Firebird's Feather by Danielle Perrett
Including music by Gliere, Glinka and Rachmaninov this CD contains a stunning collection of Russian Romantic Harp Music, while a few works are quite well-known, it is mostly little-known music which really deserves a much wider audience.
"... the depth of artistry, as well as superlative technique ... a wide dynamic continuum is always deployed with great taste and discretion. ... a fascinating and enjoyable recital." Classical Source
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The Firebird's Feather
Russian Romantic harp music - Danielle Perrett, harp
01. At a Festivity
- Mikhail Mchedelov
02. Nocturne - Mikhail Glinka
03. Variations on a theme of Mozart - Mikhail Glinka
04-06. Three Preludes - Ksenia Erdelyi
07. Nocturne - Mikhail Ippolitov - Ivanov
08. Impromptu - Reinhold Gliere
09. Elegy - Ksenia Erdelyi
10-13. Little Suite - Nikolai Gavrilovich Parfenov
(In the South, Fireflies, Bayatti, The Sea)
14. The Firebird's Feather - David Gough
15. Prelude - op.23 no.4 - Sergei Rachmaninov
16. Variations on a theme of Paganini - Mikhail Mchedelov
Russia has enriched the world with a notable canon of harp literature in the last two hundred or so years, but this repertoire has not gained international status or note. Tchaikovsky said that the harp was incapable of playing melodies but I think the repertoire in this CD goes a long way to refute that statement, beginning with Mchedelov's vibrant At a Festivity.
Mikhail Mchedelov (1903-1974) composed and arranged extensively for harp and wrote a collection of scales and arpeggios for the instrument. At a Festivity first portrays a men's dance then a more gentle and romantic musical idea evokes a ladies' dance.
The earliest Russian Romantic repertoire of note for harp was by Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857). He became known as the 'Father' of Russian Music. Nocturne is one of the only two solos for harp, published in 1828 and predating the earliest publication of any of Chopin's Nocturnes. However, the Nocturne was already well established by pieces such as the romantic piano nocturnes by John Field, Glinka's teacher who visited St Petersburg salons. Like Field's Nocturnes, this has a lyrical and romantic sounding melody, although the textures owe more to the classical period in style.
The theme of the Variations on a Theme of Mozart is evidently the magic bell music from Mozart's opera 'The Magic Flute'. However, it is somewhat modified. Allegedly, Glinka's house burned down and the manuscript of this piece, together with others of his compositions, was destroyed. We understand that his sister wrote it down long after from memory.
Much of the fine Russian repertoire which exists for the harp was written by harpists themselves.
Ksenia Erdelyi (1878-1971) was a highly influential harpist who strove to popularise the harp and transcribed, edited and composed for the instrument. She describes the Three Preludes as her first compositional experience and calls them 'artistic-pedagogical literature'. Erdelyi has links with several pieces on this CD.
Ippolitov-Ivanov's Nocturne was dedicated to Erdelyi. Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935) studied composition with Rimsky-Korsakov at St. Petersburg Conservatoire. In 1893 he became professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatoire and became its director from 1906-1922. He was conductor of the Bolshoi amongst other positions which he held.
Erdelyi also edited Gliere's Impromptu and may well be partly responsible for the lush virtuosic character of the writing. She advised him when he wrote his better known harp concerto.
Reinhold Gliere (1875-1956) studied at the Moscow Conservatoire and amongst other teachers he studied with Ippolitov-Ivanov. He went to Berlin for two years then he was director of the Kiev Conservatoire. Subsequently, he was on the faculty of the Moscow Conservatoire for over 20 years himself.. He was a collector of folk melodies and a conductor apart from his composition and was a successor of the Russian Nationalist School. His students included Prokofiev and he won two Stalin prizes for his compositions.
Erdelyi's Elegy was allegedly conceived after a concert of Glinka's emotional music and was written in his memory. It has a three part form with a brief cadenza before the expressive melody returns for the last time at the end.
Yet again Erdelyi links us to the next piece on this CD. Originally this work was called Miniatures when it was performed in 1935 by Erdelyi, but it later became known as Little Suite. Although Nikolai Gavrilovich Parenov (1893-1938) - is scarcely known today, he holds an important position in the world of the harp in Russia in the 20th century, having composed the first soviet harp concerto which Erdelyi premiered in 1932 and the first Russian harp method. In the South has a pastoral, lilting 6/8 time signature, but presumably does not venture south of the Soviet border. Fireflies is light in texture and highly evocative of its subject whilst the Eastern musician of the third movement, Bayatti, is clearly an Eastern European performer. Glissandi evoke the sea's waves in the final miniature here, entitled The Sea. Because the movements are thematically and in subject matter unrelated, they have not often been performed as a complete suite but are more often performed as individual pieces.
Ironically, it is the single non-Russian piece on this recording which provides the CD's title.
The Firebird's Feather was however written to complement the other works on this disc. As such, it uses a Russian folk tale as its semi-programmatic basis and utilises techniques from the Russian Romantic tradition such as an episodic type structure, textural variation of the various themes and, with a particular nod to Rachmaninov, inclusion of the Dies Irae theme.
David Gough (b. 1959) spent the early part of his musical career in pop/rock music as songwriter, singer and bass guitarist, releasing recordings, performing extensively and receiving much exposure on national and local radio and TV as part of the Liverpool music festival of the 1980's. A change of direction towards classical music led eventually to the London College of Music, where he studied composition with Martin Ellerby and gained a BMus with First Class Honours. A lifelong interest in film music took him back to the renamed London College of Music & Media where gained a masters' degree in Composition for Film & Television. His many musical activities include running Beartramka with his wife Danielle, the music publishing label on which this recording is released, and making recordings in his own studio in addition to composing for film, TV and the concert stage. David also taught musicianship at the Royal College of Music Junior Department for 10 years.
The Prelude op.23 no 4. by Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) is the only piece in the programme which was not originally written for the harp, but transcribes without any amendment for the instrument. One of a set of 10 piano preludes each in a different key, written between 1901-3, this prelude was written between the time of his marriage and birth of his first daughter and radiates a sense of fulfillment in the personal and contemplative writing. The link with Erdelyi is not entirely absent here, either, for she often played under Rachmaninov's baton. The piece uses a typically Russian 19th century technique of changing accompaniment to its wonderful limpid melody.
To conclude in rather more bravura style we return to harpist composer, Mikhail Mchedelov.
Variations on a Theme of Paganini is probably Mchedelov's most performed piece and is more widely known outside Russia than his other repertoire, being set for international competitions due to its virtuosic challenges. It was first published in 1962, indicating how romanticism persisted without break in Russia long after it has passed out of vogue in other European countries. The theme is the famous motif from Paganini's 24th Caprice for solo violin and there are 11 variations, exploring differing sonorities and techniques on the harp.
Danielle Perrett specialises in solo and chamber music on both modern and late 18th century harps and her recordings have been highly acclaimed. She studied harp with Daphne Boden at the Royal College of Music Junior Department, then with Renata Scheffel-Stein for her first music degree at Exeter University. Subsequently, she gained a Master's degree in Performance & Related Studies at Goldsmiths' College, London University.
Daniell's career has seen her perform, give masterclasses, adjudication and workshops with students and their teachers around the world. She is head of harp studies at the London college of Music Junior Department for 25 years. Her interest in good posture and healthy performance practice also led her to become a qualified Pilate's teacher.Danielle has broadcast a great deal internationally and writes articles and reviews about harp related and other musical topics. She composes, edits and arranges harp music as well as researching the instrument and its repertoire from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries. An examiner for Trinity Guildhall, Danielle devises their international harp syllabuses.
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