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Complete CD liner notes from Masterworks for Harp

"I love to play Bach.  JS Bach never actually wrote anything for the harp (the harp was not a very advanced instrument in Bach's time), so I rely on transcriptions.  Now that I've played most of the transcriptions available for the harp, I've begun to do my own. 

I chose the Partita No. 4 because I am a huge fan of the American pianist, William Kapell (who died tragically young; 31 years old, in 1953).  One of the few Bach pieces he recorded was the Partita No. 4.  When I was looking for something to transcribe, I thought of it.  I wasn't sure when I started whether or not it would adapt well to the harp, but it did.  I always liked it when I listened to it, and I've grown to like it even more as I've played it.

My other transcription on this CD is the incredibly poignant slow movement of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez.  I think almost everyone who hears this guitar concerto falls in love with it.  The great harpist Nicanor Zabaleta must have, since he suggested to Rodrigo that Rodrigo transcribe the solo guitar part for harp.  Of course, to play Rodrigo's transcription, you need an orchestra handy!

About 4 or 5 year ago, I noticed in a catalog of harp music that someone had transcribed the slow movement for solo harp, i.e., the harp was playing both the solo guitar  line and the orchestra part.  Naturally, I had to get a copy of it!  However, I was disappointed with the transcription; it didn't seem to work particularly well.  I put it away.  Then, in the spring of 2000, I decided I was going to play the Rodrigo, no matter what!  I still wasn't satisfied with the version I had; using a copy of the original guitar part plus the piano reduction of the orchestra, I started doing my own transcription.

The piece that you hear contains almost note for note the guitar solo, along with most of the piano reduction.  Occasionally I'll play the guitar line up an octave, since on the harp the low notes ring much longer than on the guitar, and it can get awfully muddy. 

Michael Mauldin's Birds in Winter is a wonderful, modern composition.  It's fairly sparse writing; very evocative of winter, and very effective.  The piece is made up of 6 preludes, each of which is quite different.  All of them can be heard to be, indeed, "birds in winter".  My particular favourite of the preludes is the fourth, which is a quiet, rather mournful piece.  I can just imagine a few birds huddled on a leaf-bare tree.

I first heard Songs of Nymphs when Erika Goodman performed them at the World Harp Congress of 1996 in Tacoma, WA.  Her program featured all Canadian music.  This piece was one that made me say, "Hey, I want to play that!"  A few years later, when I was asked to perform a work by a Canadian composer at a concert in Victoria, I thought of Song of Nymphs.  I liked it even better than I remembered.  It fits very nicely under the hand.  In some ways it reminds me of many of the late 19th century works written mostly by harpists; it has a similar "flowing" quality.

Each movement or "song" in Song of Nymphs is very effective, and, while they are clearly part of a whole, each is quite distinctive.  The Prelude introduces you to the overall style of the piece. Reflection is quiet for the most part, but in the middle becomes more hectic; perhaps someone has thrown a stone into the reflection of a pool...  Ritual is a wonderfully quirky little piece.  It's very serious and solemn, but I feel an undercurrent of humour running through it (and it gets very wild in the middle).  Freedom is probably my favourite of the four."

 Good listening!
 Josh Layne

Masterworks for Harp
Josh Layne, pedal harp

CD $21.45

Track Listing:

J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Partita No. 4 in D Major 
  Ouverture 5:40 
  Allemande 6:07
  Courante 2:03
  Aria  2:11
  Sarabande 4:11
  Menuet 2:09
  Gigue 2:21
trans. Josh Layne

Rodrigo (1901-1999) 
Concierto de Aranjuez 
Adagio 11:48 
trans. Josh Layne

Michael Mauldin (1947-)
Birds in Winter -
Six preludes for harp (1989)
   I  1:16 
   II  1:50
   III  2:01
   IV  3:11
   V  1:30
   VI  1:19

Marjan Mozetich (1948-)
Songs of Nymphs (1987) 
   Prelude 2:14 (YouTube video)
   Reflection 3:32
   Ritual 3:11  (YouTube video)
   Freedom 4:43

Total playing time 61:17

Released October 2001



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Josh Layne, Harpist
The Pacific Harp and Marimba Duo

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