Robin de Puy
The harp company Lyon & Healy, immortalized in the title of the 1995 Gastr del Sol album The Harp Factory on Lake Street
, has been producing high-end instruments since opening in 1889. This week it hosts a four-day concert series that showcases an impressive variety of approaches to the harp. I've already previewed Thursday's show by Brandee Younger
, who's following the jazz harp tradition blazed by Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane, and on Wednesday evening the series opens with a performance by Korean-born, Dutch-raised classical harpist Lavinia Meijer, who's tailoring the typically florid sound of her instrument to a minimalist repertoire.
In late 2016 Meijer released a double CD called The Glass Effect: The Music of Philip Glass
(Sony Classical). The first disc compiles ten of her arrangements of Glass's piano etudes—he composed 20 of them between 1991 and 2012, which allow his distinctive approach to blossom in elegant tangles of sweet, gliding overtones. His trademark rhythmic drive is stronger in some of these studies than in others, but thanks to their tight focus and relative brevity they're among my favorite Glass compositions. Mejier beautifully translates their dancing contrapuntal complexity to the harp, and her playing is luminous, resonant, and graceful. Below you can hear her version of Etude no. 16.
The second disc consists primarily of work by younger composers influenced by Glass. Unfortunately, many of the pieces lack the crisp bite of the etudes. "Suite for Harp" by guitarist Bryce Dessner of the National is pretty but slight, like a piece of frilly fabric billowing in the breeze. "Night Loops" by Ellis Ludwig-Leone, leader of the art-pop band San Fermin
, is by contrast a fussy mess of electronic loops, programmed beats, wordless vocals, and samples—it can't decide whether it wants to be a club banger, a pop tune, or an ambient collage.
Meijer's program at her concert will feature several Glass pieces, including five of the etudes, along with music from disc two by Dessner, Nils Frahm, Nico Muhly, and Olafur Arnalds and an arrangement of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."
Mary Lattimore & Jeff Ziegler, Music Inspired by Philippe Garrel's Le Révélateur
Sun Ra, Space Probe: A Tonal View of Times Tomorrow, Vol. 1
Sinfonieorchester Basel, Luigi Nono: Variazioni Canoniche/Varianti/No Hay Caminos, Hay Que Caminar . . . /Incontri
Shorty Rogers & His Orchestra, West Coast Sounds
Bill Barron Orchestra, West Side Story Bossa Nova