ALBUM: Virtuoso Harp
ARTIST: Ann Griffiths

Sleeve Notes

The modern harp repertoire dates from the development of the pedal harp in the latter half of the 18th century, culminating in Sebastian Erard's perfection of the double-action harp in 1810. The pieces presented on this record make up a wide-ranging cross-section of the repertoire. The only transcription is the first number: a 16th-century Siciliana originally written for the lute, arranged for orchestra by Respighi in his Ancient Airs and Dances and transcribed in turn for the harp by Marcel Grandjany (1891- 1975) from the orchestral version. The Sonata in E flat which follows is the earliest original pedal-harp music on this record. It was written in ?1797 by the Bohemian piano virtuoso and composer Jan Ladislav Dussek for his wife Sophia Cori, who played the single-action harp of the period. Tuned in E flat, this instrument could play in only eight major and five minor keys, but Dussek fully exploits its rather limited possibilities of modulation. (This was the first recording of the work.) With the Serenade of Elias Parish Alvars we move forward into the era of the modern pedal harp. This great English harp virtuoso, called by Berlioz the 'Liszt of the harp', was born in Teignmouth, Devon, in 1808 and died in Vienna aged only 40. He was one of the very first to exploit the possibilities of Erard's new double-action harp. This instrument could play in any key, and by clever use of the pedals a great variety of enharmonic possibilities could be obtained. Parish Alvars deployed these extremely cleverly, and the early romantic style of his writing suits the harp admirably. The delightful opening passage of this serenade is written entirely in triple and quadruple harmonics. There follow five examples of 20th century harp music. The scintillating, brilliant Divertissement à la française by André Caplet (the first of a set of two) and the little Sicilienne by Alee Templeton (perhaps best known as the composer of Bach Goes to Town) are followed by the highly virtuoso, neo-classical Sonatina prodigio by Virgilio Mortari. After the intense, concentrated and infinitely moving Pezzo ostinato, composed in the late 1950s by Edmund Rubbra following a period of engagement with Eastern philosophy, the recital ends with the witty and entertaining Little Suite by Gareth Walters.

Ann Griffiths is a distinguished figure in the harp world of today. As player, musicologist and writer, she is an authority on harps, their development, their history and their music, as also on the harp-makers, the composers, and the extraordinary characters who are associated with them.

As a student of Pierre Jamet at the Paris Conservatoire, Ann Griffiths was the first ever British-born harpist to gain the Premier Prix in harp-playing; she also holds degrees from the University of Wales and Birmingham. When this recording first appeared in 1971, Ann Griffiths was a young virtuoso harpist with a promising international career ahead of her. Sadly, her career was cut short just a few months later by a serious back injury, and for ten years she was unable to play. She turned instead to research, writing, composition and teaching, and eventually became professor at the Royal Academy of Music; she has also contributed to many musical journals, dictionaries and works of reference.

Eventually she was able to return to the pedal harp, but by this time her work had taken on a different emphasis: she had studied and learnt to play the non-pedal Italian and Spanish double harps, the Irish harp and, most especially, the classical triple harp (as played in the time of Bach and Handel), on which she is now the world expert. She gives international masterclasses on historical harps in five languages.

The unusual selection of pieces on this record - with one exception all of them first recordings — epitomises the varied repertoire of the pedal harp at its best over a period of 150 years. The harp played is a Minerva (1968) by Salvi


5 727012
Recorded in Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, 25 & 26 June 1969
Producer and balance engineer: John Boyden
Digitally remastered at Abbey Road Studios by Simon Gibson
© 1971 The copyright in this sound recording is owned by EMI Records Ltd.
Digital remastering © 1998 by EMI Records Ltd • © EMI Records Ltd, 1998
Front cover designed @ Peacock (photo by Brian Ward)

WARNING: Copyright subsists in all recordings issued under this label. Any unauthorised broadcasting, public performance, copying or re-recording thereof in any manner whatsoever will constitute an infringement of such copyright.In the United Kingdom licences for the use of recordings for public performance may be obtained from Phonographic Performance Ltd, Ganton House, 14-22 Ganton Street, London WIV ILB. RWGSBOZ

This page was last updated on 13 February, 2005