Bridget Douglas (flute), Patrick Barry (clarinet), Carolyn Mills (harp), Donald Armstrong & Malavika Gopal (violins), Lyndsay Mountfort (viola), Ken Ichinose (cello)
This piece, one of the masterpieces of twentieth century chamber music, came about as a result of a ‘harp war’ between rival harp manufacturers in France.
In 1904, the Pleyel company manufactured the chromatic harp and commissioned Claude Debussy to write his Danses sacrée et profane in the hope of increasing sales for their recently invented instrument.
In response, instrument makers Érard, who had invented the double-action pedal harp in 1810, commissioned Maurice Ravel to write his Introduction and Allegro. The purpose of the commission was to show that the pedal harp was a better instrument than the chromatic harp.
Though Debussy’s piece could be played on Érard’s harp, Ravel’s piece was impossible to play on Pleyel’s chromatic harp. The more versatile double-action pedal harp won the ‘harp war’ and is the commonly used harp today.
In this piece Ravel manages not only manages to show off the harp (including a long cadenza in the Allegro, which must have pleased his commissioners), but manages to create an impressive array of orchestral-sounding effects with just seven instruments.
(Notes by Donald Armstrong)
Recorded at a Wellington Chamber Music Trust concert, 16 September 2018 at St. Andrew's on The Terrace, Wellington by RNZ Concert
Producer: David McCaw
Engineer: Darryl Stack
The Amici Ensemble was formed in 1988 and the performers are mostly principal players with the NZSO and leading chamber musicians on the New Zealand music scene. For this concert, Amici comprises Donald Armstrong (violin), Malavika Gopal (violin), Andrew Thomson (viola), Ken Ichinose (cello), Bridget Douglas (flute), Patrick Barry (clarinet) and Carolyn Mills (harp).