Les grands harpistes classiques - EN

Catherine MICHEL talks about her collection : Les grands harpistes classiques

1 – What is your background, Madame Catherine Michel, as a musician?

Very young, I started to read the pieces for harp or piano that my mother collected. At the time we had neither television nor computer and our evenings were devoted to reading. I then became interested in works written in the 18th century and in the secret music played during the Napoleon Bonaparte reign.

To date, I have recorded three CDs with different instruments: the flute, the pianoforte and the violin.

I have always found it sad to let scores sleep on a shelf instead of being played. I don't see it as a job for me, it's a real passion to discover the repertoire of the great harpist composers of past centuries.


2 – What are your inspirations and musical influences

My musical influences are linked to the positions I have held throughout my career.

When I arrived in Ireland, after my studies at the Paris Conservatory, I was engaged in an orchestra called the "Radio Eireann Light Orchestra" (currently the "RTÉ Concert Orchestra"). I discovered there the melodies of the Anglo-Saxon islands but also the great American succes.

I had no idea I would return to the music of musicals after so many years. When I was in the orchestra National de Radio France, I had the chance to work with the best conductors of the 20th century. Some of them, during an orchestra break, the incomparable Léonard Bernstein advised me to play “accessible” music. May be that's the reason for my return to the musicals Broadway ?


recorded several times the concertos of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, François-Adrien Boieldieu, Maciej Malecki et François-Joseph Gossec ; mais également les grands concertos de Joaquin Rodrigo, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Reinhold Gliere, Camille Saint-Saens, Gabriel Pierné, Carl Reinecke, dont l’accompagnement est à mon goût trop chargé, et me réjouis de voir que les concertos de Camille Saint-Saens, Gabriel Pierné, Henriette Renié, François-Adrien Boieldieu et Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf have recently benefited from lighter support.


Needless to mention the concerto by Georg Friedrich Handel, nor the Dances of Claude Debussy which remain to this day the most played. The concertinos of Jean-Michel Damase and Reynaldo Hahn are also appreciated by the public, by the accompaniment of strings only. I make a lot of work on the old concertos which deserve to be discovered by the younger generation and more often played in the castles or concert halls of prestigious residences.

It is difficult for me to tell you about a good way. I'm on a boat that goes where my destiny guides it !


3 - Can you show us your collection?

This collection is for me a real opportunity to introduce students and young teachers to a large number of forgotten works.

The great harpists, composers and pedagogues of past centuries have often written for their students. They were unfortunately often ignored by their successors.

Over the centuries, few original classical works for the Harp are unknown. Transcriptions have taken an important place in our programs. I appreciate their musical qualities, but I regret that the basic instrumental technique of the harp is not taught as it should be. The 19th century saw the birth of incomparable virtuosos like Elias Parish Alvars who revolutionized the writing for our instrument and who allowed its integration into the orchestra. Others like Edmund Schuecker, Alfred Holy, Hans Trnecek also made the technique of the instrument evolve. This is why I want to make known what is written for us by specialists. The levels of these music publication are multiple.


4 – How do you choose the works?

I have always liked to read and musical decryption, I choose above all pleasant pieces for the student, for the parents and for the teachers. I recognize that it takes time to choose what will be useful and formative for young people. We need to diversify styles and levels, it's a long job.

Harpists have opportunity a considerable choice of works but unfortunately we do not yet have enough romantic repertoire for the lower levels. I hope that this collection will be useful for the development of sound quality and virtuosity; I would also like to be able to discover the style of the pieces according to the different classical or romantic periods. All this is done by a long work of preparation



5 – What do you want to convey through this collection?

I want to convey the values of my master Pierre Jamet. I see that the French School of Harpe needs freshness in its repertoire. He lived at a magnificent time when the authors who wrote for us were called Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Jean Cras, André Caplet... This great educator was raised by his master Alphonse Hasselmans in the «Parish Alvars» bottle.

This apprenticeship allowed him to teach us in each lesson that the technique must be at the service of the music. This technique or this virtuosity is not learned by chance. It is through the knowledge of romantic and classical pieces that our virtuosity will develop during our years of apprenticeship. This is what I want to convey!

The competition programs are going around in circles, and I want to bring some fresh air to it. Most of the proposed works will be recorded, which will allow everyone to choose what they like.