We've had a pretty decent run of harp recitals recently. Of those I've reviewed, this one easily takes pride of place, thanks to its program, the high caliber of the playing, the fine sound, and the splendid and thorough annotations by Richard E. Rodda. Kondonassis demonstrates exceptional technical skill and sensitive artistry; she herself is responsible for (and acknowledges) the Debussy transcription she plays. Everything else was intended for solo harp, so in that regard, too, this CD is ahead of most other collections.
Salzedo's music turns up frequently on harp recitals but not often enough to give much sense of the man as a creator. He came to America as Toscanini's Metropolitan Opera Orchestra harpist and soon turnedRead more to composition. His “Night Song,“ Fauré's Impromptu, and the Debussy are, more or less, encore pieces, but Hovhaness's suite is a substantial work of great and immediate appeal, its movements variously influenced, as is so much of his music. The early Nocturne is nonetheless a fully formed, complete piece, as opposed to the work of a beginner. The Rorem seems an important score, and it has allowed me to rehear some of his songs that are especially meaningful in a whole new light (although the catalog reveals that he has enjoyed numerous recordings of music for orchestra and ensemble that may well have similar effects).
Without the score, I can't tell if the Rorem is complete as given here. There are eight bands, as it were, but the score is in ten interrelated sections that, as the notes reveal, were intended “as a collection rather than a suite,“ per se. What's presented is altogether admirable, but if there are several other parts, it's a shame they weren't included.
All told, however, this is an important release that will surely give great pleasure to harp specialists and to general music lovers as well. The CD does not proclaim “first recording“ for any of these works, and indeed one must be very careful in that regard, so suffice it to say that few of the modern works given here are listed in any way in current catalogs. Highly recommended.
Note: Kondonassis performs Salzedo's “Scintillation“ on Telare CD-80361.