Reaction – New Music For 2 Harps

0 of 5 stars

Locked Voices
Spiders, Op.48
Butterflies’ Autumn
What do you see in the flames?
Van Delden
Concertino per Due Arpe

Double Action [Keziah Thomas & Eleanor Turner (harps)]

Recorded on 11 & 12 April 2005 in the Priory Church of St Mary and the Holy Cross, Binham, Norfolk

Reviewed by: Rob Witts

Reviewed: August 2006
Duration: 56 minutes

That the harp duo is not a more popular ensemble is a simple function of logistics – you need parking spaces for two Volvo estates, for starters. Still rarer is the harp duo playing new music; so far as I can see, Double Action leads a field of one. This is nonetheless an enjoyable and stimulating recording of recent music.

The modern concert harp (whose ‘double-action’ pedals provide the group’s name) is an impressive piece of furniture, whose shape inspires fantastical visual metaphors that match its otherworldly sound. For Paul Patterson, its strings are a spider’s web; for Eleanor Turner, two opposing harps resemble butterfly wings. Dai Fujikura, on the other hand, is taken with the image of “blond girls playing the harp’, more distraction than Reaction ­ or so his wry programme note to Locked Voices would have us believe. Commissioned by the Park Lane Group, the premiere was given by Turner and Thomas. As the title suggests, the two players are locked together in imitative combat, aggressive and sensual by turns, and the writing is clear, flowing easily between sections. The work’s harmonic focus gives a bracing sense of neo-classical rigour. Fujikura¹s other piece, …..only….., (2001) is more impressionistic, and more precisely attuned to the harp’s timbral qualities, tracing a melody in fragile harmonics over a rustle of glissandi.

Geoffrey Poole¹s Kakemono, another PLG commission, is similarly ambiguous, and opens in a pentatonic mode that suggests the music of China before shifting direction. The title refers to a type of calligraphy that is unfurled vertically, and the piece passes through distinct sections: a segment of superbly co-ordinated glissandi gestures is contrasted with a spare sequence of notes and knuckles rapped against the body of the harp. Despite, or perhaps because of, this episodic structure, the piece is engaging, and returns in the end to its modal beginnings.

Eleanor Turner’s own music stands up well in this company. Butterflies’ Autumn is an attractive slice of pastoral impressionism, with Debussyesque melodies chiming in a shimmering heat haze. The solo What do you see in the flames? is more expressionistic, with ideas melting and transforming in constant flux. Meanwhile, Keziah Thomas performs Paul Patterson’s jazzy and engaging suite of arachnid miniatures with style.

Finishing with Lex van Delden’s austere Concertino per Due Arpe, this disc offers the chance to hear new and unfamiliar repertoire beautifully played and recorded in lively stereo, and deserves to be heard on the CD players of Volvo estates everywhere!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content