“Another Interesting Ensemble”. Harp Quartet as a Phenomenon of Russian Musical Art of the 20th Century


The harp quartet under the direction of Ksenia Erdely, People’s Artist of the USSR, Professor of the Moscow Conservatory, was set up in the middle of the last century and became the first and only standing professional group of its kind in the Soviet Union, attracting a huge number of listeners and reviewers around the world. Since, in fact, there was no literature for this instrumentation, preparing the harp quartet repertoire in record- ingly short time is a unique fact. The repertoire represents an extensive corpus of transcrip- tions and arrangements of works by composers of various eras as well as some original compositions. In this regard, Ksenia Erdely’s activity is of great importance as she not only performed transcriptions herself, but also drew her composer colleagues actively into making transcriptions, while explaining harp techniques to them as well as the peculiarities of the instrument. The concert geography of the quartet is also striking. The concert tours letters from the ensemble members, published for the first time, afford an opportunity to assess the scope of it as well as to see how the workaday life of the ensemble looks from the inside. The material in question allows to draw a conclusion on the significance of the ensemble activities for the national harp performance and the Soviet music art as a whole.

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