Composers Datebook®

Harp concertos by Villa-Lobos and Rautavaara

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887 - 1959) — Harp Concerto (Catherine Michel, harp; Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra; Antonio de Almeida, cond.) Philips 462 179 Einojuhani Rautavaraa (1928 - 2016) — Harp Concerto (Marielle Nordmann, harp; Helsinki Philharmonic; Leif Segerstam, cond.) Ondine 978


Composer's Datebook - January 14, 2022

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January 14, 2022

Synopsis

Some instruments seem to have all the luck – or at least all the concertos!

If you play piano or violin, you have hundreds of concertos to choose from. But if your instrument is the harp – and you will forgive the pun – the pluckings are slim.

This hardly seems fair to one of mankind’s oldest instruments, depicted on murals from ancient Egypt and traditionally associated with King David in the Bible. In the 18th and early 19th century, there are a handful of great classical harp concertos by Handel, Mozart, and others. In the 20th century, things start to improve a little, with modern concertos by Gliere, Pierne, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Rodrigo.

On today’s date in 1955, we’re happy to report, one of the finest modern works for harp and orchestra had its premiere performance when harpist Nicanor Zabeleta premiered a new harp concerto by the prolific Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos – with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by the composer.

One more recent addition came in 2000 from the pen of the Finnish composer Einojuhanni Rautavaara. His harp concerto was commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra, who premiered the new work with the Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä and Kathy Kienzle as soloist.

Music Played in Today's Program

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887 - 1959) — Harp Concerto (Catherine Michel, harp; Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra; Antonio de Almeida, cond.) Philips 462 179

Einojuhani Rautavaraa (1928 - 2016) — Harp Concerto (Marielle Nordmann, harp; Helsinki Philharmonic; Leif Segerstam, cond.) Ondine 978

On This Day

Deaths

  • 1676 - Italian opera composer Pier Francesco Cavalli, age 73, in Venice;

  • 1949 - Spanish composer and pianist Joaquin Turina, age 66, in Madrid;

  • 1984 - German-born Israeli composer Paul Ben-Haim (originally Frankenburger), age 86, in Tel Aviv;

Premieres

  • 1725 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 3 ("Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid" I) performed on the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany as part of Bach's second annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1724/25);

  • 1738 - Handel: opera "Faramondo" (Julian date: Jan. 3);

  • 1900 - Puccini: "Tosca," in Rome at the Teatro Constanzi;

  • 1914 - Stravinsky: "Three Japanese Lyrics," in Paris at the Salle Erard;

  • 1932 - Ravel: Piano Concerto in G, at the Salle Pleyel in Paris by the Lamoureux Orchestra conducted by the composer, with Marguerite Long as soloist;

  • 1934 - Gershwin: "I Got Rhythm" Variations for piano and orchestra, at Boston's Symphony Hall by the Leo Reisman Orchestra conducted by Charles Previn, with the composer as soloist;

  • 1955 - Villa-Lobos: Harp Concerto (with soloist Nicanor Zabaleta) & Sinfonia No. 8, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the composer conducting;

  • 1960 - Creston: Violin Concerto No. 1, in Detroit;

  • 1964 - Quincy Porter: Symphony No. 2, in Louisville, Kentucky;

  • 1965 - Dutilleux: "Cinq métaboles," in Cleveland;

  • 1994 - Michael Torke: Piano Concerto (with the composer as soloist) and Saxophone Concerto (with John Harle as soloist), at the Troy (N.Y.) Music Hall, with the Albany Symphony;

  • 1998 - Michael Torke: "Brick Symphony" for orchestra, by the San Francisco Symphony, Alasdair Neale conducting.