It's not often that we hear about a work for harp getting its world premiere. So it's rather special when it does happen. And, when the work is a harp concerto by Michel Legrand - well, that kicks it up a notch. Add to that, world-renowned harpist Catherine Michel as soloist, and you have a blockbuster. Couple that with Dirk Brosse and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia accompanying Ms. Michel and you have a spectacular musical event.
Catherine Michel is Jill's guest on Crossover this week, just ahead of these world-premiere concerts.
Ms. Michel was born in the French town of Amiens where she began her studies of harp and piano. When she was 15, she won First Prize in the class of Pierre Jamet at the Paris Conservatory. She later took part in some of the world's most prestigious International Harp Competitions in France, Israel, and United States, winning a Gold Medal and two Grand Prizes. Ms. Michel joined the National Orchestra of Radio France in 1971, and by 1978, was appointed solo harpist with the National Opera Orchestra of Paris. She is now leading the Harp Department at Zurich University and holds worldwide Master Classes. Ms. Michel has a number of recordings for the Philips and Vox labels, and has also published a book about the literature of the harp in the 18th century. Known as the leading representative of the great French harp tradition, Catherine Michel has worked all her distinguished career to extend the harp's repertoire, editing and transcribing many pieces for harp.
Ms. Michel's longtime companion and collaborator is Oscar award-winning composer Michel Legrand. Best known for his film and television scores, Mr. Legrand has an impressive musical background beyond his media-related achievements as a composer, pianist, and conductor. His special gift for luscious and vividly atmospheric textures lends itself particularly well to music for the harp, an instrument prominently featured in orchestral works drawn from his award-winning scores. His one movement Harp Concerto, in which various tempos are interwoven, was commissioned by The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, and will be a musical experience rich both in romantic warmth and in the kind of dynamic power that Legrand's scores have always possessed.
Listen for Jill's conversation with harpist Catherine Michel on Crossover, Saturday morning at 11:30 on WRTI-FM, with an encore the following Friday evening at 7 on WRTI-HD2. Both airings can be heard on the All-Classical web stream at wrti.org.