Germaine Tailleferre: Sonata for Harp


French composer Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983) composed her Sonata for Harp in 1953 for the Spanish harpist Nicanor Zabaleta. The sonata was later revised in 1957 after the premiere. The sonata is praised for its influences of jazz, Spanish Habanera and expressionism. 


The Music

Set into three movements, Tailleferre’s Sonata for Harp takes the listener on a musical adventure. 


Movement I – Allegretto

The open movement begins like a lullaby, with a sweet melody played by the soloist. After this is established Tailleferre plays with the Habanera rhythms, which are nuanced within the music. The harp sparkles through into its upper range as the dynamics also begin to creep up. The wave of different textures and timbres Tailleferre creates during just this movement is a real feast for the ears as the soloist moves up and down the instrument. The opening lullaby theme returns at the end of the movement before trailing off quietly. 


Movement II – Lento

The slow middle movement opens with a new theme which takes some time to properly unravel. Opposing rhythms between the harpists hands are at the centre of this theme as many different voices crossover one another. The dynamics are quiet, giving a mysterious atmosphere to the movement. The theme is explored in some depth in this movement, before the music concludes quietly. 


Movement III – Perpetuum Mobile

The perpetuum mobile begins at a quick pace from the beginning. The agile harp creates swells of notes that are accented by peaks and troughs of the melody. The sweet sound of the harp and the lightness of the string plucks plays well into the perpetuum mobile theme. Certainly the most virtuosic and challenging of the three movements, the finale comes to its climax, where the harp plays a bold syncopated figure before a big glissando finishes the sonata off. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

Image Source


You might also enjoy… Nino Rota: Harp Concerto


Recommended Recordings:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *