Harpo Marx the musician - was he the greatest?
May 8, 2009 (Updated Jul 7, 2009)
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Groucho was the funniest, but for many, Harpo was their favorite Marx brother. Harpo was the eternal child - a Peter Pan who refused to grow old; a peerless pantomime artist clown who effortlessly conveyed mischief, naivety and wonder; a zany Pied Piper whose smile could light up a room. Children recognised in him a kindred spirit; adults the child within themselves. Dressed in an old plug hat, red curly wig and battered $3 raincoat, Harpo resembled a manic, hobo angel.
Adolph, later Arthur Marx was born on November 23, 1888, in New York, where the family home was a tenement flat at 179 East 93rd Street, in the Jewish area. His maternal grandfather had been a ventriloquist and magician in Germany, and his grandmother played the harp and yodelled. Unbelievably, he quit school at just eight ( it was a different world then ) , to no great objection from his parents. Shortly after his bar mitzvah at age 13, Harpo started his first proper job as a bellhop at the Hotel Seville on East 28th Street - there followed a multitude of jobs up to late adolescence, as a shop boy, delivery boy, cigarette boy, office boy and more, until he found his true vocation in music.
HARPO THE PIANIST
Harpo had been asked to deliver some flowers to a house in Brooklyn, where a drunken Irish wake was in progress - he ended up playing on the piano the same tune endlessly, " Waltz Me Around Again, Willie ", to great acclaim, and when it was over, he had a hat full of silver dimes. Harpo had already taught himself to play this song on the family piano ( " Waltz me around again, Willie / Around, around, around / The music is dreamy, it's peachy and creamy / Oh don't let my feet touch the ground " ) - a big hit in 1905 for Billy Murray and the Hadyn Quartet - and " Love Me And The World Is MIne " ( a 1906 hit, words by Dave Reed Jr., music by Ernset M. Ball ). When he realized there was easy money to be made in music, he too decided, with the fearlessness of youth, to become a professional piano player like Chico, and enlisted his sibling's help to find work. In their youth, the two looked very much alike, and could even pass as twins, so Harpo would substitute for Chico at paid bookings.
HARPO'S PIANISTIC TRAINING
Unfortunately, being self-taught, Harpo could only play his limited repertoire of two songs in the key of C ( i.e. the white piano keys ), and he did not last very long in these jobs. When a lady requested that he play " Love Me And The World Is Mine " in a slightly higher key, so that she could sing-along, all he could do was play an octave higher.
Harpo then landed a job as the piano player at " The Happy Times Tavern ", in Freeport, Long Island - this turned out to be a brothel, whose Madam, Mrs. Schang ( " six-foot two and none of it fat, but all bone and muscle " ) was also the bouncer. In one brawl, she single-handedly ejected six rowdy canal laborers. Fortunately for Harpo, he caught the measles, and was summarily sacked - a month later, the Schang family were indicted for burglary and grand larceny and under suspicion for murder.
Out of necessity, he " learned a whole set of fancy variations " on his two tunes, so that he successfully held down a job playing in a nickeloden accompanying silent movies:
" For comedies: " Waltz Me Around Again, Willie ", played two octaves high and fast. Dramatic scenes: " Love Me And The World Is MIne ", with a tremolo in the bass. Love scenes: a trill in the right hand. For the chase: either song played too fast to be recognized ".
One fateful afternoon in late 1909, mother Minnie dragged Harpo out of the joint and they took the train to Coney Island - he was to join Groucho, Gummo and Lou Levy on stage that evening as the Fourth Nightingale. On his miserable theatrical debut, he wet his pants. In 1910, the Marx family moved to Chicago as a base and began 12 years of relentless touring, criss-crossing the country by train and playing at any local theater, venue or outdoor shed that would book them - Harpo estimated they played in over 300 cities and towns. Then, actors and stage people were looked down upon, and it was not uncommon for the Marxes to go unpaid, or even to have lodgings for the night. In his 1961 memoir, Harpo Speaks!, he stressed how difficult those years really were. In England, less than three generations ago, overnight lodging houses still displayed signs on the outside window which read, " No Irish or Actors ".
Mother Minnie had decided that the act needed more class, so she bought a used $45 harp, and sent it by freight train to Harpo in Illinois. After just two weeks, Harpo was playing it on stage; after a year, probably around late 1911, he was confident enough to play his first harp solo, the traditional " Annie Laurie " :
" The audience loved the fact that this supposedly dumb guy could sit down and play a beautiful harp ". ( Groucho )
In a Missouri Woolworth window, Harpo saw a picture of an angel with a harp leant against her right shoulder - he had been using his left shoulder, so he promptly switched over. In Alabama, a $200 insurance settlement after a railway " accident " destroyed his cheap harp, enabled Harpo to buy a professional harp with pedals - his old harp lacked these, so he had been unable to play any accidental notes apart from the seven note diatonic scale ( all the pitches are chromatically altered by the use of the seven pedals ) . This limitation restricted his repertoire to only six tunes.
Harpo tuned his harp starting from one piano note, but after 3 years, he found out that his was a non-standard tuning - however because he used a lower string tension, he never had major problems with string breakages on the road. Relative to itself, his harp was in tune, which was the most important thing.
The classical harp has 46 or 47 strings ( mainly gut ), and a wide diatonic range of six and a half octaves, and is tuned to the diatonic i.e. 7 note major scale of B or C flat as it is more conveniently referred to. It has one double-action pedal for each note of the scale. A pedal pressed down to the first notch will raise the pitch of that note a semi-tone; pressed further, a whole tone. So like the guitar, the same note can also be sounded on the adjacent string. To help the player, all the C strings are red, and all the F strings are dark. The harp is unique among the stringed instruments in that the strings are perpendicular to the resonator or soundboard, and not parallel to it - this gives it a very distinctive, chime-like, musical box sound.
Because each string on the harp represented a fixed pitch - the instrument was especially suitable for arpeggio ( the successive playing of the notes of a chord ) and glissando ( a fast scale passage, played by quickly running the fingers along the strings ). By muting the middle of a string and plucking the top part, an eerie, harmonic note an octave higher was sounded. Harpo employed these techniques liberally - they were relatively easy to execute and sounded heavenly and ethereal. Harpo was frank in his assessment of his technique:
" I realized I'd been faking for all these years, covering up my lack of musical knowledge with gooey arpeggios and flashy glissandos. Bill ( his son ) showed me the straight harmonies I should have been playing instead....He was making an honest harpist of me ".
Sidonie Goossens was the Principal Harp of the BBC Symphony Orchestra for over 50 years from 1927 - 1980, and she made an interesting comment:
" The harp is hard to play, and not just to play but to make a good sound. Sometimes a wonderful technique only produces a tinkling tin sound ".
She also touched upon the peculiar tuning problem inherent in the harp:
" I think the worst problem is tuning....our tuning is fixed so we can't temper our notes up or down, as certain other instruments can ".
Groucho gave this opinion about his brother's ability:
" ...he practiced very hard. He was basically a musician. He could play any instrument, given the time to practice with it. Harpo also played the piano and clarinet. He loved music ".
Seated comfortably, the harp was placed between his knees and leant against his right shoulder. The middle and higher notes were plucked with his right hand thumb and fingers, with the lower notes and harmonies plucked with his left hand. When playing glissandi, Harpo would make showy, quick, anti-clockwise circular movements with his hands, or run his thumbs rapidly backwards and forwards, moving gradually towards the higher notes and then back again. Occasionally, he would strike the strings in a gesture similar to flicking fluff, or use the flat of his hand to dampen the strings.
When Harpo played, the pantomime was suspended, and he became serious and concentrated on his music:
" Whenever I touched the strings of the harp, I stopped being an actor ".
He transcribed onto the harp the popular songs of the day and also classical works by Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Mozart and Salzedo.
" I played by ear, But I've been lucky...The harp has given me a decent living ".
One of the first classical pieces that he taught himself was his " own special arrangement of the Sextet from Lucia " ( from the very popular opera " Lucia di Lammermoor " , by Gaetano Donizetti ).
Harpo's technique was characterised by his crystal-clear, sparkling tone, elegant phrasing - he instinctively knew when to leave " gaps " or pauses in his playing, and his superlative finger technique - lightning fast cascades of notes effortlessly plucked. So although he did not take up the harp until his early 20's, his progress was so rapid, that after only a year, he was already sounding like a seasoned harpist - he really did posess an extraordinary natural talent for the harp.
HARPO'S FURTHER MUSICAL TRAINING
In the mid-1950's, Harpo's son Bill studied composition at the Juilliard School of Music. Bill would play for his father his original pieces on the piano, while Harpo transcribed the music for the harp by ear. Bill devised a musical notation system for Harpo to more easily learn his more complex arrangements. Harpo proudly stated that his son was one of the few composers who ever lived " who knew how to write for the harp ".
Because it is a non-chromatic instrument, accidental notes require complicated pedal changes. To more fully explain Harpo's statement, Sidonie Goossens once explained:
" Schoenberg, for example, is almost impossible to play ( i.e. his harp music is written as if for the piano ). His single harp part, we nearly always have to divide it between two players because one physically just can't manage it ".
HARPO'S PLAYING ASTOUNDS THE VIRTUOSI
In 1919, after a matinee, the harpist with the Metropolitan Opera Company praised Harpo's " terribly original " playing. Impressed with his credentials, Harpo asked for a formal lesson in music reading and technique. During Harpo's lesson, all the man wanted him to do was play continuosly, while he carefully observed all his techniques, all the while exclaiming, " Ah, yes...Ah, so!...Extraordinary! ".
Harpo later remarked, " That was the end of my formal study of the harp ". He added, " ...great virtuosos like Salzedo and Grandjany, ask(ed) me to demonstrate my technique. They were utterly fascinated that I could get any sound at all out of the instrument, the way I played it, let alone some pretty good sounds. I was always willing to demonstrate, but damned if I would ever again pay twenty bucks to give any teacher a lesson ".
HARPO'S HARP TEACHER OR ADVISOR?
In his memoirs, Harpo publicly thanked and credited a lady named Mildred Dilling, a pupil of Carlos Salzedo, for introducing him to the classical repertoire, although he stressed that she never influenced his own established technique, or ever taught him to read music. Dilling herself remarked that, " Harpo was dead serious about music. Classical music filled his life. The way he is on screen....is the way he played after I began teaching him. We met before they made any of the movies ".
She felt that she had been more of a major influence in Harpo's musical progression, than Harpo apparently did. Harpo first met the still teenaged Mildred Dilling in a music store where she " was playing a piece called " The Music Box ". He introduced himself and asked her if she would teach him the piece, " she was delighted to. We soon became good friends ".
Harpo, to set the record straight, added:
" Miss Dilling never tried to change my screwball technique...when I've gotten stuck on a tricky chord...She'd hitch her harp close to the phone and play the chord over and over until I got it ".
HARPO IN PERFORMANCE - RAVE REVIEWS
From the outset, Harpo was being acclaimed for his musical talent, and as early as February 24, 1912, the Variety reviewer of " Fun in Hi Skool ", was moved to write:
" The Patsy boy ( Harpo ) is a natural comedian. Also he is a harpist, and a good one. Introducing the harp into the centre of the turn, he scored an unusually large success, deservedly so, too, besides giving a classy touch to the whole ".
The Billboard reviewer of February 22, 1915, enthused:
" The harp playing Marx brother performed wonders with his sweet-toned instrument ".
The Marx Brothers London debut in June 1922 brought much praise from the English press:
" Two of the brothers are accomplished musicians, and get enthusiastic receptions for their brilliant work on the piano and the harp ".
In 1931, the brothers returned to London, England, and Harpo received further rave notices:
" ...he is an excellent harpist, and holds the house entranced by his skill ".
Harpo had honed his concert performances to perfection after years of live stage appearances throughout America - there was nothing false or fake about his musicianship - what he did on screen, he could easily reproduce on stage.
BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT - 1922 and 1931
The Marx Brothers made their London West-End debut in June 1922, when they topped the bill at both the Coliseum and the Alhambra theaters, with their revues, " On The Balcony " and " Home Again ". Harpo recollected that the English impresario, Charles B. Cochran, held open auditions for the supporting artistes. One elderly hoofer ( song and dance man ) , was let down gently by Cochran :
" I thank you very much - I shall let you know ".
The aged hoofer, a veteran of the 19th century Victorian music-halls, and whose undoubted talents had been diminished by time, quickly asked the musical conductor to play him off the stage with four bars of music - the maestro did so, as the gent merrily danced off-stage, " waving his derby ( hat ), as if it were his fourth curtain call. Everybody in the house ( including Cochran ) broke into applause ".
Successful auditionees included Mr. G.H. Elliott - a hoofer; Decima and Eddie McLean - acrobatic ballroom dancers; The Medini Trio - an acrobatic balancing act " clever feats on unsupported ladders ", and Mr Harry Weldon as " Stiffy " the boxer " prepared to take on all comers - ladies preferred ".
The Marx Brothers returned to England to headline Cochran's 1931 Varieties at London's Palace Theater. Among the opening acts were Togan and Geneva - wire-walkers; Miss Ivy St. Helier and a Piano - musical and vocal impressionist; Miss Okabe - a novelty Japanese Juggler; Duffin and Draper - Animated Rag Dolls " in which a girl is flung about the stage " ; De Biere - Prince of Jugglers; George Dormonde - " In Scientific Nonsense " - a " polo-match on the stage on a one-wheel bicycle " and the Melody Maids - " a sextette of pleasing singers ".
AMERICA'S GOT TALENT - 1911 - 1915
" The opening act was the floor-mat of vaudeville. If you opened the bill, your status was only slightly higher than that of the usher " . ( Harpo )
The Marx Brothers shared the bill with literally thousands of vaudeville acts - some better than others. In Laredo, Texas, Harpo witnessed " The Musical Cow Milkers " - a husband and wife team who sang duets while milking a live cow. A guy named Mons Herbert " used to set a dinner table on the stage, and play " The Anvil Chorus " by blowing knives and forks against each other ".
In Seattle, violinist Solly Soloshsky joined the touring company - he was " a hell of a fiddler...but he could only play naturals, no accidentals...he had some kind of mental block against sharps and flats and simply couldn't master them...I showed Solly how it was done on the harp, with pedals, and he was almost sick with envy ".
Nobody could steal the act of " Collins and Hart " - they had a cat that blew a whistle.
HARPO AND GERSHWIN
Harpo knew George and Ira Gershwin very well - from the New York Broadway social scene and the 1930's Hollywood film and entertainment circles, they had become good friends. In 1928, George Gershwin composed his orchestral tone poem, " An American In Paris ", which was based on his experience as a tourist in Paris. In his score, he actually wrote parts for four taxi horns, to evoke the sound of the hustle and bustle of city life. Of course, Harpo in character always honked his own bulb-type taxi horn ( borrowed from a taxicab ) and whistled to communicate - it is not inconceivable that Harpo's antics influenced Gershwin's finished work? The upshot of this is that motor horns are sometimes used to add vim to the percussion section of a modern symphony orchestra.
Other famous composers Harpo met included Arnold Schoenberg, the modernist, and the great Russians Sergei Prokofiev and Sergei Rachmaninov. He also met George Bernard Shaw, who had known both Liszt and Debussy.
HARPO AND THE L.A. ROCK GROUP SPIRIT?
In 1963, Harpo was the star guest musician on gospel great Mahalia Jackson's Columbia album " Let's Pray Together ". He accompanied her on his own composition, " Guardian Angels ". The album's arranger and conductor was the noted jazz musician and composer, Marty Paich, the " first call " veteran of 100's of L.A. recording sessions.
In 1968, he was responsible for the brilliant string and horn arrangements on Spirit's classic second album, " The Family That Plays Together ". On the Randy California / John Locke composition, " It Shall Be ", Paich wrote a jazzy, other-wordly score for strings, horns, flute and harp. Of particular interest was his string quartet arrangement on Spirit frontman Jay Ferguson's ballad, " The Drunkard " , which also included a prominent part written for the harp and flute. The song ended with the " fancy swoops " or glissandos that were so much part of Harpo's style of playing. It is hard not to conclude that Paich was paying a subtle tribute to Harpo?
In late 1970, Spirit released their most acclaimed album, " The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus " - still one of the finest rock albums ever. On one of their best known songs, the Jay Ferguson composition " Animal Zoo ", motor car horns are heard in the background, a la " An American In Paris ".
LIFE AFTER THE MARX BROTHERS
World War II effectively ended the film career of the Marx Brothers. It could be argued that A Night In Casablanca ( 1946 ) was really their last film. Love Happy ( 1949 ) was originally conceived as a Harpo only movie; Chico got involved because he needed the money; Groucho had to appear to secure the financial backing. In 1933, Harpo became one of the first American entertainers to perform in Russia - his six week tour was a great success. In Moscow, he received " an unprecedented standing ovation, lasting ten minutes ".
During the war, Harpo entertained the troops, and with Chico, began to play club dates, benefits, state fairs, and later on, Las Vegas. In 1957, Harpo was reportedly under contract to NBC to make six specials a year, and still practicing four hours daily. He continued to be a very popular guest star on many television shows until only a few years before his death, on September, 28, 1964, during open-heart surgery.
This year is the centenary of the Marxes stage debut - the Marx family could not have known when they began their show-business career that the world would have been a far sadder place without them!
A LIST OF THE 20 GREATEST HARPISTS EVER
1/ HARPO MARX
Who else? Harpo was easily the most popular and famous harpist of them all. He was a natural virtuoso on his instrument, not a technical one. He was a musician first, and a harpist second - he understood the music. Harpo really was a " one of a kind " - there will never be anyone quite like him.
2/ GAYLE LEVANT
The principal Harp of the LA Philharmonic and the veteran of literally 100's of L.A. recording sessions. She has worked with such great contemporary artists as George Harrison, Neil Diamond ( " Jonathan Livingstone Seagull " ), Vanessa Carlton ( " Be Not Nobody ", " Harmonium " ), John B. Sebastian ( eponymous solo album " I had a dream " ), James Taylor, Glen Campbell, Tom Waits, K.D. Lang, and many more.
She is best known for her work with the Carpenters - her virtuosic and always tasteful harp work graced most of their best known songs such as " Close To You ", " For All We Know ", " Superstar ", " Sing ", " Goodbye To Love ", " Touch Me When We're Dancing ", " Yesterday Once More ", " I Won't Last A Day Without You ", " I Need To Be In Love ", " This Masquerade ", " Heather ", " Aurora " and many others.
She received a full musician credit on " Carpenters - The Singles 1969 - 1973 ", and on every subsequent Carpenters release from " Horizon " ( 1975 ) up to the final album, the posthumous " Voice Of The Heart " ( 1983 ). She was effectively a member of the Carpenters - Richard Carpenter greatly favored harp and wind instrumental parts in his song arrangements. She is the most widely heard of modern harpists, and her impeccable technique is characterised by her lighter than air touch. The Carpenters' songs are now recognised as popular music standards, and Gayle Levant is one of the very few classical musicians to have made such an enormous impact in the pop and rock genres - a truly great artist.
3/ CARLOS SALZEDO ( 1885 - 1961 )
The founder of the Salzedo Harp Colony in Camden, Maine, and the originator of the Salzedo Harp Method. At just 16, he won the Premier Prix in both Harp and Piano at the Conservatoire de Paris, on the same day. His important compositions include the Sonata for Harp and Piano and Scintillation.
4/ HENRIETTE RENIE ( 1875 - 1956 )
A Premier Prix winner at the Paris Conservatory at just 11. During World War I, she gave charity concerts almost nightly. Her Harp Method was very influential, and she was an important composer for the harp. At 26, she wrote the Concerto in C minor.
5/ MARCEL TOURNIER ( 1879 - 1951 )
Professor of the Harp at the Paris Conservatory 1912 - 1948. An important and prolific composer for solo harp, chamber and piano concertos.
6/ MARCEL GRANDJANY ( 1891 - 1975 )
At just 13, he was awarded the Premier Prix at the Paris Conservatory. He appeared with Maurice Ravel in 1913. Head of Harp Department at the Juilliard 1938 - 75 - where he met Harpo's son, Bill, who studied composition there. Bill Marx has also written his own memoirs, " Son of Harpo Speaks ", which is essential reading to those interested in the Harpo story. Highly recommended.
7/ ALPHONSE HASSELMANS ( 1845 - 1912 )
A prolific composer and transciber. Professor of Harp at the Conservatoire de Paris.
8/ LILY LASKINE ( 1893 - 1988 )
Professor of Harp at the Conservatoire de Paris 1948 - 1958. A selfless and modest woman and teacher. Awarded France's highest honour, The Legion of Honour, in 1958.
9/ SIDONIE GOOSSENS ( 1899 - 2004 )
MARIE GOOSSENS ( 1894 - 1991 )
These remarkable sisters were Principal Harpists for all the major English orchestras for over 100 years between them. Their brother Leon ( 1897 - 1988 ) was a world class oboist; brother Eugene was a renowned violinist and conductor, as was their father, also named Eugene. The Goossens were a distinguished musical dynasty.
10/ MARISA ROBLES ( b. 1937 )
Spanish born artist - studied at the Madrid Conservatory. In 1971, she became Head of Harp at the Royal College of Music in London. An outstanding and prolific recording artist, renowned for her quicksilver technique.
11/ NANCY ALLEN ( b. 1954 )
The 1973 1st Prize winner at the Fifth International Harp Competition in Israel. In 1999, she became the Principal Harpist of the New York Philharmonic. Head of the Harp department at Juilliard and Yale.
BARBARA ALLEN - Principal Harpist for the American Ballet Theater Orchestra and the Greenwich Symphony.
JANE ALLEN - Principal Harpist for the Eugene Symphony. These amazing ladies are sisters - America's answer to the Goossens?
12/ KAYO ISHIMARU FLEISHER
Principal Harp with the Jacksonville Symphony; an international concert and recording artist. Premier Prix at the Paris Conservatory. She is also the proud owner of one of Harpo's antique harps!
Quote: " We spend half of our life tuning and the other half playing out of tune ".
13/ SUSANN McDONALD
Professor of Music at Indiana University ( Bloomington ). Head of the Harp Department at Juilliard.
14/ PIERRE JAMET
Professor of Harp at the Conservatoire de Paris 1948 - 1963.
15/ ALAN STIVELL ( b. 1944 )
The King of the Folk or Celtic Harp, and a prolific recording artist since 20. His breakthrough album " Renaissance of the Celtic Harp " in 1971 established his reputation - it incorporates electric and classical instrumentation. At eight he was given a hand made Celtic harp ( it's smaller and has less strings ) by his father which began his life-long love of the harp. He studied composition and improvisation at the Paris Academy, and gained an English degree in 1965.
16/ ALICE COLTRANE ( 1937 - 2007 )
Swamimi Turiyasangitananda was a prominent female jazz instrumentalist in the male dominated jazz world. She played keyboards, harp and vibes. Her 1970 album " Ptah the El Daoud " is highly regarded.
17/ MILDRED DILLING ( b. circa 1906 )
Famous for having been Harpo's teacher or advisor. She was important in popularizing the Salzedo Harp Method, which emphasised posture as well as technique.
18/ SHEILA BROMBERG
This relatively unknown harpist was the first woman session musician to play on a Beatles recording. The song was " She's Leaving Home " ( from Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band ), which was scored by Mike Leander for double string quartet, double-bass and harp, and recorded on the evening of March 17, 1967. The famous opening harp passage is one of the loveliest in popular music, and Bromberg's delicate playing throughout is a joy.
19/ SKAILA KANGA
For the star-making 1970 " Elton John " album, Paul Buckmaster was hired to write the orchestral arrangements ( he was the arranger of Bowie's " Space Oddity " ). The brilliant harpist was Skaila Kanga, who is credited on " I Need You To Turn To ", " The Greatest Discovery ", and uncredited on " Your Song " and " Sixty Years On ". On Elton's follow-up album, " Tumbleweed Connection " ( also 1970 ), Skaila is credited on " Come Down In Time ".
Kanga's sensitive and expert harp embellishments on arguably Elton's finest ever work, is ample justification for her ( or his? ) inclusion in the Harp Hall of Fame.
Harp by Harpo RCA 1952
Harpo in Hi-Fi Mercury 1957
Harpo at Work Mercury 1958
Masterworks for the Harp by Hasselmans, Salzedo and Grandjany - Marisa Robles.
The Goossens Family ( 2000 ) - Leon, Marie and Sidonie Goossens.
Nancy Allen Plays Ravel and Debussy ( 2005 )
Le Charme de la Harpe - Lily Laskine
Souvenir - Marcel Grandjany ( 2001 )
The World of the Harp - Susann McDonald ( 2005 )
Debussy, Henriette Renie and Marcel Tournier - Naoko Yoshino ( 1999 )
Xavier de Maistre - Henriette Renie ( 2008 )
Trio pour Harpe, Violon et Violon Celle - Pierre Jamet & Son Quintette ( 2005 )
French Masterworks for Harp - Ursula Holliger ( 2000 )
Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp - Kayo Ishimaru and Jean-Pierre Rampal.
The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band ( 1967 )
Spirit - The Family That Plays Together ( 1968 )
Neil Young - Harvest ( 1972 )
" A Man Needs A Maid " and " There's A World " were recorded live with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1971. The latter features a soft harp accompaniment by the LSO's Principal Harp - identity uncertain, quite possibly one of the Goossens sisters, on the evidence of a photograph of the LSO being conducted by David Measham ( the conductor on " Harvest " ) taken in March 1973. The imminent release of the long-anticipated Neil Young Archives Box Set, will confirm this - the set includes film of the historic February 1971 live recording session with the LSO.
Carpenters - The Singles 1969 - 1973
Elton John - Elton John ( 1970 )
The first symphony to include a part for the harp was Hector Berlioz's five movement essay in orchestration, the Symphonie Fantastique ( 1830 - 2nd movement " A Ball " ) - this can be heard in the 1991 Julia Roberts movie, " Sleeping With The Enemy " . Prior to this the harp had been mainly used orchestrally as a " color ".
Gustav Mahler's Adagietto from the 5th Symphony ( 1902 ) was scored for just strings and harp - it can be heard in Luchino Visconti's 1971 film " Death In Venice " , starring Dirk Bogarde. Gabriel Faure's setting of the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass, Opus 48 " Sanctus ", is scored for harp, violas, organ, horns, trumpet and voices.
Georges Bizet's Duet from The Pearl Fishers ( 1863 ) and the Intermezzo from Carmen ( 1875 - the most performed opera of them all ), both include prominent harp passages, as does Giacomo Puccini's gorgeous operatic aria, " O mio babbino caro " ( " Oh my beloved father " from Gianni Schicchi ( 1918 ) .
Tchaikovsky's perenially popular ballet scores, Swan Lake ( 1877 - Prelude ), The Sleeping Beauty ( 1890 - Rose Adagio ) and the much loved The Nutcracker ( 1892 - Waltz of the Flowers ) all have notable harp parts. The famous French composers Debussy and Ravel were each commissioned by rival harp manufacturers to write chamber works.
Gustav Holst, who had read Berlioz's treatsie on orchestration at age 12, wrote parts for two harps in his most famous work " The Planets " ( 1914 - 1916 - " Venus ", " Mercury ", " Neptune ", " Uranus " ).
Handel's lovely Harp Concerto has become a concert standard; Vivaldi's Lute Concertos have been transcribed for harp. In February, two separate harp recordings of Bach's Goldberg Variations were released.
Why are there so many world class women harpists? Sidonie Goossens learnt the harp because, " Father chose the harp for my sister Marie and me because in his day women only entered the orchestra as harpists....father's word was law really ...At seven I wanted to be an operatic singer...Father thought about it, but decided that singing wasn't as safe as an instrument. The voice goes early ".