Eline Groslot: In June 2021, I embarked on a fascinating journey with my GPS for the harp repertoire. I chose this well-known acronym because it best describes how I navigate the peculiar structure of the harp repertoire. I’ve made a list of compositions that I consider important for understanding the harp repertoire. These are pieces of exquisite quality, well-written, and having withstood the test of time. One 21st-century piece that has particularly touched me because of its compelling composition is Two Japanese Folk Songs by Toshio Hosokawa. This music expresses the serenity of nature, but also the power it has over us; it’s 21st-century music rooted in Japanese tradition.
Even when I try to dampen every sound that no longer fits the harmony, many overtones continue to resonate. Hence, damping can be somewhat deceptive in a way because the resonance of the instrument in the room persists. This resonance is the essential aspect of In a Landscape, a piece written for piano or harp by John Cage. The silence in-between notes is crucial to fully grasp the composition: for him, the spaces between notes contain not silence but time.
Looking at Gordon’s repertoire, you'll notice immediately that he has a fascination for non-mainstream instruments. During our correspondence, he revealed to me that he dreamed of composing a harp concerto based on a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, called Eolian. From the very start, Eolian's character is evident: glissandi, bisbigliandi, and many ‘classical’ harp techniques, all with a contemporary twist, full of emotion, speed, and expression. You can feel the wind, thunder, primal power, and love.
James MacMillan, too, understands the power and narrative strength of glissandi. Knockroon Waltz plays with flageolets and glissandi, contrasting the left and right hands rhythmically during the waltz in such a way that it seems to shift, much like a sculpture which shifts and suddenly consists of two parts.
- 1. Toshio Hosokawa (°1955) - Two Japanese Folk Songs: Falling Cherry Blossoms
2. John Cage (1912 - 1992) - In a Landscape
3-5. Geoffrey Gordon (°1968) - Eolian: Concerto for Harp and Orchestra
6. James MacMillan (°1959) - Knockroon Waltz for Harp Solo
7. Toshio Hosokawa (°1955) - Two Japanese Folk Songs: Lullaby for Itsuki