Korean-born Dutch harpist Lavinia Meijer states as her goal "to make the harp better known as a solo instrument, with all its possibilities which are often still unknown to the wider audience." With this release she accomplishes her goal, not so much technically as musically. The harp does not do so much here that the attentive listener to the big early film scores won't have heard before. But Meijer's album falls nicely into the group of releases that are reconstructing the virtuoso solo repertoire of a century ago, rediscovering gems that were swept aside by self-serving modernist imperatives.
Although one may think of the blues harp beginning with Little Walter, the first Sonny Boy Williamson, or Sonny Terry, a variety of harmonica players did record in the '20s. Some of their recordings were technical displays that featured them imitating everything from animals to trains, while other players were more blues-oriented. This valuable CD has two selections from the guitar-harmonica team of William Francis and Richard Sowell; Ollis Martin's "Police and High Sheriff Come Ridin' Down"; six pieces by Eli Watson (including "El Watson's Fox Chase"); two cuts apiece by Palmer McAbee, Ellis Williams, Alfred Lewis, and the team of Smith & Harper (which is the only music on this CD recorded after 1930); plus four songs/displays from Blues Birdhead (including "Get up off That Jazzophone") and George "Bullet" Williams (highlighted by "Frisco Leaving Birmingham" and "The Escaped Convict"). Fascinating music.
With a pattern of recording solo albums which has been positively frugal over the last 20 years, Mara Galassi marks her return on Glossa with a new and striking programme, entitled Portrait of a Lady with Harp. The ambiance into which the noted modernday harpist from Milan plunges the listener is that of the court of Queen Christina of Sweden who, on renouncing her throne, converting to Catholicism and moving to Rome in the mid 1650s embarked upon a spectacular cultural life, becoming a patron for writers, scientists and especially musicians. Among those composers active in Rome at the time were Alessandro Stradella, Bernardo Pasquini, Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti, all of whom benefitted from Christina’s constant hunger for music of high quality, whether official employees at her court or not.