LSO Master Class - Harp

Uploaded by symphony on 07.10.2010

Vaughan: Hello, and welcome to the Harp Masterclass
for the YouTube symphony orchestra.
I'm Karen Vaughan.
I've been coprincipal harpist
of the London Symphony Orchestra for 26 years,
and I've been asked to guide you through
the orchestral excerpts
for your audition for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.
I'm not going to talk about the solo piece,
the Handel Harp Concerto,
but about the orchestral excerpts.
And it is necessary to play a pedal harp
to do these excerpts,
because there is actually a lot of key changing.
The first thing I'm going to show you
is the cadenza for Swan Lake,
and this sets the scene for the lovely pas de deux
between the swan and the prince in act two.
It's very typical harp cadenza with chords and arpeggios.
The first six measures
are actually conducted,
so you have to play those in time,
and after that, you can be free.
I thought I would show you the pedal setting
for the beginning and then count you in
to when you actually start playing the harp.
On the left-hand side of the harp,
we've got D-natural, C-flat, B-natural.
And on the right, E-natural, F-sharp,
G-natural, and A-flat.
The first bar is in 4,
but the woodwind are playing on the offbeat,
so if I just count it first,
I think you'll get the idea.
It goes 1 and 2
and 3 and 4
and 1... and then the harp starts.
And 2 and 3 and 4
and 1.
Now, this chord is very much easier to play
if you use the F-sharp instead of a G-flat.
And then it just feels like a dominant 7th.
2...and 3...and 4,
and 1.
As with all arpeggios like this,
you need to practice them in chunks.
And the other way I find very useful
is to practice just the thumbs,
because if you know where your thumbs are going,
you can feel the pattern underneath.
So the thumbs would be...
At this point, the cadenza starts in earnest,
and it's very similar to the Nutcracker Cadenza
or the Sleeping Beauty Cadenza,
which were originally written in contrary motion.
But Zabel told Tchaikovsky it would be far more effective
for the left hand to just copy the right hand,
and then you get this lovely rippling effect.
Then there are chords which, if you think of in 4, 4,
you can get some shape to the phrase.
And by the way, this section, all these chords,
is quite often missed out
if you're playing the complete ballet,
But in the suite, they usually expect to hear them.
so if you think you've got to the bottom on 1...
1 and 2 and 3 and 4
and 1.
2 and 3 and 4.
The next section is my favorite bit,
because in the ballet, the ballerina,
the swan, having been running around the stage,
now stops and...
turns very seductively to the prince
and does this with her wing.
And it's a very expressive moment.
Each of these arpeggios needs to get closer together,
so we start, going up to D...
then to E-flat...
then to E...
then to F.
May I just give you a tip
for getting a nice even spread on your chords
or things like this--
start with the left hand, and just play the fourth finger.
Then play four and three.
Then four, three, two.
And then eventually all of them.
And then just add one finger at a time
in the right hand, so...
And then you'll get a nice, even chord
for a spread like this.
Or C--you can play D or C at the top.
Now, some people don't like ending up
with their right hand so low at the bottom of the harp.
So you can, if you like, double one of those groups.
You can go...
and then start again.
And these are all spaced out...
even more...
even more again.
because this leads into the duet with the violin.
Now, the Force of Destiny Overture
is very frequently asked for at auditions.
And the opera here is an instance of Verdi
using the harp very sparingly.
There are two harps in the overture,
and then the second harp can go home,
the first harp can have dinner
and come back for act four for one aria--
the pace, pace aria--
which is notoriously pedaly.
It's got 60 pedal changes in the space of one aria.
The audition section that you've been asked for,
it starts at letter G
and follows a whole page of rests for the harp.
You have to come in cold on this music.
And the page of rest ends with
three little lonely solos,
first for the clarinet,
then the oboe, and then the flute.
Now, the conductor either conducts this in two
or in four.
It's nice if they start you off in four.
And the clarinet has an upbeat.
The harps are just accompanying a clarinet solo.
It's a chordal accompaniment.
The second harp plays just the chords
and the first harp plays triplets.
You need to know the clarinet part for this
so that you know what you're accompanying
so that you understand where the clarinetist breathes
because you've just got continuous triplets.
So the first harp is playing the triplets.
I suggest that, as with all chordal things,
you practice this in chunks first
and quite slowly so that you're familiar with what's happening.
So if you practice each of the four beats like this...
1, 2, then the left hand can help out.
3, 4.
1, 2, 3, 4.
This carries on in E-major,
which is not a very nice key for the harp.
Make sure you tune your harp well
for your audition.
And then we come to another very pedaly bit.
There are 19 pedals in the space of a few bars here.
So I suggest that you--
obviously, you're going to learn the chords.
Like that.
And it's also a very good idea
to just practice the pedals on their own,
and you can either sing the clarinet part
while you move the pedals--
which I probably don't think I should subject you to that--
or just count and say the pedals.
So when you come to the 9th bar,
we've got
And then do the chords.
Two bars later, you have a group of six notes
which are all written in the right hand,
but you can take the first two with the left hand,
like this.
So these were the left hands.
Now, F-double sharp doesn't exist on the harp,
so you have to use a G-natural there.
And the left hand can help out here.
Now, in this place, there is too big a gap
for you to jump,
so I suggest that you just take two notes with the left hand
and don't worry about the octave,
because the second harp is playing that octave for you.
So if you just go...
I'm now going to play it at what I think is a good tempo,
from half-note is 69 to half-note is 80.
Thank you for listening.
I hope these tips are going to be helpful
in your audition,
and I look forward to hearing your clips on YouTube.