Reinhold GLIÈRE (1875-1956)
Harp Concerto (1938) [25.34]
Joseph JONGEN (1873-1953)
Harp Concerto (1944) [19.45]
Joaquin RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Concierto de Aranjuez
(arr. composer) (1939) [21.30]
Anneleen Lenaerts (harp)
Brussels Philharmonic/Michel Tabachnik
rec. Studio 4, Flagey, Brussels, 2014
WARNER CLASSICS 5419 635055 [67.02]

Listening to the Glière harp concerto blind, so to speak, one would be forgiven for thinking it had been composed in the 1870s rather than in 1938. It is so tonal and romantically lyrical. Glière as Professor of Composition at Moscow Conservatory could draw upon the skilled advice of one of his colleagues, the renowned harpist Ksenia Erdely, founder of a Russian harp dynasty during the composition of this lovely work.

The opening movement has themes that would not have shamed Rachmaninov, music that alternates between the sentimental and romantic and the noble and heroic. Its sparkling cadenza shows off Lenaert’s impressive virtuosity. The following movement is a theme and variations with material that is elegiac, sentimental and waltz-like. The finale sparkles, again contrasting a Mozart-like grace with lively and merry folksy music.

Anneleen Lenaerts, still in her twenties, has established a name for herself as one of the leading soloists of the harp. In December she was appointed Principal Harpist of the Vienna Philharmonic and has won many prizes and performed with orchestras in Europe and America. Her sparkling, glistening virtuoso performances lift these concertos and she is very well supported by Brussels Philharmonic.

Joseph Jongen was a Belgian composer. Winner of the Prix de Rome in 1897, he became a professor of composition, first in Liège and later at the Brussels Conservatorium. His harp concerto, like that of Glière, harks back to an age of tonal romanticism. Like Glière’s it is scored for a small chamber-sized orchestra to allow the delicacies of the harp’s voice to shine through the accompanying textures. The Concerto’s first movement in two sections – marked Modérément animé and Andantino respectively – is pure enchantment showing off the composer’s eclectic influences bonded within his own charming style. The influences include Debussy and Ravel together with Fauré, Mendelssohn and Chopin. The second movement, an Allegro vivo, is equally bewitching. It commences with a considerable cadenza and as the orchestra enters becomes lovely dance material.

The Concierto de Aranjuez is too popular, too well known for any comment from me. The transcription from guitar to harp was by the composer himself in response to a request from the Basque harpist Nicanor Zabaleta. Rodrigo had no difficulty adapting it for another plucked instrument and commented that when he was composing the Concierto de Aranjuez that he was picturing an imaginary instrument ‘with the wings of a harp, the heart of a piano and the soul of a guitar’. The result is sublime with the harp’s upper tones lending another exquisite dimension to the score while the lower registers echo the original guitar timbre quite closely.

Ian Lace
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