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True North Harp Duo

Mendelssohn / Rameau / Debussy / Aspnes / Wickey
Release Date: 12/13/2011 
Label:  Soundset   Catalog #: 1034   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Felix MendelssohnJean-Philippe RameauCésar FranckClaude Debussy,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 54 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



TRUE NORTH True North Harp Duo SOUNDSET 1034 (54:09)


MENDELSSOHN Songs Without Words: Huntsman’s Song; On Wings of Song; Spinning Song. RAMEAU Dardanus: Tambourins 1 and 2; Rigaudons 1 and 2. FRANCK Prelude, Fugue, and Variations. DEBUSSY Read more class="ARIAL12b">Preludes: Minstrels; Les Sons et les parfums tournent dan l’air du soir; Les Collines d’Anacapri. ARGENTO The Angel Israfil. RAVEL Mother Goose: Suite


Our esteemed editor-in-chief knows that my aversion to transcriptions is exceeded only by my antipathy to the harp. So what does he send me? A disc of transcriptions, and mind you, not for just one harp but for two. Was it possible, I wondered, for a multiplication of minuses, as in arithmetic, to equal a plus? You betcha, especially when the harp duo is True North. Formed in 2009 by American harpists Lynne Aspnes and John Wickey to promote the harp in the concert hall and classroom, the duo here offers a program of familiar and not-so-familiar pieces in expert arrangements and transcriptions by a number of well-known harpists, including Wickey himself.


The works Aspnes and Wickey perform are well chosen to showcase not just the capabilities and intrinsic beauties of the harp itself but also of their considerable technical mastery of the instrument. Mendelssohn’s Spinning Song is a prime example of both. One can almost visualize the gossamer threads being spun as the two players continuously interweave their parts.


Franck’s Prelude, Fugue, and Variations for organ has found favor among harpists in at least one other harp duo version I’m aware of, a performance by Duo Bilitis on a Brilliant Classics CD. The piece works remarkably well in this context, the instruments being adept at simulating the sonorities one might hear from the silvery flute and bell-like stops in an organ performance.


A good deal of Debussy’s music is, of course, made for the harp, and what isn’t, sounds quite natural when adapted to it. But it’s no easy job to transcribe Debussy’s chromatic idiom for harp in a way that facilities performance. This I learned the hard way in a college orchestration class. The assignment was to score for full orchestra, including harp, Debussy’s Danseuses de Delphes from Book 1 of his piano preludes. One has to notate for the harp in a way that is counterintuitive in order to minimize the number of pedal changes; otherwise the player may just bicycle him- or herself right off the bench. So, listening to these three Debussy transcriptions, also from Book 1 of his preludes, I can truly appreciate John Wickey’s efforts, not only as transcriber, but also his and Lynne Aspnes’s remarkable agility in these tricky pieces of such diaphanous beauty.


Unfortunately, in lieu of album notes the buyer is advised to visit truenorthharpduo.com for further information, but I believe the website is in need of debugging and repair because I tried accessing it using two different browsers and both displayed a webpage with an attractive logo and a couple of dead links. The link to the About page does work, but simply says of Argento’s piece, “ The Angel Israfil has an otherworldly, almost ancient feel to it,” which doesn’t tell us much about it.


Thanks to living in the Age of the Internet, I happened upon a lengthy discussion of the work by Argento himself, who begins by explaining that the title was a misprint; it should have been Israfel , referring to a character in the Masque of Angels and the title of one of the songs, “In Praise of Music.” To avoid confusion, however, with a song by Leonard Bernstein titled Israfel , it was decided to leave the misspelling of Argento’s piece as is. The piece was composed in 1989 for piano four-hands; Argento never heard it played publicly but took an intense disliking to it when he was sent a taped performance of it. Only later was the piece transformed into a harp duet at the behest of a gentleman whose wife and daughter were professional harpists. Argento quips, self-deprecatingly perhaps, that this sounded the death knell for half of the piano music he’d written, since up to that point, he’d produced only one other piano work, the Divertimento for Piano and Strings.


Aspnes and Wickey’s program closes with the exquisitely perfumed and delicate “Le Jardin féerique,” part of their not-quite-complete transcription of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite.


After listening, thoroughly entranced, to this disc, I realized that in sending it to me there was method to the madness of our Dear Leader in Tenafly after all. Surely, if I, of all people—hostile to both transcriptions and harp—could be moved and melted by it, then True North’s album could be appreciated and recommended without hesitation to one and all.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1.
Songs without words, vol 1, Op. 19b: no 3, Molto allegro in A major "Hunting Song" by Felix Mendelssohn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829; Germany 
Date of Recording: 2010 
Venue:  Tempest Studios, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 3 Minutes 23 Secs. 
2.
Songs (6), Op. 34: no 2, Auf Flügeln des Gesanges by Felix Mendelssohn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1836; Germany 
Date of Recording: 2010 
Venue:  Tempest Studios, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 2 Minutes 4 Secs. 
3.
Songs without words, vol 6, Op. 67: no 4, Presto in C major "Spinning Song" by Felix Mendelssohn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845; Germany 
Date of Recording: 2010 
Venue:  Tempest Studios, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 2 Minutes 41 Secs. 
4.
Dardanus: Tambourins I and II by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1739/1744; France 
Date of Recording: 2010 
Venue:  Tempest Studios, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 3 Minutes 22 Secs. 
5.
Dardanus: Rigaudon I and II by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1739/1744; France 
Date of Recording: 2010 
Venue:  Tempest Studios, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 4 Minutes 3 Secs. 
6.
Prelude, Fugue and Variation for Organ in B minor, Op. 18 by César Franck
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862; France 
Date of Recording: 2010 
Venue:  Tempest Studios, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 9 Minutes 23 Secs. 
7.
Préludes, Book 1: no 12, Minstrels by Claude Debussy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909-1910; France 
Date of Recording: 2010 
Venue:  Tempest Studios, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 3 Minutes 1 Secs. 
8.
Préludes, Book 1: no 4, Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir by Claude Debussy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910; France 
Date of Recording: 2010 
Venue:  Tempest Studios, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 3 Minutes 56 Secs. 
9.
Préludes, Book 1: no 5, Les collines d'Anacapri by Claude Debussy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909; France 
Date of Recording: 2010 
Venue:  Tempest Studios, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 3 Minutes 38 Secs. 
10.
The Angel Israfil (whose heart-strings are a lute), for harp duo by Dominick Argento
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 2010 
Venue:  Tempest Studios, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 5 Minutes 57 Secs. 
11.
Ma mère l'oye: Pavane de la belle au bois dormant by Maurice Ravel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908-1910; France 
Date of Recording: 2010 
Venue:  Tempest Studios, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 1 Minutes 47 Secs. 
12.
Ma mère l'oye: Petit Poucet by Maurice Ravel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908-1910; France 
Date of Recording: 2010 
Venue:  Tempest Studios, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 3 Minutes 11 Secs. 
13.
Ma mère l'oye: Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes by Maurice Ravel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908-1910; France 
Date of Recording: 2010 
Venue:  Tempest Studios, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 3 Minutes 45 Secs. 
14.
Ma mère l'oye: Le jardin féerique by Maurice Ravel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  True North Harp Duo (Harp duo)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: France 
Date of Recording: 2010 
Venue:  Tempest Studios, Tempe, AZ 
Length: 3 Minutes 49 Secs. 

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