Modern Harp Quartet | Pantomime

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Pantomime

by Modern Harp Quartet

Four harpists converge to produce a dynamic and captivating sound in the performance of pieces composed or arranged for harp quartet while promoting the harp as a versatile, modern instrument, capable of producing a vast array of tone colors and effects.
Genre: Classical: New Music Ensemble
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Le tombeau de Couperin, M. 68a: I. Prélude
4:10 $0.99
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2. Le tombeau de Couperin, M. 68a: III. Menuet
4:25 $0.99
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3. Le tombeau de Couperin, M. 68a: IV. Rigaudon
3:24 $0.99
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4. Pentacle: I. Steel
2:17 album only
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5. Pentacle: II. Felines
3:42 album only
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6. Pentacle: III. Pantomime
5:52 album only
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7. Obelisk: I. In the Temple of Anubis
5:30 $0.99
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8. Obelisk: II. Ra Spoke Their Secret Names
2:18 $0.99
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9. Obelisk: III. The Eye of Horus
3:57 $0.99
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10. Spain
5:12 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
About the Ensemble
Lydia Cleaver, Maurice Draughn, Anne Owens and John Wickey - Harpists

The Modern Harp Quartet (MHQ) is comprised of alums from the harp studios of Cass Technical High School, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan. The members of MHQ perform regularly in orchestras as well as chamber and solo recitals locally and nationally. The idea of forming the quartet was spurred by the well-received performance of the Cass Tech Alumni Harp Ensemble at the 2008 American Harp Society National Conference in Detroit. Since its inception, MHQ has performed at various venues and concert series in the Metropolitan Detroit and Windsor areas.

The aim of the MHQ is to promote the modern harp as a versatile instrument, capable of producing a vast array of tone colors and effects, through performances and workshops. MHQ strives to present programs that engage and enlighten audience members by expanding their perception of the symphonic range of the instrument. The quartet regularly features works that are composed or arranged for harp ensemble by contemporary composers as well as harpists.


About the Music
Le Tombeau de Couperin by Maurice Ravel
Le tombeau de Couperin began as Maurice Ravel's tribute to French music of the eighteenth century - but before he had completed his conceptualization of the project, World War I intervened. What had begun as Suite francaise became Le tombeau de Couperin, a six movement work for piano dedicated to six of Ravel's fallen comrades. The form and the harmonic language of the work epitomize what became known as the "neoclassical style."

The MHQ has chosen to include three movements from this work arranged for four harps. The first is the Prelude, which customarily appeared at the beginning of a French dance suite. Ravel weaves a subtle melody through perpetually spinning triplets, ornamented in the Baroque style. The second is the Menuet, a courtly dance in 3/4 time, with graceful melodies passing from harp to harp. The suite closes with the lively Rigaudon, which originated in Provence, and was very popular in the ballrooms of the eighteenth century French court. None of these movements are what one would expect in a memorial setting. As Ravel wrote in response to a critic, "The dead are sad enough, in their eternal silence."

Pentacle Suite by Carlos Salzedo
Carlos Salzedo’s work Pentacle: Suite for Two Harps was commissioned by eminent philanthropist Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge in honor of the 10th anniversary of the Berkshire Music Festival in 1928. Like Maurice Ravel, Salzedo’s ancestors were from the Basque region of France where music in quintuple meter was common. It seems natural then that the composer would give his five-movement work the same name as the magical pentagram of antiquity.

The musical language of Pentacle, however, is far from antique. Each movement (Steel, Serenade, Félines, Catacombs, and Pantomime) exhibits an angularity that matches in music the art deco aesthetic that Salzedo preferred in design. Even today, listeners are surprised to hear these powerful and strange sounds emanate from the gentile harp.
Steel, with its fortissimo octaves and anvil effect, clangs and bangs until it enigmatically ends. Félines perfectly depicts a group of yowling cats with pedal slides and fluidic sounds. Pantomime begins with an introduction and cadenza that give way to a lively 5/8 rhumba which alternates abruptly with music of differing character and then returns with timpanic and glissandi effects to bring the piece to a dramatic close.

Obelisk by John Wickey
Obelisk derived from the composer’s interest in the music and mythology of ancient Egypt. Using the name of the four-sided monument for this composition scored for harp quartet seemed an obvious choice. While some features of ancient Egyptian music were used (e.g. the Phrygian dominant and Lydian modes, unmetered passages, etc.), the composer was not striving for a literal recreation, rather, an evocation of various moods in the piece’s three sections.

"In the temple of Anubis" Anubis was the jackal-headed god who guided the dead and weighed their hearts against a feather. Those with heavy hearts were damned. The melody is enhanced with sons pincés (pinched sounds), tuning key slides and other effects accompanied by low bass notes and chords—the whole representing Anubis slowly conducting souls to the underworld. "Ra spoke their secret names..." Ra, was the central (sun) god and the obelisk was his symbol. He was said to have brought all creatures into existence by speaking their secret name. The fluttering bisbigliando and glissandi effects allude to this event. "The Eye of Horus" is a symbol of protection against evil that has a rather gruesome origin story. The god of the sky, Horus, had his left eye torn out in battle with Set. The eye was later restored and then offered as a sacrifice to resurrect his father Osiris. The final section of Obelisk is a march punctuated by aggressive attacks and a driving rhythm that leads to the ultimate triumph of Horus.

Spain by Chick Corea
Chick Corea composed Spain in 1971, and recorded it on his 1972 album Light as a Feather. He was inspired by Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain album, which included an arrangement of Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" by Gil Evans. The melodies from this arrangement became Spain, his most popular composition to date. This arrangement brings Spain back to its roots, with guitaric sounds from the harps in the opening section. It maintains its jazzy improvisational feel, and adds percussive effects from the harps to create a Latin flourish.


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