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#046: Taking A Second Look at Salzedo’s Music

music and meaning Apr 04, 2022

What famous harpist has his 137th birthday this week? Carlos Salzedo, that’s who.

This harpist and musical innovator was born in Arcachon, France on April 6, 1885, and on today’s show I would like to introduce you to a side of his music you may not have encountered, including some music not only playable but even suitable for lever harp.

Before we get started, you will need to know a little of my own background. I was brought up in the Salzedo tradition. My teacher studied with Salzedo. I went to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia; Salzedo had founded the harp department there, and I had my lessons in the Salzedo Room. And so Salzedo’s tonal language became part of my musical education from the very first. I learned Tango - my first harp recital piece - and Night Breeze, which I will play for you later today. I learned the Preludes Intimes and Song in the Night (Chanson dans la nuit). Then I went on to learn the Five Preludes and the Modern Study Etudes and everything Salzedo from Scintillation and Ballade to Traipsin’ Thru Arkansaw.  

It was a little like I imagine it might be if you grow up eating the cuisine of your parents’ homeland, one which is very different from the food where you were growing up. For instance, kimchi may be your comfort food in a land where mac and cheese is more common. Because you essentially live in two different culinary worlds, you develop an appreciation for many kinds of foods. 

For me, I grew up on Salzedo’s music and it never seemed strange to me, although I could hear the contrast between much of his music and the music of other composers.

What I learned later was why his music sounded different, not just in terms of the ways he used melody and harmony, but in his entire approach to the harp, his idea of the instrument itself. 

Today I will share a little of the insights I have gleaned from studying his music. I will play a few short pieces for you too. And I hope along the way you will decide to try some of Salzedo’s music yourself. 

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 

Get involved in the show! Send your questions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected]


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