By Peter Jacobi
“A harpist returns”
Elizabeth Hainen studied here with Susann McDonald, took silver medal in the first USA International Harp Competition, then went on to become Principal Harpist of no less The Philadelpia Orchestra.
On Wednesday, she reminded local listeners of her prowess, which has increased since she last performed in Bloomington. To her control and containment of the instrument has been added a warmer involvement and a willingness to let the harp express itself, whether in all its beauty of for other attributes.
Hainen offered a generous sampling of her artistry, eight works of various styles and persuasions. The visitor wouldn’t have known, but she pleased this listener with the very opening number, the Handel/Salzedo Air with Variations, “The Harmonious Blacksmith.” One of the first long playing records this writer purchased featured the legendary Carlos Salzedo playing that music. I loved it then. I loved hearing Hainen as she brought the lovely piece to the Recital Hall stage. The music still invites me in. I remain entranced.
But, of course, there was far more on the program: a Sonata for Harp by Paul Hindemith, asking for and receiving a range of technical niceties; a sweet showpiece in the old traditions, Ludwig Sphr’s Fantasie in C Minor, a Serenade by early 19th century harp virtuoso Elias Parish Alvars, who wrote for his instrument as Chopin did for the piano and Bellini for the voice: in bel canto fashion, a method that Hainen managed to capture engagingly.
Andre Caplet’s Deux Divertissements called for all sorts of arpeggios and chords and harmonic. Debussy’s Petite Suite called for radiance. Hainen supplied them. And with her husband, percussionist David DePeters, she dove in Marta Ptaszynska’s Jeu-Parti for vibraphone and harp and Jean-Michel Damase’s Dialogues for Marimba and Harp. The struck instruments and the plucked/strummed one seemed like happy partners as each musician gave the interesting compositions expert attention. The unusual combinations worked, thanks in no small part, one suspects, to Hainen and DePeters. They excelled.