Harp Column Blogs: Samuel Milligan


Many harpists are unaware that the Gabriel Pierne Impromptu-caprice used to be available in two versions--the original "concert" edition and a somewhat simpler "salon" edition which made the piece available to the less advanced player.

(It should be noted that the salon edition was done by Pierne himself, and is not a simplification by someone else.)

I recall going to a recital in the late 1950's where a young lady played the salon version and played it quite beautifully.  For what I heard was a harpist presenting a piece within her capabilities, and playing it exquisitely, rather than plowing through the concert version and possibly making a hash of it.  So I got in line after the recital in order to thank her for her performance.

As it happened, just in front of me in the receiving line were two whispering harpists who were snottily putting down the recitalist for having played what they snidely called the "baby" version.  Of course this did not stop them from effusively congatulating the recitalist a few moments later--"So beautiful, my dear," and " I did so love the Pierne!"

Their smiling hypocrisy was so appalling that I could have fallen through the floor in embarassment and shame.  Especially since the recitalist was so appreciative of their compliments.

The experience taught me two things.  First, I learned that a piece is not increased in value by being more difficult.  In fact, clarity and elegance are often easier to achieve when the music is uncomplicated.  (Ravel's Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant is a fine example of this.)

Secondly, I learned that some people are not to be trusted.  If someone constantly indulges in mean-spirited gossip, I can pretty well be certain that as soon as I am absent, I will probably be the next victim in line for a hatchet job.

Now this doesn't mean that we should not comment on a program at all.  But the criticism should be constructive, not venomous.  And above all, I must remember that my own playing is not made better by a vicious put-down of your playing, and may be, in fact, thinly disguised jealousy on my part.

I have no idea whatever happened to the young lady who presented the recital after she left New York.  But as to the other two, after years of letting everyone within earshot know what rising supernovae they were in the harpistic firmament, they amounted to nothing in the end.  Perhaps they were so busy being destructive that they didn't have time to practice enough.

And as we all know, it's very difficult to set the world on fire if your matches are damp.

10:53 PM, 20 Jan 2007 by Samuel Milligan | Permalink | Comments (1)