Lavinia Meijer

Salzedo, Caplet, Ibert: Divertissements

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Korean-born Dutch harpist Lavinia Meijer states as her goal "to make the harp better known as a solo instrument, with all its possibilities which are often still unknown to the wider audience." With this release she accomplishes her goal, not so much technically as musically. The harp does not do so much here that the attentive listener to the big early film scores won't have heard before. But Meijer's album falls nicely into the group of releases that are reconstructing the virtuoso solo repertoire of a century ago, rediscovering gems that were swept aside by self-serving modernist imperatives. The music on the disc is plenty spectacular technically. The opening Variations sur un thèm dans le style ancien plunge into tight, high figures with the first variation and deepen from there. But what's really intriguing about them is their distinctive take on the little neo-Renaissance current that flowed through the music of the early twentieth century. The two Divertissements of André Caplet are even more unexpected, especially the one marked "à l'Espagnole" (track 5). It offers subtle yet unmistakable evocations of Spanish music in a dark-tinted scene in which fragments of Spanish rhythms and melodic figures float through the gloom as if remembered in the mind. The "à la Française" piece is a bit more conventional, as are several of Jacques Ibert's Six Pieces, but these nicely set off the more adventurous works and give a sense of the shape of the repertoire as a whole. Meijer's decision to focus on three composers rather than adopt the typical harp "recital" format is also an advantage in terms of showing the listener how these composers engaged with the problems of writing for this rather odd instrument. Channel Classics tops it all off with superb engineering. Recording a harp and getting its almost inaudible utterances (especially so the older you get!) at the top of its range is one of the black-belt accomplishments of sound recording, and it's hard to imagine a team that could do better than this one. A very nice harp choice that adds something to the usual discs on the market.

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