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Friday, May 25, 2007

Mark Adamo: Wrong About Harps

It's already a little weird that Mark Adamo's article on harp writing suggests that the instrument is "tragically ill-suited" to music "based on the transformation of the ostinato." (Joanna Newsom, among many, many others, might beg to differ.) But then there's this...

Britten, the very model of the composer who shrugged at dogma, gave us some of the most substantia and moving pages written for harp in the last hundred years: but where's the Britten harp concerto? (He wrote one for piano.) ... [W]here's the Prokofiev, where's the Schnittke harp concerto? (As opposed to their piano concerti.) Bartók? Lutoslawski? Corigliano? [Zing! - DSJ] If, as these have, you can write a contemporary concerto for the piano—an equally percussive, harmonically resourceful (albeit chromatic) instrument—why not do so for the harp?
Definitely not Mark Adamo.

Okay, there are plenty of reasons why composers would write piano concerti and not harp concerti. For one thing, most composers play the piano, and so they write reams more piano concerti, piano sonate, and piano etudes than anything for the harp. But Adamo's also got his facts wrong! There is most definitely a Lutosławski concerto for harp and oboe, available on a sexy Philips recording starring the Holligers. He should--everybody should--give it a listen.

(Maybe he's not counting concerti for "harp and x"? But that would be splitting hairs, and I don't think I'll accuse him of being so uncharitable.)

I probably shouldn't pick these nits. His heart's certainly in the right place--classical music is full of instruments that never get a fair shake in front of the orchestra, or end up smothered in cliché, the harp not least among them. What's more, he seems to have given the Harp Problem a lot of thought and come up with some worthwhile, even exciting workarounds.

I look forward to his concerto for tuba.

5 comments:

Dan Johnson said...

Why is this post singlespaced after the block quote? Did I screw up my HTML?

Michael said...

For some reason, the paragraphs after your blockquote are not wrapped in P tags. The new paragraph line is accomplished just with a couple of line breaks.

My guess is that your stylesheet applies the spacing specifically to P tags.

Not sure how or why the Blogger editor would lay that on you.

Dan Johnson said...

Awesome! Thank you...

Anonymous said...

Lutoslawski or Ligeti?

Dan Johnson said...

Anonymous:

Lutosławski. I don't know a Ligeti harp & oboe concerto--are you thinking of the Double Concerto for flute and oboe? That one is also Holliger-riffic.