My Top Ten list of the Most Difficult Harp Solos that I have played.
Hello and happy weekend to my dear readers. I was inspired by a YouTube video I watched regarding the most difficult piano pieces ever and I started thinking, what are the most difficult pieces I have ever played in my 40+ years of harp playing? What has really challenged me? Tested me? Really made me work? I have decided to stick to just harp solos, no no concerti or chamber music.
Hello and happy weekend to my dear readers. I was inspired by a YouTube video I watched regarding the most difficult piano pieces ever and I started thinking, what are the most difficult pieces I have ever played in my 40+ years of harp playing? What has really challenged me? Tested me? Really made me work? I have decided to stick to just harp solos, no no concerti or chamber music. Here is my own personal Top Ten List of the Most Difficult Harp Solos:
1. H. Renié, Legende. 2. C. Salzedo, Ballade
3. C.P.E. Bach, Sonata in G
4. H. Renié Danse des Lutins
5. E. Parish Alvars, Grand Study in Imitation of the Mandolin
6. M. da Falla, Spanish Dance No. 1 trans. M Grandjany
7. F. Liszt, Le Rossignol trans. H. Renié
8. F. Liszt, Un Sospiro trans. H. Renié
9. F. Poenitz, Nordische Ballade
10. H. Renié, Piece Symphonique.
Why these pieces? Here is my rundown.
1. You may have noticed a lot of Renié on this list. There is a good reason. There is not composer that pushes the limits of the harp more than she. In Legende, she demands the use of the whole range of the instrument and the pedals, so many pedals. Of course there is that lightning fast goblin dance in the middle. Big resonance chords, lightening fast playing and tons of pedals make for a piece that no only challenges the harpist but harp itself. I have had a wire bass string pop at the end of this piece more than once. Makes for a dramatic ending!
2. My only Salzedo to make the list, this piece is brutal! It is harmonically difficult, there is passage that goes on forever with rippling arpeggios and shifting harmonies that is so taxing. It is also difficult to make it work musically. But it is passionate and challenging and if you do manage to land it, you will feel like a god or goddess!
3. The C.P.E. Bach. It exists is several editions, each more scholarly than the last. I did the Weidensaul edition, which was the preferred of the time. (It would have been the 90’s) The edition by M. Grandjany is super lovely. I have recordings of him playing it. I honestly wish we could play it his way, but it is far from academically correct for the time period. It is long and dense and full of fancy ornaments. Yummy music. It seems to have fallen out of favor for competitions. I know it really beat up my brain. I drilled those ornaments so much!
4. Danse des Lutins. 300 pedal moves in a little over 3 minutes. Lighting fast playing, need I say more. What a trip!
5. The Mandolin has it all, fast playing, big chords, dramatic arpeggios and a challenging length. If your right hand is not relaxed enough, you will suffer. If it is, you will still suffer. So much fun! A delight to listen to. Oh, and your harp will really need to be in decent regulation because of all of the enharmonics.
6. Grandjany’s transcription of the da Falla, launches itself at harp with great passion, from there on out it is constant motion As well as having to separate out playing harmonics and pres de la table and all the places in between. You have to not only hit the right strings but the right places on the strings. when it you end this, it is with a wow! A real showstopper.
7. Lé Rossignol, ah the trills, the speed, the sheer joy of surviving. Renié really does turn this Liszt piece into a harp piece. If you can make your scales sound like glissandos and your glissandos sound like scales, this piece will give you no trouble at all.
8. Un Sospiro sounds so amazing on the harp. This is the only piece on this list I have never made it through. It is daunting due to extreme three handed technique. You may actually want a third hand, maybe a forth. An extra foot would not hurt either. I believe this is the last of my young harpist bucket list pieces. I have been lucky to get to play so much great music!
9. Nordische Ballade is not a piece you hear very often. It requires reaches in both hands and has a ton of double 3rds. It is also super long and incredibly taxing. Lovely though, so cool!
10. And we end with more Renié. Lots of notes lots of pedals, lots of passion! This piece about death and transfiguration is often played too young for the performer to true understand it.
Check out some of these great pieces alnd I have hope you have enjoyed this read!