. Most moving is the final Hymn, St. Denio, five variations on a Welsh tune. Meijer makes the most of the dynamic contrasts in this work and the SACD sound makes them palpable to our ears. Paul Patterson’s Spiders (1985), and the sequel, Bugs (2006) cleverly demonstrate the full range of the harp’s expressive technique. Spiders refers to the appearance of the harp as a web and the harpist’s fingers that fly over it like a spider. The jazzy, ominous, creepy and ‘trippy’ moods of each movement represent the four most deadly spiders – the white lady, red-backed spider, black widow and tarantula. Bugs is an amusing triptych on the effect of bugs on people. The last section, Mosquito Massacre, is a sonic representation of how a harpist responds to the annoyance of a buzzing mosquito. Great fun!
American composer Garrett Byrne’s Visions in Twlight won Meijer a prize for her performance in the 2004 USA International Harp Competition. It’s an improvisational piece that explores the harp’s virtuosic capabilities. Korean Isang Yun’s (1917-95) In Balance (1987) is episodically esoteric, using elements derived from Eastern and Western avante garde techniques. In Stanza II, Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu uses a stereo tape that includes bird calls and human voices to create an adversarial tapestry to the harp’s accompaniment.
If you’ve never heard a disc of modern solo harp music, you will be pleasantly surprised at the variety and approachability of the scores performed here by the superb Lavinia Meijer.
— Robert Moon