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CD Review

French Harp Concertos

Suzanna Klintcharova, harp
Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra/Dimiter Manolov
Balkanton 030075 - 50min

These three unfamiliar French scores are given pleasant and charming performances by the talented Klintcharova. The most substantial work is Boieldieu's Concerto. While he is a mere footnote in today's music history texts, Boieldieu (1755-1834) was once phenomenally popular in Paris. His opera La Dame blanche, for example, had one thousand performances at the opera comique by 1862, arousing the bitter jealousy of a young operatic hopeful named Georges Bizet.

Boieldieu's Concerto betrays the composer's roots in the theater - especially II, which sounds for all the world like a dramatic scene for soprano transcribed for harp. Klintcharova has exactly the right measure of drama and lyricism, and she allows this music to sing beautifully. In the outer movements, Klintcharova demonstrates remarkable dexterity and precision. At the same time, her enthusiasm and enjoyment of the music is never far below the brilliant surface.

The Saint-Saëns and Pierné works are considerably less interesting. The most remarkable thing about the Saint-Saëns Morceau is that it could have been written at all in 1919. Ravel and Debussy clearly had no effect at all on their older colleague. Still, the piece does have its occasional charms - such as the oriental effects at 1:45, the harp arpeggios at 9:46, and a coda which will not fail to remind attentive listeners of this composer's more popular Symphony 3. Klintcharova's playing is enchanting and alert. Beware, though, of Balkanton's truly awful edits at 12:45 and 13:35. Pierné's effort is simultaneously more forward-looking and less interesting than the Saint-Saëns. That aside, Klintcharova's playing is heavenly.

The Sofia Philharmonic is definitely not a world-class ensemble. They are on their best behavior in the Concerto, where they at least manage to show some enthusiasm for the music. On the other hand, a more assertive and incisive accompaniment would have made the Saint-Saëns a more interesting experience. Balkanton's engineers have placed the orchestra unnaturally far in the background, which is probably just as well in this instance.

I'm not aware of any other available versions of these three works, so this release will have to do until a virtuoso of Klintcharova's considerable abilities is teamed with a more formidable orchestra.

Copyright © 1995, Thomas Godell.
This review originally appeared in the American Record Guide