Concert Reviews

Elinor Bennett - Harp & Triple Harp

(Rhyl Music Club)

The harp’s history as a musical instrument spans at least five housand years, and many cultures: it is mentioned in the Book of Genesis, where Jubal is identified as the “father of all that play the lyre and harp”; there are African harps, Celtic harps, Egyptian harps, and many others, and the instrument in its diverse manifestations has been employed in a variety of traditions, classical, folk and jazz. Elinor Bennett wisely focussed a on brief but fertile period of compositions featuring the harp, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe. In so doing, she gave her audience both an educational and a musical treat; and, though we had but one performer, we enjoyed hearing performances on three different harps. Interestingly, the first piece in the concert, Handel’s Concerto Opus 4 No. 6, she chose to play on a modern pedal harp, though it was written originally for the then contemporary triple harp. The reason for this became clear in the last item before the interval, Glinka’s Variations on a Theme of Mozart, when Elinor explained that a piece such as this, composed for the single action harp, when played on a double action harp, as she did, not only sounds different, but leads the performer to a different aesthetic interpretation. Comparably informative introductions were provided throughout the concert, and not since Madeleine Mitchell (Violin} came to Rhyl, have I enjoyed this aspect of a Music Club evening so much. I will not comment in detail on the ten compositions we heard. Elinor Bennett’s long and distinguished career in the service of the harp and its music led us to expect an exceptional evening, and this is exactly what we got: erudition, enthusiasm and musicianship were displayed in equal measure, and we were encouraged to continue our enjoyment by attending the Harp Festival in Caernarfon on April 6th and 7th. My one reservation about the evening reflects a deficit in me, and not any aspect of the concert itself – I have a temperamental preference for instruments that musicians can attack as well as cajole, such as the grand piano, and for music which displays in sound the violence of the times in which we live. The harp, and the majority of pieces composed for it, cannot for me achieve that kind of catharsis.

Rob Lowe