Masterworks for Harp was recorded in 2001. The first two pieces on the CD (the Bach and the Rodrigo) are Josh’s own transcriptions. They are followed by American composer Michael Mauldin‘s Birds in Winter and Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich‘s Songs of Nymphs.
“I must applaud you on doing a marvelous job on the recording, especially the Songs of Nymphs. The Bach is quite a challenge but you make it work on the harp. The Rodrigo is utterly captivating. It sounds as if it was written for the harp (mind you the guitar is also a plucked instrument). The Mauldin Preludes are very evocative, each having it’s own distinct character. They make the harp speak well. As for the Songs of Nymphs, you perform them with an exuberance that befits their bravura nature, and yet there is no lack of sensitivity and nuance to
the more reflective sections.”
“I’ve listened several times to [your] new CD, and I enjoy it very much. I think the Bach is actually my favorite thing on the album. It is so wonderful, and beautifully played and felt. I also like the Songs of Nymphs – lovely writing and playing! Thanks for including Birds in Winter and for performing it so well.”
J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Partita No. 4 in D Major
trans. Josh Layne
Concierto de Aranjuez
trans. Josh Layne
Michael Mauldin (1947-)
Birds in Winter –
Six preludes for harp (1989)
Marjan Mozetich (1948-)
Songs of Nymphs (1987)
Prelude 2:14 (YouTube video)
Ritual 3:11 (YouTube video)
Total playing time 61:17
Complete CD liner notes:
“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.”