Ernestine Stoop

harp harfe harpe arpa

Paul Verlaine (1844-1896)

Une Châtelaine en sa tour…..

Une Sainte en son auréole,
Une Châtelaine en sa tour,
Tout ce que tient la parole
Humaine de grâce et d'amour.

La note d'or que fait entendre
Un cor dans le lointain des bois,
Mariée à la fierté tendre
Des nobles Dames d'autrefois.

Avec cela le charme insigne
D'un frais sourire triomphant
Éclos dans les candeurs de cygne
Et des rougeurs de femme-enfant.

Des aspects nacrés, blancs et roses,
Un doux accord patricien;
Je vois, j'entends toutes ces choses
Dans son nom Carlovingien.

Questions by Ravel/Debussy specialist Roy Howat

1) Do you find these three composers have a natural ‘harp-like’ sound in their music?

In my opinion all three composers did have a special affinity with the colour of the harp. The colour of the harp was quite new in orchestral works and fitted very well the Impressionistic style or late Romantic style the composers were writing in, says Ernestine

2) How idiomatically do they each write for the harp?

In the 19th century the idiom of the harp was supposed to be romantic; broken chords and/or glissandi. The compositions on this cd contain only very few glissandi or broken chords. I would say these three composers really thought of a non-traditional, new way of writing for the harp. The result: some beautiful new compositions in the beginning of the 20th century, which inspired many younger composers to write for the harp as well. (e.g. André Caplet, Albert Roussel, Jacques Ibert, Nino Rota, André Jolivet, Paul Hindemith)
3) What made you decide on Ravel’s ‘Miroirs’ in particular?  Say, as against his ‘Sonatina’, ‘Tombeau de Couperin’ ... or even ‘Gaspard de la nuit’?

I was asked by a friend to play in his festival ‘Reflections’. He wanted me to look into ‘Miroirs’ if one of the pieces would be playable on harp. Only ‘la Vallée des cloches’ turned out to be playable by one harpist. I started to be fascinated by the whole cycle and wanting to play this music, I realized it could be a good idea to arrange these pieces for two harps. Once I started working on ‘la Vallée des cloches’ I could not stop until I had discovered all of the other movements.
Some people, after listening my arrangement, suggested to look into ‘Gaspard de la nuit’ as well: so that is what I am focussing on now. And even, looking into the future, there are more works by Ravel and Debussy on my ‘favorite list’.
It feels like walking into the great world of composers and discovering the beauty of the road they took.
The five different compositions of the cycle ‘Miroirs’ have very figurative titles; Ravel placed these compositions in different times of the day; early morning (Alborada del gracioso) – noon (la Vallée des cloches)- siesta (les Oiseaux tristes) – night (Noctuelles). That is why we asked animator Harrie Geelen to present each composition with a small animation film in concerts (also presented on this cd)
4) What qualities of each of these composers does the harp particularly bring out?

Fauré is the master of writing a beautiful melody. Debussy is discovering the harp as a major instrument of harmony and melody and Ravel is the master of instrumentation, harmonics and glissandi are used to its fullest colours. Ravel uses the harp in a more extravert/virtuoso way than Debussy.
5) If Ravel’s ‘Introduction et Allegro’ and Debussy’s ‘Danses’ were commissioned for two different types of harp, does it matter now, or do Debussy’s ‘Danses’ work just as well on pedal harp?  And do you find that their technical writing for these special works affects their general writing for harp in other works?

I am so happy that these solo works have been written for harp. They really meant a major step forward in the repertoire for harp. The harp solo repertoire had not been ‘oversized’ until then.
Fauré dedicated the ‘Châtelaine’ to Micheline Kahn, who must have been a most inspiring harpist since more composers (e.g. André Caplet, Marcel Tournier) wrote new, important, pieces for her. Debussy worked with my former teacher, the French harpist Pierre Jamet, on the ‘Danses’ for the double-action harp and on the harp part of the ‘Sonate pour flute, viola et harpe’. Jamet also asked Igor Stravinsky (after listening to the ‘Sacre du printemps’, where the harp is not involved) to use the harp in his future compositions/orchestral pieces. The ‘Quintet Pierre Jamet’ (flute, violin, viola, cello & harp) asked composers for new pieces and so the harp became an adult instrument of which possibilities are not fully discovered yet.