The harpe organisée, 1720-1840

Rediscovering the lost pedal techniques on harps with a single-action pedal mechanism

Researcher:
Maria Christina Cleary
Supervising team:
Prof. dr. h.c. Ton Koopman (promotor), prof. Frans de Ruiter (promotor), prof. dr. Dinko Fabris (promotor)
Musician type:
strings
Keywords:
basso continuo, harp, hip, historically informed performance practice
Duration:
2008-2016
Century:
16th century music, 17th century music, 18th century music, 19th century music

researcher

Abstract

The “harpe organisée”, 1720-1840: Rediscovering the lost pedal techniques on harps with a single-action pedal mechanism, is the title of Maria Christina Cleary's PhD thesis. This is the first monographic study on harp pedal techniques, tracing the historical way to pedal on the early pedal harps with a single-action pedal mechanism, the “harpe organisée”, the term used by Diderot.

The pedals make up at least half of the pitches on a pedal harp, so when playing the harp, the feet movements are just as important as the fingers. The feet and their dance are an inherent part of the musical phrase. Pedal markings are unnecessary in tonal music, if the feet move with the changing harmonies and modulations in a classical or romantic piece of music.

Maria has re-discovered the technique of moving two or three pedals at a time on one side of the harp, while playing the works by Louis Spohr. Double-pedalling becomes a simple foot movement simplified when a central pedal is folded away in order to operate two non-adjacent pedals at the same time. The heel and toe can move pedals independently.

This thesis looks at a range of historical sources from the eighteenth- and nineteenth centuries, including the harpists' footwear. Further chapters include historical pedalling for the later pedal harp, the double-action pedal harp, a practical method for historical pedalling and the complete pedal solutions for the works by Spohr for harp and for other important harp works of the period including Mozart's Concerto for flute and harp and Krumpholtz's Op. 2.

Related events

December 13 2016 (20.30)

PhD concert Maria Christina Cleary

On December 13th Maria Cleary will perform solo harp and duo harp/violin in the Waalse Kerk to elucidate her artistic work in relation to her thesis.

December 14 2016 (10.00)

PhD defense Maria Christina Cleary

On December 14th Maria publicly defended her thesis "harpe organisée", 1720-1840. Rediscovering the lost pedal techniques on harps with a single-action pedal mechanism in the Senate Chamber of the Academy building in Leiden.