Harpe Chromatique/Harpe Diatonique

byFrancette Bartholomée

reviewed by Harper Tasche

Despite its unmistakable classical affiliation, this album is a wonder to behold if you have any interest in the cross-strung harp or in 20th century harp music. Mme. Bartholomée is regarded as the leading classical cross-strung harpist in the world, having taught both cross-strung and pedal harp at the Conservatoire Royal in Brussels since 1972, and she is truly dazzling. (I'm grateful to Philippe Clément for introducing me to her work.)

This very nicely balanced and sequenced album contains works by three composers, all Belgian, who have written for both types of (classical) harp: August De Boeck and Joseph Jongen (who were contemporaries of the orchestral cross-strung harp's zenith in the early 20th century) and the contemporary Pierre Bartholomée. Many of these pieces are unpublished, and the beautiful interpretations given them here constitute both fine art and the best archiving a composer could possibly hope for. (Liner notes are provided in Dutch, English, German and French; I only wish more information was given about her cross-strung harp - pictured at right)

Mme. Bartholomée seems equally at home in the late Romantic and lyrical styles of De Boeck and Jongen, and in the sparser textures and more "vertical" writing of (her husband) Pierre Bartholomée, whose works represented here lean more toward development of musical gestures floating in space, than toward traditional melody and harmony with which FHJ readers would be more familiar (and perhaps more comfortable). I'm quite taken with this album -- I've listened to it numerous times, and enjoy something new with each hearing. My current favorite is Bartholomée's "Pastorale" (1981), written as a competition piece for both pedal harp and cross-strung harp and performed here on each; it's utterly fascinating to hear the same music on such different instruments. One is never asked to choose which is better; we are all fortunate to have such extravagant options, and in these superb interpretations by Mme. Bartholomée we are gifted with the best of both worlds. My only hope is that more cross-strung recordings by this fine artist are forthcoming!

© 1998 Harper Tasche

Titles: 1) Fantaisie en mi mineur 2) Improvisation en sol majeur 3) Ballade sur un vieux Noël wallon oublié 4) Valse Op. 73 en la bémol majeur 5) Fancy 6) Nocturne 1 7) Nocturne 2 8) Nocturne 3 9) Pastorale (chromatique) 10) Pastorale (diatonique).

Total program length 58:13

originally published in the Folk Harp Journal


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