The London Harp Sound – 16 harpists conducted by Geoffrey Simon – Cala Records

by | Nov 25, 2010 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

The London Harp Sound – 16 harpists conducted by Geoffrey Simon – Cala Records CACD0119, 67:22 [Distr. by Albany & Top Music] (TrackList below) *****:

I discovered this unusual CD on the web site of the Asian audiophile label Top Music, but was surprised to find on its arrival that it was a standard Cala CD – not in one of the several audiophile formats formats offered by the Hong Kong label. I guess they are just distributing it due to its appeal to audiophiles, and I certainly can agree with that. I’ve already mentioned my personal hangup with multiple-instrument ensembles, and 16 concert harps is heaven in my view!

Never mind its not being SACD or 96K – this is a wonderful sound and its crossover appeal of selections should be pleasing to a broad variety of listeners – not just audio buffs. In among the expected Debussy, Bach and Brahms is some Michel Legrand, some Lloyd Webber, and even – would you believe? – “My Baby Just Cares for Me.”

The double-page spread color photo of the 16 harpists is something to see.  They are selected from the top tier of European professional harpists and most have all been very exciting to take part in this unusual adventure. It’s typical of the sort of off-the-beaten-path concepts conductor Simon comes up with for his Cala label – part of his "London Sound" series.  We received a multi-harps-and-chamber-orchestra Christmas CD about the same time, which is nice, but this one takes the cake.  Just imagine: 47 strings on each harp times 16 harps – what a sound!  Works well with Dolby ProLogic II or DTS Neo surround too.

The principal harpist/leader of the ensemble was Isabelle Perrin, and in her notes she refers to the old joke about harpists spending more time tuning than playing nearly becoming true at this session. And remember that each of those harpists has to quickly manipulate seven pedals per harp, with three slots per pedal – one for each accidental!  The wide range of dynamics and color of the harps is exploited well in the arrangements by Paul Sarcich and others.  Debussy’s complete Afternoon of a Faun sounds just beautiful with the 16 harps – one doesn’t miss the other instruments at all – it’s as though he should have written it for that combination to begin with.

TrackList: Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Les Chanson du Piaf suite, Jasmine Flower, Bach: Prelude in f, My Baby Just Cares for Me, Legrand: The Windmills of Your Mind, Brahms’ Lullaby, Berlioz: Un bal (Sym. fantastique), Lecuona: Andalucia, Simcock: Lady of the Lake, Lloyd Webber: The Music of the Night, Andres: La Ragazza suite

 — John Sunier

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01
La Clave – Acoustic Sounds

La Clave – Acoustic Sounds

Verve/Universal Music Group releases a re-mastered vinyl of an obscure, but highly entertaining 70’s album.