Lavinia Meijer is a 30-year-old Dutch harpist who has already made quite a name for herself in the world of classical music. In fact, she appears poised to cross over into the mainstream with her new album, Metamorphosis, The Hours. The recording features Meijer’s interpretations of the music of Philip Glass, and has already been certified Gold in The Netherlands. She may very well duplicate that success in the much larger market of the United States.
Meijer’s decision to interpret the music of Philip Glass was inspired. Not only has Glass himself made the leap from the classical “ghetto,“ but his compositions provide a marvelous showcase for her playing. Along with other late-20th century composers such as Steve Reich and Terry Riley, Glass has been called a pioneer of the “minimalism” school of music. As the name implies, minimalism strips the compositions down to their essentials. This removes what we might consider instrumental “embellishments.“ Ironically enough, the harp is just such an instrument, as it is often used to amplify the orchestral sound.
The solos in Glass’ compositions are generally written for piano, and it is those that Meijer transcribes and plays here. Since the piano originally carried the pieces, they provide a marvelous showcase for her harp.
Although the title of the disc only mentions “Metamorphosis” and “The Hours,” the album features a third composition as well. The first track is “Opening Piece” from Glassworks. It is a splendid introductory choice. While obviously taken out of context, “Opening Piece” still fulfills its original role as… well, the opening piece. Hearing the harp in the role of solo instrument is a little unusual at first, but Meijer’s use of “Opening Piece” does an effective job of preparing us for what follows.
The five-part “Metamorphosis” is next, and it is lovely. I must admit that I was first attracted to this recording by the novelty of hearing the music of Glass played on the harp. The novelty factor falls away pretty quickly when listening to “Metamorphosis” though. The way his compositions double back on themselves is highly compelling. I found myself forgetting all about the harp, and just enjoying the remarkable music. The same holds true for the six-part “The Hours,” which features arrangements for accompanying solo piano by Michael Riesman and Nico Muhly in addition to Meijer’s harp.
The sound of the harp is beautiful, yet is rarely heard in a solo context. While listening to this disc, I find myself wondering just why that is the case. The recordings of artists such as Alan Stivell and Alice Coltrane are a couple of exceptions of course. Yet that in itself proves my point, as I am hard pressed to think of anyone else who does this. In any event, both Stivell and Coltrane are highly recommended for those who do enjoy solo harp music.
I would definitely add this young Dutch harpist to that short list. The new Channel Classics release of Metamorphosis, The Hours is on the Super Audio Compact Disc format, which gives it an incredible depth when played on surround sound.
A “super-sized” stereo system is not a requirement to enjoy this disc by any means though. It is still very early in the year, but I must say that Metamorphosis, The Hours is the finest classical recording of 2013 I have heard so far.