1989, Music

Morawetz / Ginastera: Harp Concertos (1989) by Gianetta Baril, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra conducted by Uri Mayer

I have long loved the harp. Ever since I first heard “She’s Leaving Home” sometime in my tweens I was enchanted. And yet I have done a piss poor job of ever seeking out harp music. I can’t really say why exactly, I guess I was just too busy looking for other sounds (that of the cello, for example).
Ginastera’s Harp Concerto is flat out awesome. A work that manages to combine bot the late Romantic obsession with local folk music with developments that had occurred since the so-called “Crisis of Tonality”, the concerto is everything I hoped it would be: it is loud, it is challenging, it is clever, it is dynamic, and it’s mostly pretty fast. This is everything I love about modern “classical” music combined with an instrument I love but don’t spend enough time listening to.
Morawetz’s concerto is, unsurprisingly, minor by comparison. It’s typical of a Canadian release such as this to include a major composition by a major composer and pair it with a composition by a Canadian composer nobody has ever heard of. This is a major pet peeve of mine but I’ll take it to get to listen to something as great as Ginastera’s work. There’s nothing wrong with this piece, but it’s just not anything special, especially given everything that has gone before it. (And let us remember that it was written 10 years after Ginastera’s…)
8/10

2 Comments

  1. Hi Riley, I came across this blog as I was searching to find extant copies of my recording with the ESO as it is no longer available. I was pretty surprised to find a 2014 blog post about my recording from 1987 (the year it was actually recorded). I agree with you about the Ginastera. It is definitely one of my favourite pieces to perform. I love the power, energy, rhythm and thick orchestration of it as well as some really gorgeous intimate moments. I disagree with you about the Morawetz though. For one thing, Oskar Morawetz is quite an internationally renowed Czech-Canadian composer. He passed away a few years ago. The piece may not compare to Ginastera but it is definitely more than just a “fill in” to pair with a good piece for sales purposes as you seem to suggest. I think it is an excellent work, challenging for the orchestra and with some wonderful elements that explore a lot of the tonal possibilities of the harp. Another incredible Canadian piece for the harp, in case you’re curious, is The Crown of Ariadne by R. Murray Schafer. I’d highly recommend taking a listen to it with Judy Loman performing it as it was written for her. It will definitely change your perception of what the one can do on the harp! Cheers, Gianetta

    1. Thanks for the comment. I think the year I listed was 1989 because that was the 1987 release date of the CD I was listening to, but a lot of this stuff seems to get lost in reissues.
      I have no formal musical education and am not always prepared for what I listen to. It’s easier for me to hear things in something I know the pedigree of than something I don’t a lot of the time, even if I’m kind of loathe to admit it. I will give the Morawetz another listen at some point. And I’ll also try to check out the Ariadne piece. Thanks!

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