I’m back after recovering from the trauma of exams, so to anyone who might have been wondering why they subscribed to a dead account my apologies, I am alive and well, thank you.
Today’s post is dedicated to Au Matin by Marcel Tournier, a renowned french harpist and composer of the 19th-20th century who taught at the Conervatoire de Paris that unfortunately few outside the harp world have heard of. Au Matin means at the morning, and the flowing arpeggiated chords running up and down the harp is not only very true to the typical harp style, but with one of the main features of the piece being a melody ringing out among the echoes of notes rushing by, the slow waking of nature and sunrise is clearly imitated: the tune is mainly rising seconds in step-wise motion, in a very hesitant manner, even sometimes going two paces forward, one back. The dynamics further illustrate this point, rising and falling seamlessly, like the calm breath of someone waking or a morning breeze. As the piece progresses, feather-like descending arpeggios blend into a wave of sound rushing down (1:21) to then settle ( the right hand playing enharmonics (1) which keep it stagnant in terms of pitch yet keeping it restless nonetheless with the quick repetition of notes) as the left hand calmly plucks harmonics (2) before the suspended atmosphere is disturbed and sends ripples rushing up and down the harp. The texture then becomes more complex (my favourite bit to play), a harmony and melody stressed through a richer and denser and livelier passage before easing into softer chords that I can describe no other way than sunbathed (to extend the metaphor and hopefully not flog a dead horse) and coming to a glorious ending (3:10), the morning having risen to its full splendour with ff spread chords, leaping octaves and glissandi.
This particular recording is by Eleanor Turner, a fabulous concert harpist whom I’ve had the pleasure to see perform on several occasions, and I will be tutored by her over a week during a summer course. She’s in the award winning 4 Girls 4 Harps quartet (click to go to their site) and they perform regularly all over the UK, this year being the ensemble’s 15th anniversary. Check them out, it’s worth it.
(1) enharmonics: notes which sound the same eg Eb and D#
(2) harmonics : Harpists can play harmonics with their left hand by stopping the string with the side of the hand and plucking with the thumb or finger which makes it sound one octave higher