Archive for category Harp Recordings
When my husband Michael started taking cello lessons, his teacher set a goal of getting him into the Bach Cello Suites as quickly as possible. “They’re for a lifetime,” she explained, so one might as well get to them right away! I knew very little about these compositions but have learned more since … from hearing Michael practice the Prelude to Suite No. 1, to watching Yo-Yo Ma’s fascinating “Inspired by Bach” films, to sampling a variety of recorded performances. So many fine cellists have recorded their interpretations of the Suites, and each one moves through (and is moved by) the music in a unique way.
One day I couldn’t get the first notes of the Prelude to Suite No. 1 out of my head, so I started noodling around with it on my harp. Then I asked Michael for the sheet music. A quick glance convinced me that a pedal harp would be necessary to cope with this piece, so I set it aside … but I still thought it would be pretty cool to hear the Suites on the harp.
So, here is the latest addition to my harp music library: “From the Bach notebook of harpist Victoria Drake: the complete cello suites BWV 1007-1012 transcribed.” There was only one copy available on Amazon, and as a harpist who’s married to a cellist, I figured it just ought to be mine. This is an album that will take a serious listen or two … or ten. Beyond the general listening experience (which covers two discs), there’s the matter of the cello-to-harp transition, then the harpist’s own interpretation, then the nuances of the recording itself. Yes, this one could keep me busy for a while!
When the CD arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the nifty-looking packaging. It’s not a conventional plastic jewel case, but a cardboard package that unfolds prettily and includes an illustrated timeline of the history of the Suites and the harp. Nice!
For curious fans of Bach and/or the harp, here’s a video of harpist Victoria Drake discussing the history of the Cello Suites and her fascination with them.
My husband, Michael, loves music and musical instruments. He’s not at all shy about picking up an instrument he’s never played before, and in most cases, he can make it sound like he knows what he’s doing. In fact, when I had my first opportunity to play a harp in 2008, I was reluctant to do so … but Michael sat down to a harp and started playing something that sounded cool! This ability has struck me as downright magical at times, but I think it’s a product of Michael’s inclination toward engineering and invention, his playful sense of exploration, and his knowledge of music theory.
Michael has played a number of instruments (including the trumpet, guitar, piano, and violin), but like me, he had an instrument that lived in his dreams: the cello. According to him, the idea first came to his mind when he saw a few episodes of the 80′s TV show “Airwolf.” When not being pestered with missions to save the Cold War-era world from disaster, the show’s hero, Stringfellow Hawke, spends his time at his secluded lakeside cabin, where he serenades eagles with melancholy music from his Stradivarius cello. The image of the cellist and the eagles made a more lasting impression on Michael than any of the rest of the series, and he carried the idea with him for years.
When I took up the harp, Michael started making plans for us to play together someday. He looked at the instruments we had on hand, and we tried a few of them with the harp, but none of them seemed like an appropriate fit. At the same time, I was starting to build a collection of harp music CDs to inspire my learning process. When I bought a copy of Gratitude, a stunningly beautiful recording of Kim Robertson on Celtic harp and Virginia Kron on cello, we were enchanted by the interplay of these gorgeous instruments. The idea of the cello was resurrected.
Michael’s musical dream-come-true experience was much like mine. Once the idea got rolling, it went from the dream stage to reality in almost an instant! With the help of Wayne Burak, Michael found a cello and a teacher, and the adventure began! The cello has a serious learning curve, just like all the other instruments in the violin family, but Michael has made amazing progress. I love the fact that he’s living his musical dream!
My local NPR station, KERA, just did a nice little story about the American Harp Society’s Summer Institute, which is currently taking place in Denton, TX. I’m certain that many people who heard this story learned about rock and jazz harp for the first time. Yes, the harp has a wild side!
In my book, no harpist shatters the evening gown barrier like Deborah Henson-Conant, “The World’s Foremost Electric Harpist.” She joyfully defies categorization! Check out Just for You, ‘Round the Corner, and the Grammy-nominated Invention and Alchemy.
There are quite a few wonderful artists who have taken the harp beyond its traditional image. Here are a few I like (with recommended recordings):
Michelle Whitson Stone (Late Night Harp)
Park Stickney (Still, Life with Jazz Harp)