About Carlos Salzedo (1885-1961)

Carlos SalzedoCarlos Salzedo was born Charles Moise Léon Salzedo on April 6, 1885. Salzedo's parents, Isaac Gaston Salzedo was a singer and his mother Thérèse Judith Anna Silva, a pianist. Salzedo's mother died when he was just five. The family then moved to Bordeaux where Leon (Carlos) began playing piano at the age of three, and wrote his first composition, a polka called Moustique, which was published, at the age of five. At six, he entered the St. Cecilia School of Music, where he won first prize in piano and solfège three years later, after which the family moved to Paris. Carlos entered the Paris Conservatoire at nine years old, where he again won prizes in piano (Descontes)and solfège (Schwartz). He continued his piano studies with Charles de Beriot, son of a renowned violinist and a piano pupil of Thalberg.

Salzedo's father, by then a well-known voice teacher, decided Carlos should take up a second instrument, and harp was chosen, because he was too weak to play a wind instrument and his older brother Marcel played violin. Beginners were not accepted at the Conservatoire, so Carlos took lessons from Marguerite Achard. After a few months, he had advanced enough that he was accepted as a pupil by Alphonse Hasselmans, professor of harp at the Conservatoire. After a year of study with Hasselmans, he entered the Conservatoire as a fully-fledged harp pupil at the age of thirteen. In 1901, at age sixteen, Salzedo won the premier prix in harp and piano on the same day, a feat unmatched before and since, and was awarded a Steinway grand piano. Salzedo also studied composition while at the Conservatoire, ultimately winning great praise from the director, Gabriel Fauré.

In 1909, Arturo Toscanini invited Salzedo to play for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and Carlos left France for America, without knowing any English. Salzedo was introduced at a soiree to Viola Gramm, a respected pianist and singer. She had studied in Paris. She became romantically involved with Salzedo, and they were married in 1914 while in France. He became ill during the war and discharged from the army and returned to the us in 1916. In the Twenties, Salzedo and Mimine grew apart and divorced in 1926. in 1928, 42-year-old Salzedo married 21-year-old Lucile Lawrence, who had begun her studies with him ten years earlier and developed into a virtuosa in her own right. Salzedo had a very extensive performing schedule in these years, with tours by the Trio de Lutece, the Salzedo Harp Ensemble, and solo appearances. Lawrence served as first harp of the Salzedo Harp Ensemble, a high-profile group, and she also led her own Lawrence Harp Quintette on engagements too small for the Salzedo Harp Ensemble. Salzedo was involved in many arenas, including the burgeoning "new music" circles in New York, where he co-founded the International Composers Guild with Edgard Varèse.

Salzedo is well-considered history's great harpist. He was as highly regarded as a pianist and conductor by his colleagues as he was by harpists. He influenced many composers with his new ideas for the harp's sounds and notation. His artistic ideas led to the designs of two harps still manufactured by Lyon & Healy, the art-nouveau style 11 and the art deco Salzedo model, which was designed by his friend, the artist Witold Gordon. The Salzedo model harp is based on the number 5, his favorite number, and has five stripes of each color on the sounding board fashioned the art deco style.

He founded the harp program at the Institute of Musical Art in New York City (now the Juilliard School), at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and at the Salzedo Harp Colony in Camden, Maine with Lucile Lawrence. Salzedo's students numbered in the hundreds. Many currently perform in symphony orchestras across the US as well as teaching positions at conservatories and universities. Salzedo is often labeled as the Father of the modern harp technique and composition. He died on August 17, 1961, in Waterville, Maine, at the age of 76.


Sheet Music by Carlos Salzedo (1885-1961)

Solo Harp
Title (click title for further info) Publisher
Ballade (Op. 28 No. 1 from Trois Morceaux)
Alphonse Leduc
Christmas Harp Collection ABRSM Grade 5, List B, Item 12
Boosey & Hawkes
Conditioning Exercises
G. Schirmer
Dixie Parade
Peer Music
Jolly Piper
Peer Music
Method for the Harp
G. Schirmer
Modern Study of the Harp
G. Schirmer
Preludes Intimes
Boosey & Hawkes
Short Stories in Music - First Series
Lyra Music Company
Short Stories in Music - Second Series TRINITY Grade 5 & Grade 7
Lyra Music Company
Sketches for Harpist Beginners  TRINITY Grade 3
Theodore Presser
Suite of Eight Dances ABRSM Grade 6, Grade 7 & Grade 8
Lyon & Healy
Traipsin' Thru Arkansaw
Peer Music

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