An Eclectic Contemporary Harp Collection

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

In 2020 harpist Yolanda Kondonassis asked each of the composers featured in this collection to consider writing a short solo harp piece that expresses “a powerful experience inspired by Earth in one of its many conditions or atmospheres.” Needless to say, the musical results prove as diverse as the planet’s ecosystems.

Takuma Itoh’s new-agey Kohola Sings shows how one can imitate a humpback whale song on a harp. For Hear the Dust Blow, Michael Daugherty checks his customary dazzle at the door and channels Roy Harris in slow motion. On Hearing Nightbirds at Dusk showcases Aaron Jay Kernis’ textural sensitivity and harmonic refinement at their best.

Chen Yi’s Dark Mountains offers wild contrasts in texture and touch. Reena Esmail’s Inconvenient Wounds utilizes a wide array of evocative scraping effects, while the subtle microtonal writing throughout Keith Fitch’s “as Earth dreams” mesmerizes. Sparsely deployed melodies and murmuring repeated notes hold attention throughout Zhou Long’s Green.

Perhaps Stephen Hartke’s Fault Line is the collection’s most probing, dramatic, discreetly resourceful, and least formulaic work: a substantial conclusion to a beautifully engineered contemporary harp collection that offers something for every musical taste. Well worth hearing.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Five Minutes for Earth
Reference Recording: None for this collection

Works by Takuma Itoh, Michael Daugherty, Aaron Jay Kernis, Chen Yi, Maximo Diego Dujol, Reena Esmail, Gary Schocker, Keith Fitch, Jocelyn Chambers, Philip Maneval, Patrick Harlan, Zhou Long, Nathaniel Heyder, Daniel Dorff, & Stephen Hartke

  • Yolanda Kondonassis (harp)

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