The Firebird’s Feather – Russian Romantic Harp Music

0 of 5 stars

At a Festivity
Variations on a Theme of Paganini
Variations on a Theme of Mozart
Three Preludes
Little Suite
The Firebird’s Feather
Prelude, Op.23/4 [transcribed]

Danielle Perrett (harp)

The release’s annotation does not advise recording details

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: September 2007
Duration: 73 minutes

For many, this attractive release will provide an ideal introduction to the world of Russian Romantic music for solo harp – especially given the quality of harpist Danielle Perrett’s playing.

Eight composers are represented here. The disc opens and closes with the music of Mikhail Mchedelov (1903-1974), who arranged and wrote much music for the harp, including a set of scales and arpeggios. At a Festivity features two contrasting dances (one for the men and one for the women!), while Variations on a Theme of Paganini uses the famous theme from Paganini’s Caprice No.24 (for solo violin to build a dizzying edifice of eleven variations which explores the harp’s resources with great flair and imagination.

Glinka’s Nocturne immediately recalls those of his teacher John Field; there’s also a nocturne-like quality to the Variations on a Theme of Mozart, based on the magic bell music from “The Magic Flute”. These are Glinka’s only works for solo harp. Virtuoso harpist Ksenia Erdelyi (1878-1971), on the other hand, wrote, arranged and transcribed extensively for her instrument. Her Three Preludes and Elegy feature some particularly haunting melodies; the latter work is dedicated to Glinka, but is also vaguely reminiscent of Rachmaninov. In between these two works comes Gliere’s superb Impromptu, edited by Erdelyi, it’s very Romantic indeed, richly textured and melodically attractive.

Erdely’s Elegy is perfectly balanced by the four miniatures that form Nikolai Gavrilovich Parfenov’s Little Suite: ‘In the South’ is bright and clear; ‘Fireflies’ is all swirling figurations; ‘Bayatti’ is faintly exotic; and ‘The Sea’ is wonderfully evocative and Debussy-like.

The Firebird’s Feather is by the only non-Russian composer on the disc, David Gough (born 1959). Apparently written to complement the other pieces on the disc, this tuneful, multi-faceted work takes a Russian folk-tale as its inspiration and features many techniques used by the Russian Romantics. The ‘Dies Irae’ theme is even quoted, thus providing a nice link to the next work, Rachmaninov’s Prelude Opus 23/Number 4 (written for piano, of course), which sits very well indeed on the harp.

Perrett, who, according to the biographical note included with the CD, specialises in solo and chamber music on both modern and late-eighteenth-century harps, has an extremely busy career teaching, composing and arranging for and, of course, performing on, her instrument. This perhaps explains the depth of artistry, as well as superlative technique, in evidence here. The tone and touch is continually varied, the colours suited to the often-dark undertones of the music. The sweeping scales and arpeggios, so idiomatic to the harp, provide elegant underpinnings to the often-pronounced and generously-phrased melodic material, while a very wide dynamic continuum is always deployed with great taste and discretion.

The recorded sound is perhaps a little dry (and seems rather processed) for this repertoire, but ultimately does little to dent one’s enthusiasm for what is a fascinating and enjoyable recital.

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