CD A0215: Concerti and Chamber Music

Concerti and Chamber Music David Watkins - harp, Simon Standage - violin & The Salomon Quartet
Performed on period instruments

CD Cover: The Glory of the Harp by David Watkins"It is a genuine musical, pleasure to hear lovely works, new to me, composed by J.C. Bach, Mozart and Haydn. When these works are so beautifully and musically played the pleasure is even greater." Lady Evelyn Barbirolli  3rd July 2000.

"What a delightful and civilised record, which I love. I hope you sell huge quantities of it." Professor H.C. Robbins Landon (The great Mozart-Haydn Scholar)

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David Watkins profile page with index of recordings and compositions

Track Listing & Audio Samples

JC BACH - Sinfonia Concerto
1 Allegro Assai 6' 07"
2 Andante 7' 57"
3 Presto 2’ 10"
JC BACH - Sonata VI in B flat major
4 Allegretto 7' 28"
5 Andante 2' 42"
6 Allegro 3' 48"
MOZART - Adagio and Rondo, K617
7 Adagio 5' 18”
8 Rondo 7' 00"
9 MOZART - Adagio for Solo Harp, K617a 3' 44"
HAYDN - Trio in F major, Hb XV:40
10 Tempo giusto 6'01"
11 Menuett and Trio 3' 46”
12 Allegro 3' 10"
HAYDN - Concerto in C major, Hoboken 15.37
13 Allegro moderato 4' 57”
14 Andante 3'30"
15 Allegro 3' 23”
71' 17"


CD Notes & Credits

J. C. Bach 1735-1782
Sinfonia Concerto Opus 1 1763
Sonata No: VI in B flat 1775

The Sinfonia Concerto in G is taken from the set of six concerti written in 1763. Dedicated to Queen Charlotte, the last concerto includes Variations on 'God save the King’

The future Queen may have met J.C. Bach when he was living in Berlin as music was such an important part of her life. During her voyage to England, to be married in 1761, she played the spinet to calm her frightened companions during a violent storm at sea.

The Concerti were also published in Paris by Huberty for “Clavecin ou Harpe” and they were performed to great applause’ by the harpist Mlle Duverger at the Concerts Spiritual (She was married to King Louis VI’s ‘valet de chambre’)

It is worth noting that Frederick the Great’s harpist, Francois Petrini started his professional career at the ducal palace of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen Charlotte’s childhood home. In England, Bach was appointed music teacher to the royal household. Bach made an enormous impression on the young Mozart both as a friend and musical mentor. Some of Bach’s compositions became models for the young Mozart and in a letter to his father he wrote “As you know well, I love him with all my heart, and I have the greatest regard for him.”

The music of Johann Christian Bach still waits to be ‘discovered” by the general musical public. His style is uncompromisingly simple and joyful, so refreshing after the complicating counterpoints of the Baroque. Despite the clarity, there are moments of touching poetry and flashes of imaginative orchestration. Mozart wrote again after Bach’s death, ‘Have you heard that the English Bach is dead? What a loss for the world of music.”

The Harp Trio (Sonata No; VI in B flat), was published by the Welsh harpist Edward Jones (1752-1824) in a volume which contained works of various composers under the title“Musical Remains”. A “Sonata for the Harp; with accompaniment for a Violin and Violoncello, or may be played on the harpsichord as a Duet with the Harp. Composed by J.C. Bach on purpose for the editor to play.” The first movement was also reworked by Bach for the “Sestetto in C” in 1783.

Jones was famously known for his book“Musical and Poetical Relics of the Welsh Bards”; published in 1784 and dedicated to the Prince of Wales. (He was made Harpist to the Prince of Wales in 1788). Dr Charles Burney was one of the subscribers, and although the book is so important in describing traditional Welsh practices, Jones promotes the superiority of the pedal harp. It was this instrument he played to the Burneys on arriving in London at the age of twenty three. Fanny Burney wrote that he played, “A fine instrument of Merlin’s construction, he plays with great neatness and delicacy.”

He was a regular performer at the Bach—Abel Concerts and a new series was inaugurated at the Hanover Square Rooms from February 1775. The Harp Trio must date from this period. The Harp has a “Concertante” role in the outer fast movements.

W. A. MOZART 1756-1791
Adagio and Rondo K617
Solo Adagio K356 (617A)

Both these compositions were written in 1791, the last year of Mozart’s life, and featured the Glass Harmonica. Both were written for the blind-player, Marianne Kirchgessner.

The Glass Harmonica was invented by Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) (he also played the harp!) It consisted of graduated crystal glasses revolving on a spindle and worked by a treadle. The glasses were moistened by water (in a trough underneath) and touched by the fingers to make unearthly and ethereal sounds. Mozart was so fascinated by the instrument that he had performed on one at a public concert. It would seem that Kirchgessner played the Adagio and Rondo at a “Haydn-Salomon” concert in the Hanover Square Rooms on the 17th March 1794. The Critic of the Morning Chronicle wrote: “Her taste is chastened and the dulcet notes of the instrument would be delightful indeed, were they more powerful and articulate; but that we believe the most perfect execution cannot make them. In a smaller room and an audience less numerous, the effect must be enchanting. Though the accompaniments were kept very much under, they were still occasionally too loud.”

Mozart’s orchestration”, to accompany the solo instrument, is for flute, oboe, viola and cello. Although a performance with string quartet loses some contrasts, it is made up for by the integrated texture which is a marvellous foil for the harp.

In arranging the solo part for the harp, I have filled out the texture, hopefully Mozartian in style and used many harmonic sounds” a technique known to eighteenth century harpists and which produces an ethereal sound.

J. Haydn 1732-1809
Trio in F (Hoboken 15 39&40)
Concerto in C (Hoboken 15 37)

Haydn was surrounded by Harpists. His father played the harp, Jean Baptiste Krumpholtz played at Esterhazy from 1773 to 1776 (or 77) and Mme Krumpholtz played at his concerts in London.

So it is strange that no known M.S. Title page bears the word Harp! Traditionally he is reputed to have written a Harp Trio and a Harp Concerto. The 1890 Grove 'Dictionary of Music’ mentions the existence of a Harp Trio. Haydn helped Krumpholtz write his Harp Concerto (Opus 6 No: 2) and must therefore have been very knowledgeable about harp technique.

The Trio in F appears its various editions, as a Solo Sonata, as a Partita and as a Concerto. The original composition probably dates from before 1760. It was published in Amsterdam in 1767 and then in London in 1787 when there was such a great demand for Trios. The solo writing in both the Trio and Concerto is similar to much contemporary harp music and some passages are easier on the harp than the keyboard. The Concerto in C is dated 1763 but again was probably written several years before.

The harp in the eighteenth century

At the beginning of the century, two types of harp existed. A fully or partially chromatic harp or a diatonic harp. Chromatic Harps had many strings and complicated fingerings. Diatonic Harps had just one plane of strings but sharps or flats needed a free hand to press the string against the wood or to turn hooks or levers.

In 1720 a Bavarian Harp Maker, Hochbrucker perfected a harp with seven pedals which could mechanically raise the pitch of each string and leave the hands completely free for playing. It was presented at the Royal Court in Vienna in 1728. Many years lapsed before it was presented in Paris in 1749 by Goepfert. It was enthusiastically received at a "Concert Spirituel”.

The arrival of Marie Antoinette at the French Court — herself a harpist — started a frenzy of activity in the harp world as everybody wanted to play the instrument. Harps were perfected and sumptuously decorated. In 1784 there were 58 harp teachers in Paris.

In England, the pedal harp took longer to get established. There was a long tradition of Welsh Triple Harp players and the instrument was almost fully chromatic. It is this instrument that was used in Handel’s compositions. During the French Revolution many pedal harp players fled to England and the instrument became extremely popular. At a time when the Forte- Piano was being developed, the Harp held a place of musical importance as the sound was expressive, could be very loud, and with a clever system of shutters was able to produce an amazing vibrato. It was indeed - a golden age.

Eighteenth century harp repertoire

Madame de Genlis, harpist and writer, said that she could play the whole keyboard repertoire on the harp and added rather optimistically, "except for a few minor adjustments”.

Beethoven was exasperated that the harp and pianoforte shared the same repertoire and in a bitter letter to Johann Streicher, the piano maker, longed for the day when the harp and piano would be treated as different instruments.

Even though the repertoire was shared, there were many distinguished composers who wrote for the instrument, including; Albrechtsberger, Boieldieu, J.C. Bach & C.P.E. Bach, Beethoven, Dussek, Eichner, Handel, Haydn, Krumpholtz, Mozart, Petrini, Schenk, and Wagenseil.

David Watkins

Instruments used in this recording

The Harp is a Grecian Style instrument made by Holdernesse at the beginning of the nineteenth century and thinly strung to imitate an eighteenth century harp. All the music has been realised and arranged by David Watkins. The Bach Concerto and the Mozart Adagio & Rondo are dedicated to the great French harpist, Marielle Nordmann.

The instruments on which the Salomon Quartet plays are set up as they would have been in the eighteenth century. The two violins and the viola are modern copies of Stradivarins models, the violins made by David Rubio and the viola by Rowland Ross. The cello was built in 1791 by the English maker William Forster.


David Watkins - Harp • The Salomon Quartet
Simon Standage - violin, Micaela Comberti - violin, Trevor Jones - viola, Jennifer Ward Clarke - cello

Recorded and Produced by John Shuttleworth
Musical Supervision by Gary Skyrme
Assistant Engineer: Carsten Wergin

Cover Picture: King David. Late 18th century embroidery from David Watkins collection
Computer Enhancement by Cornelia Frings

Made in England

©2000 Meridian Records

Album Information

Instruments:      Harp and String Quartet
Genre: Classical
Format: CD
Our Ref: A0215
MCPS: CDE 84425
Label: Meridian
Year: 2000
Origin: UK