Music For Harp - Middle Ages To The 20th Century
-- Gramophone [6/1979, reviewing an LP release of the Spohr]
The chromatic harp is an idiosyncratic and, outside certain simple formulae, difficult instrument to write for; it has also been hard for it to escape from its 'romantic' image. Think of the harp, think of arpeggios (isn't that what the word signifies?), and those traversed with a sweep of the hand are inevitably colourful because you can't do it with a simple triad. Harp concertos have never been numerous and, other than Mozart and Handel, have come and gone like recorded ships in the night. Glière's has survived but Zabaleta's account of Reinecke's has long gone (DG 138 853, 11/63). Hard to realize the Glihre was written as late as 1939 —broad but fairly commonplace tunes, ultraconservative structure and language, arpeggios galore are its lot, music to relax and dream to. Michel is a fine harpist and her Glibre fully matches Ellis's older and less crisply recorded version on Decca, but neither can transmute the music's pewter to gold. The Reinecke is a more demonstrative and developed work, not written 'Out of its time', exploiting the resources of the harp in both solo and subsidiary roles, the flanking movements with cyclic connections.
The slow movement is exceptionally beautiful, the opening theme given by harp and trombone in hushed unison, and later, in ethereal harmonies on the harp with quiet responses from the strings. Michel presses a little ahead of her colleagues at times (notably the unisoni trombone) but generally benefits from skilful orchestration, sensitive support and well balanced recording. Written for a 'commoner' instrument the Reinecke might have become an oft-heard standard in the repertoire- it may still find favour with anyone following my advice to buy this recording.
-- Gramophone [4/1980, reviewing the LP release of the Gliere and Reinecke concertos]
The novelty for me—and I daresay it may be for others too—was Roussel's Serenade of 1925, refreshing music that while keeping well clear of profundities, is yet most elegantly fashioned, urbane and full of wry charm. Here you will find the Melos Ensemble more smiling and certainly more kaleidescopic in colour. The Turnabout team are a bit more serious about the musical argument, a bit less bemused by effects of tone colouring. The flautist, Wilhelm Schwegler, also unfortunately has to breathe, whereas Richard Adeney's instrument (I presume it is Adeney) miraculously seems to play itself without audible intakes of air. It is Adeney's tonal bloom, his wider range of dynamics and colour and more malleable phrasing that in the first place succeeds in making Debussy's sonata sound more beguiling than the cheaper version, and especially in the opening Pastorale—considered by many critics no less seductive than the famous L'apres-midi. In this movement the Turnabout team do not react subtly and sensitively enough to detail, whereas the Melos are constantly reading between the lines and yielding rhythmically to this and that. But perhaps you could argue that the graver pulse chosen by the Germans for the Minuetto emphasizes its archaic, hieratic quality. I also thought they manage to define individual notes a bit more precisely in the finale than the Melos, who are sometimes a bit too impressionistic in their fluidity for this movement, where Debussy, "Musicien Francais", is very definitely looking back to seventeenth-and eighteenthcentury French classicism.
The performance I enjoyed most was the old, familiar Ravel from the Endres Quartet with Helga Storck, Konrad Hampe and Gerd Starke. The music, of course, is much less equivocal than the Debussy, and these players respond to its sensuous languor and tingling darts with more immediacy than I detected anywhere else on this record.
-- Joan Chissell, Gramophone [2/1969, reviewing the LP release of the Debussy, Ravel, and Roussel works]
Catalog Number: CD3X-3019
Composer: Albert Roussel, Anonymous, Camille Saint-Saëns, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, Carl Reinecke, Claude Debussy, Claude Gervaise, François Boieldieu, Gabriel Pierné, George Frideric Handel, Guillelmus Monachus, Louis Spohr, Maurice Ravel, Reinhold Gliere, Traditional, Walther von der Vogelweide
Conductor: Jörg Faerber, Louis de Froment, Paul Kuentz
Orchestra/Ensemble: Endres String Quartet, Endres String Quartet members, Luxembourg Radio/Television Symphony Orchestra, Paul Kuentz Chamber Orchestra, Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn
Performer: Catherine Michel, Elena Polonska, Fritz Ruf, Gerd Starke, Helga Storck, Konrad Hampe, Marie-Claire Jamet, Ruggiero Ricci, Susanna Mildonian, Wilhelm Schwegler