The harp really is the Cinderella of musical instruments -- stuck with an angelic image which is played up to remorselessly by the harp manufacturers who cultivate stables of largely young sylph-like females who nevertheless somehow have the strength to pull 1500lb of string tension. (If you don't believe me, go to a harpfest and look at the publicity posters.) Furthermore, so few composers have understood the way the instrument works that it has been largely left to harpists themselves to do the bulk of the writing for it. (Again if you don't believe me, look at Bartók's harp parts to see an absolute pig's breakfast of harp writing. Ravel and Debussy thankfully provide models of the opposite.)
Thus it is no surprise to find names like Salzedo, Grandjany and Tournier on this album -- what solo harp disc would be complete without them? But there is much else besides on this one -- Ms Ríos provides a six nation tour and brings forth a mix of warhorses and newbies. Given her Puerto Rican origin, it is no surprise to find her inclining to the Hispano-Latino side of things and this self-produced album is all the more interesting for it.
That being said, the opening two tracks, Andalucía by Calvo-Manzano
[listen -- track 1, 0:00-1:26]
and El Viejo Castillo Moro by López-Chavarri y Marco must be tough nuts to crack for any harpist -- they go through the standard licks of malagueña and other Spanish/flamenco styles, but to raise this stylistically above the mark set by good flamenco guitarists is a big ask for the harp, and here Ms Ríos' playing comes across as considered and careful rather than from the corazón y alma.
In fact, she seems much more comfortable in the baroque offerings, and in particular my ears were most captured by the slow movement of Pescetti's Sonata in C minor
[listen -- track 7, 0:00-1:44],
where she lays back, allows space for the music, and the mixture of rubato and note placement makes for quite the most affecting track of the album. This is matched by her clean touch and ability to layer texture in the first movement, and her control and articulation in the third.
In general Ms Ríos has an appealing sound which has been well recorded -- not overstruck, and there is ample richness and thankfully no over-reverberation. In a couple of tracks, the (Mateo) Albéniz Sonata en re for example, the control and articulation lag behind her best efforts -- but then the kind of ornaments called for are a test for any harpist. She is certainly unafraid to give a broad mix, from the competition warhorse of Tournier's Feerie to the Campanitas de Cristal
[listen -- track 13, 1:47-2:26]
of Marin -- a popular and light piece from Puerto Rico, played with obvious love but which begs for a rhythm group backing to set it alight.
And hats off for the idea at least of including pieces by living composers, the Calvo-Manzano is one, the other is a piece for harp and CD by Wanda Barreto -- unfortunately this is an undergraduate soundscaping composition which would have better been left off. Pieces by Pierné, Bach, Glinka and Spohr round out a diverse collection, the sort of thing which only artist-driven recordings can produce.
One for collectors of harp music perhaps, or talent-spotters in the rather insular harp world? More than that actually, if only for the diversity offered and the willingness to get away from the bog standard harp repertoire. The playing overall is of a consistently high standard on the technical side of things -- I just wanted a bit more risk-taking and excitement, something to mark out the territory from all the other talented young harpists about. Ms Ríos may well give that some day, when the Latina soul takes charge of the fingers.
Copyright © 26 June 2007
Paul Sarcich, London UK
BUY THIS CD ONLINE
Harp Voyage: A musical journey with Lizary Rodríguez Ríos
8 37101 27570 5 Stereo FIRST RELEASE 59'00" 2006 Libre Productions
Lizary Rodríguez Ríos, harp
María Rosa Calvo-Manzano (born 1942) arr L Rodríguez Ríos: Andalcía, Obra Para Arpa; Eduardo López-Chavarri y Marco (1875-1970) arr M Grandjany: El Viejo Castillo Moro; Henri Constant Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937): Impromptu-Caprice Op 9; Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857) arr K Erdely: The Lark; Marcel Tournier (1879-1951): Feerie: Prelude et Danse pour le harp; Giovanni Batista Pescetti (1704-1766) transcribed C Salzedo: Sonata in C minor; J S Bach (1685-1750) arr L Rodríguez Ríos: Prelude (Prelude, Fugue and Allegro BWV 998); Mateo Albéniz (1765-1831) arr C McLaughlin: Sonata en re; Ludwig Spohr (1784-1859): Fantasie Op 35; Wanda Cècile Dávila Barreto (born 1983): Medito Sobre un Cielo Gris para arpa y CD (2005); Rafael Hernández Marín (1891-1965) arr M R Vidal/L Rodríguez Ríos: Campanitas de Cristal (1932/1999)
Record Box is Music & Vision's
regular series of shorter CD reviews