‘With universal applause’ - Performing and contextualising the eighteenth-century harp concerto

Maximilian ehrhardt ivan barra small

Maximilian Ehrhardt

Trefwoorden: Historical Harp, 18th-century, HIPP, virtuosity
Looptijd: Gestart in 2023
Periode: 18de eeuwse muziek
Type musicus: snaarinstrument
Universiteit: KU Leuven

Maximilian's research focuses on the harp concerto in the eighteenth century and is positioned in the artistic field of historically informed performance practice, relying on historical musicology and classical organology to analyse the circumstances of the creation of specific musical works.

Only very few solo concertos from the eighteenth century are known in the existing canon of repertoire for the harp. The works by Mozart and Handel are regularly performed by modern harpists (Lenaerts 2021; de Maistre 2013). Preliminary research indicates that this hardly reflects the reality and musical diversity of the more than fifty surviving harp concertos of which only few have been studied (Palmer 1997; Calvo Manzano 2004), published or performed on historical instruments(Galassi 2006; Nagasawa 2012; de Maistre 2016).

Existing research is mostly based on the exploration of surviving (pedal) harps (Poulopoulos 2019; Baldwin 2020) and technical possibilities linked to the invention of the pedal mechanism (Parker 2005; Cleary 2016; Kamenitsu-Nagasawa 2018). In order to analyse the changes in instrumental writing and style that were made possible by this progress in harp-making, Maximilian will focus on the musical developments in the eighteenth century, concentrating on the genre of the harp concerto.

By using (replicas of) period instruments, musical treatises (i.e. Meyer 1763; Corbelin 1772) and other documents from the time and cultural environment of the compositions (i.e. newspaper articles, lettres etc.), he plans to practically recreate a sound and musical execution that is as close as possible to the ideals of the eighteenth century. This process will result in the following research question:

How could eighteenth-century harp concertos be performed in a historically informed way today?

However, Maximilian is fully aware that the available source material does not allow us to reconstruct all aspects of eighteenth-century performances, let alone to play exactly as musicians of that time did. As Brown and Milsom illustrate in their monographs on late nineteenth-century violin playing (Brown 2004; Milsom 2020), a number of key issues are particularly relevant to understanding a performance practice. These parameters include articulation, phrasing, ornamentation as well as technique.

The vast amount of music composed and published for the harp during the eighteenth century suggests that it was of high standing in the society of the time. With his research, he will give the instrument a place in the modern-day HIP of eighteenth-century music that - at least according to the sources - it deserves. By situating the proposed research in the ongoing state-of-the-art research of HIP (i.e. Wilson 2013; Bertels 2020), Maximilian will contribute to this field in a methodological and artistic way.

His goal is not only to improve as a performer but to challenge his way of playing, deepen his knowledge of the repertoire, and make it publicly available. By doing this, he will excite the audience and his peers for this particular repertoire and stimulate his own creativity as a performer.