An exceptional and unique album with music for solo harp ranging from the Middle Ages to today, performed on the instruments for which the compositions (many of them world premiere recordings!) were written! All of them are performed by Edward Witsenburg, who is considered to be one of the leading harpists in the world.
Witsenburg was born in Amsterdam and started studying with Phia Berghout when he was seventeen. He graduated 'cum laude' at the Amsterdam Conservatory. He subsequently played with several orchestras in the Netherlands, including the Residentie Orchestra. In 1957, he started teaching at the The Hague Conservatory, which he still does. He won one of the main prizes at the First International Harp Competition in Israel in 1959. He went on to study with the famous harpist Marcel Grandjany with financial support in the form of a grant from the Dutch government.
In 1965, Edward Witsenburg gave up all orchestral work in order to devote himself to solo playing, chamber music, and the pedagogics of harp playing. He educated several generations of successful young harpists and was rewarded with a professorate at the Salzburg Mozarteum. Since 1967 he has regularly been teaching harp courses in Wales, and in other countries too he is regarded as a key figure in that respect. In February 1995, for instance, he gave master classes and lectures in Australia; he also regularly gives lecture recitals where he demonstrates a selection of harps from his own collection of instruments which ranges from the Middle Ages until the present day.
From 1975 until 1981, Edward Witsenburg, at the request of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, cooperated in the Monteverdi performances at the Opernhaus in Zurich, which became events of international importance. Further cooperation with Harnoncourt resulted in - to mention just a few - performances of Handel's opera Giulio Cesare in Vienna, Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea at the Festspiele in Salzburg, Haydn's L'Anima del Filosofo, also in Vienna, and a memorable historical performance of Mozart's Concerto for flute and harp in Graz.
Apart from his interpretative and technical qualities Edward Witsenburg is also known to music lovers for his powerful tone, and with this last virtue he carries on the tradition handed to him by the late Dutch harpist Rosa Spier.
Georg Frideric Handel was a composer from the Baroque period. Handel wrote primarily music-dramatic works: 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 cantatas, trios and duets, which comes to a total amount of almost 2000 arias! Furthermore, he composed English, Italian and Latin sacred music, serenades and odes. Among his instrumental music are several organ concertos, concerti grossi, overtures, oboe sonatas and violinsonates, along with many solo works for harpsichord and organ.
Together with Johann Sebastian Bach, who was born in the same year (1685), Handel is viewed as one of the greatest composers of his time. He was extremely prolific and wrote in total more than 610 works, many of which are still performed today.
Compared to his contemporaries Bach, Telemann and Scarlatti, Handel was by far the most cosmopolitan. When Handel was a child, his father, who was a surgeon at the court of Saxe-Weissenfels, imagined a juridical career for him. But his musical talents did not go unnoticed at the court, which forced the father to let him study music. In Hamburg, Handel befriended Mattheson. Together they visited Buxtehude, the greatest organ player of his time, in 1703 (two years before Bach did). At that time, Handel was already an excellent musician, but it wasn't until his stay in Italy - the land of opera - that his talents and skills truly started to flourish. Back in Germany, he received a position at the court of Hannover, where the noblemen had a connection to the British throne. Thanks to these connections, Handel decided to move to London, after which a puzzling history of intrigues and political games started. For example, it is unclear what the exact political message of his famous Water Music is, which was composed for a boat ride on the river Thames by King George. Initially, Handel focused on Italian opera during his stay in London, but from the 1730s onwards he started composing English spoken oratorios, with the celebrated Messiah at its peak.
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and hundreds of cantatas. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.
Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest in and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.
Thomas Tallis was an English composer who occupies a primary place in anthologies of English choral music, and is considered one of England's greatest composers. He is honoured for his original voice in English musicianship. No contemporary portrait of Tallis survives: that painted by Gerard Vandergucht (illustration), dates from 150 years after Tallis died, and there is no reason to suppose that it is a likeness. In a rare existing copy of his black letter signature, the composer spelled his last name "Tallys." Tallis is known for his work with William Byrd. He started to teach the much younger Byrd at the Chapel Royal in London. Later, they were both appointed as organists of the Chapel.