May 2005

Ginastera - Concerto for Harp & Orchestra; Montsalvatge - Concerto Capriccio for Harp & Orchestra; Soler - Sonatas 19, 48, 84
Godelieve Schrama, harp; Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra; Gerard Korsten, conductor
Northwest Classics NWC 411087
Format: Hybrid Stereo SACD
Released: 2005

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

The harp, if one believes the Bible, is one of humankind’s oldest instruments. With such a long and storied history, it is not surprising to find a large and varied repertoire for the instrument. These concerti by Alberto Ginastera and Xavier Montsalvatge, both from the mid-20th century, will remind the listener that the harp is still as vital today as it was in more ancient times.

Ginastera (b.1916, d.1983), Argentinean by birth, was a man of fervent personal and political ideals, and he was not afraid to use his compositions to express them. As a result, he often found himself on the wrong side of the political fence from dictator Juan Peron. Ginastera spent a few years of exile in the US, time he put to good use studying with Aaron Copland. His recorded output falls into three distinct classifications: objective nationalism, subjective nationalism, and neo-expressionism. The Harp Concerto bridges the gap between the latter two styles.

Ginastera painted with a broad musical brush. One can hear influences that encompass Argentinean folk, nationalistic passion, and influences of Stravinsky, Bartók, and Falla. The piece was written using many different compositional styles, the scoring ranging from solo instrumental, to chamber, to full orchestra. This is no big surprise given that Ginastera wrote operas, ballets, and film scores; chamber, concerto, cantatas, and orchestral music.

The Ginastera concerto is the main course, but don’t overlook the remainder of this Iberian-influenced disc. The Concerto Capriccio of Xavier Montsalvatge (b.1912, d.2002), a Catalonian like Ginastera’s father, and the Sonatas of Antonio Solar -- here skillfully transcribed for harp. Each of these companion works is wonderful in its own right. The performances, by harpist Godelieve Schrama and the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra under Gerard Korsten, are outstanding. Toss all that in with sound that is superb, whether playing either its CD or SACD layer, and you have a disc that is well worth seeking out.