- Featured: Anne Sullivan
- Release Date: 11/13/2007
Recently, a student asked harpist Anne Sullivan if there were any particular harp-related things she should do while on a trip to Vienna. "I gave her my best advice - find a good music store." This wasn't a case of "do as I say, not as I do." On a 2002 trip to Germany, Ms. Sullivan found such a store in Munich and sent her husband and son wandering around the city while she pored over all the harp music they had. It was in that store that Ms. Sullivan discovered the German folk harp tradition. "You can learn so much about a local music tradition - both concert music and folk music - by seeing what is in stock." In the Munich store, Ms. Sullivan marked the absence of the Celtic folk music that a customer would find in an American store (albeit with a smattering of folk music from other cultures). Instead, she found only German and Austrian folk songs written or arranged for the German folk harp, along with concert music - many of the usual harp standards, plus other publications less well-known and difficult to obtain in the United States. Ms. Sullivan muses, "I think musicians are drawn to all the different facets of their instruments. It's fascinating to consider that the essential harp (regardless of the size, number of strings, or levers or pedals) can be at home with Irish jigs, Paraguayan galopas, or German ländler. The technical requirements of each style are so interesting and the approaches to the instrument so different, it's almost like rediscovering the harp." Her discovery of the German folk harp tradition while browsing in that Munich music store, then, opened up a vista of new challenges and inspired the creation of this disc, in which she shares her discoveries. Art music often draws on a folk music background, refines it with education and in the process becomes more cosmopolitan. Like their counterparts in literature, art and philosophy, the composers of the Romantic era believed that not all truth could be arrived at through reasoning and logical deduction. Rather, they held that there were deeper realities which could only be reached through emotion and intuition. The Romantic composers not only used folk traditions as inspiration for their subjects but also borrowed and adapted folk musical forms and colors in their composed music. Czechoslovakian harpist Hans Trnecek (1858-1914) composed his Fantasie as a meditation on a number of melodies and themes by Austrian composer Franz Schubert. Ms. Sullivan recommends comparing the Trnecek Fantasie with the other two 'fantasy' pieces on this disc - Schuëcker's Barcarole and the Spohr Fantasie, pointing out that each uses the form in very different ways. Here, Trnecek uses the fantasy form to weave together his free-form interpretations of the Schubert material. Louis Spohr (1784-1859) was a German violinist, conductor and composer who wrote solo harp works for his wife, Dorette Scheidler, the most accomplished German harpist of her day. Spohr's Fantasie is a real classical/romantic style fantasy, with clearly divided sections that are very different in tempo and feeling but that repeat thematic material. Viennese harpist Edmund Schuëcker (1860-1911) seems to embody German/Austrian romantic harp music. His pieces are typically romantic in form and content, and it is certainly harp music, written by a harpist. "To me, the virtuoso passages are more like the butter in a Viennese pastry than like the sugar icing on a French cake - more substantial, more underneath than just on top." The Barcarole (a piece composed in the style of the folk songs sung by Venetian gondoliers) uses fantasia quasi-improvisatory sections to develop each theme in the piece. Born in Berlin in 1834, Albert Zabel toured Germany, Russia, England and the U.S. as a concert harpist, before becoming solo harpist with the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg in 1855. He was the harp instructor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory (the model for Ms. Sullivan's alma mater, the Curtis Institute of Music) from it's inception in 1862. Am Springbrunnen ("The Brook") may be the best known of Zabel's compositions for the harp. It's quick, burbling notes are more reminiscent of the French tradition of romantic harp music than the German - compare the piece to Schuecker, for instance, who uses them more sparingly and to perhaps greater effect. Consolations is a six-part piano work by Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt (1811-1886). The first five parts have been transcribed for harp by Ms. Sullivan. Liszt was working in Weimar at the time he composed the Consolations, and they are ideal eamples of the contemplative side of Romanticism. The German folk tune, Die Schöne Weis' ("The Beautiful White") offers modern American listeners the opportunity to immerse themselves for a few minutes in the spirit of another time and place. "I believe the folk tradition of a place is a real key to understanding a culture's spirit. It is the music that the people of the place play, sing and live their lives to, not unlike the rock and roll soundtrack that many people in America today have." Anne Sullivan began her career as a concert harpist at age twelve when she appeared twice as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. A native of the Philadelphia area and a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, she is in demand as a recitalist, chamber musician and symphonic soloist. Her orchestral appearances have included engagements with the Baltimore Symphony, the Delaware Symphony where she was principal harpist, the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and the Opera Company of Philadelphia. She has accompanied many classical and popular artists including Luciano Pavarotti, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra and Roger Daltrey of "The Who." She has been listed in "Who's Who of Rising Young Americans" and "2000 Notable American Women." Her first solo recording is due to be released in August, 2007. In 1986, she co-founded the flute and harp duo SPARX with flutist Joan Sparks. The duo has appeared in concert across the country and received numerous national awards. SPARX produces a concert series in Wilmington, Delaware, a summer Chamber Music Festival and is in residence at The Tatnall School. The duo has released three CD recordings: Reflections, The Power of Two, and Christmas Echoes. Ms. Sullivan was a member of the music theory faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music from 1982-2002. She is the author and arranger of more than two dozen works for harp and has published a series of ear training books specifically for the harp student. Her dedication to the development of complete musicianship skills in her students has brought her acclaim both as a teacher and a lecturer. Currently, she is the harp instructor at the University of Delaware and at Swarthmore (PA) College.
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