Do not take up music unless you would rather die than not do so. Nadia Boulanger

Camille Saint-Saëns, Fantaisie for violin and harp, Op. 124

May 21st, 2016

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

Fantaisie for violin and harp, Op. 124

Camille Saint-SaënsAt the age of 72, Saint-Saëns composed the Fantaisie for harp and violin in 1907 while enjoying some leisure time in the city of Bridger, on the Italian Riviera. He dedicated the duo to a pair of sisters, harpist Clara Eissler and violinist Marianne Eissler. It would become the second of three major pieces Saint-Saëns composed for harp including a previous Fantaisie, for solo harp (1893), and, eventually, the Morceau de Concert for harp and orchestra (1918). The Fantaisie, Op. 124 for harp and violin is a virtuoso piece for both players and the use of harp rather than the more typical piano lends a special, delicate if not magical sonority to this duo for two string players. As the title suggests, the work is a single movement of relaxed and spontaneous form comprising a number of distinct sections. The music is characteristic of Saint-Saëns as the traditional French composer: well crafted, clear, balanced and charming. The opening material recurs towards the end for a light touch of symmetry. Perhaps inspired by the ambiance of the Italian Mediterranean, a particular section of the Fantaisie switches to the minor mode featuring a basso ostinato pattern in the harp with variations from the violin in the manner of an old Italian Baroque dance form.

Exploring the String Quartet—The First 250 Years

Exploring the String QuartetSince its birth around 1760, the string quartet has maintained a vital and profound hold on composers, players and listeners: it has been the vehicle par excellence for a rich continuum of some of the finest music composed throughout the last 250 years. Across time, nationality, and centuries of changing style, the string quartet has formed the backbone of small ensemble chamber music with a rich lore. Music for the string quartet consistently features lyrical beauty, complex harmony, intense passion, powerful rhythm and elegant formal design. From the most intimate personal expression to the most brilliant virtuosity, from the ancient and otherworldly to edgy grooves of the present day, the string quartet appears to be an infinitely flexible ensemble engaging great composers and performers in one of the richest living traditions of music in all of history. For many, if not most, however, it a rarely encountered “hidden” genre, while historically, culturally, musically, for others, it is the mother lode. Take some time to discover this stunning genre, the heart of the matter. Explore

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