SPCO Chamber concert features Mollie Marcuson on harp

This past weekend the SPCO had their last Chamber Music series concerts, and the first part of the program featured harpist Mollie Marcuson.

Here is the program for the concert:

  • Fantasy in A for Violin and Harp, Op. 124 – Saint-Saens
    Mollie Marcuson-harp, Daria Adams-violin
  • Entr’acte for Flute and Harp (from Le medecin de son honneur) – Ibert
    Mollie Marcuson-harp, Alicia McQuerrey-flute
  • Sonata en trio, for Flute, Viola, and Harp, L.137 – Debussy
    Mollie Marcuson-harp, Alicia McQuerrey-flute, Tamas Strasser-viola
  • Archduke Trio, Op. 97 – Beethoven
    Leslie Shank-violin, Joshua Koestenbaum-cello, Lydia Artymiw-piano

While the most famous piece is the Archduke Trio, which would lead you to think that was the signature piece.  I really feel that having three chamber pieces with harp meant the SPCO was showcasing the able skills of Marcuson.

For me, the Saint-Saens piece was my favorite of the night.  It was very beautiful and a great pairing of Adams on violin and Marcuson on harp.  I didn’t like Ibert as much, not sure if it is the music itself of the instrumentation pairing.  The Debussy took a while to grow on me, but by the last movement, I was enjoying it a lot.

It was really nice to have the harp as a featured instrument.  It has such a beautiful sound, and for it to be brought forward for so much of a concert, was great.

I also enjoyed sitting right in front of the harp.  When I attend SPCO concerts at the Ordway, the harp is tucked behind the string section, and from my front row seats, can’t see much of the instrument or performer.  On Friday, I was enjoying watching the pedal (seven pedals) work for the first two pieces, the music stand blocking the view of the finger work.  With a shift in the instrument placement, I got to watch the finger work for the Debussy, and it was pretty amazing to see.

For the other string instruments, you have one hand working 4 strings, and the other controlling the bowing (or occasionally plucking) of those strings (how I describe based on my observations).  But for the harp, you have both hands working a lot of different strings, often two fingers of the same hand working two different strings.  There were a few parts of the Debussy, where Marcuson seemed to be plucking three strings over and over, very quickly, with just one hand.  Add in the hands muting the vibrations, which reminds me of the timpani, and it is was just as fun to see as to hear.

Thank you SPCO for programming a harp heavy concert, and kudos to Marcuson for a great performance!

-Josh

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