Liszt of the Harp – Ieuan Jones – CR4939


“a harpist of exceptional musical imagination and stylistic panache”

“Ieuan Jones possesses a strong technique and a secure pulse that makes a clear difference between the big ones and the great ones”

“…he is outstandingly gifted….” Sir Georg Solti


Elias Parish – Alvars (1808 –1849)

Elias Parish-Alvars was born in Teignmouth, Devon, on 28th February 1808. Before he reached his late teens, he was already a famous virtuoso, playing on one of the excellent harps newly perfected by Sebastian Erard.The ingenious double-action pedal system invented by Erard enabled the harp, for the first time, to be played in any key, and Parish-Alvars brilliantly seized the advantages presented by the new instrument. Not only did Parish-Alvars love his chosen instrument but he had supreme confidence in it. Not only was he the possessor of a formidable finger technique but his control of the pedal-technique too was absolutely superb. In his compositions, he used the latter to great advantage in fearless modulation and chromaticism, and he experimented most successfully with hitherto unknown and unexploited effects. He was the first to use glissando chords, enharmonic effects, double and triple harmonics, and introduced the ‘three handed’ technique later adopted with dazzling success by his friend the pianist Thalberg. Parish-Alvars eventually settled in Vienna, whence he made many tours, and where he married Melanie Loewy, the harpist daughter of a famous horn player. In 1847 he was appointed harpist to the Court. In an age of excess and flaunted virtuosity, Parish-Alvars seems to have been modest and humble. In a letter written from Naples, and first published in ‘The Musical World’ in 1845, he talks of hoping to return to England permanently… ‘as so many foreigners find their account in England, I trust the English will not refuse a few crumbs of their own’. He eventually came back to London in 1846, but was unable to reestablish himself, returning to Vienna where he died in 1849.

Parish-Alvars’ major works have long been dismissed from the solo harpists repertoire because of their extreme difficulty and exorbitant technicaldemands. I, however, share Parish-Alvars’ faith in the limitless possibilities of the harp; and in the sympathetic atmosphere engendered by the current revival of interest in the music of the early Nineteenth Century. I would like to try to make amends to this great English artist for the abominable neglect and mistrust into which his music has fallen, and, if possible help to restitute the claims to acknowledgement of this unaccountably neglected English genius.

Ann Griffiths ‘In Dresden, I met the prodigious English harpist Perish-Alvars, a name not yet as renowned as it ought to be, had just come fromVienna. The man is the Liszt of the harp. You cannot conceive all the delicate and powerful effects, the novel touches and unprecedented sonoroties, that he manages to produce from an instrument in many respects so limited. His fantasy on ‘Moses’, (imitated and adapted for the piano with happy results by Thalberg) his variations for harmonic notes on the Naiads’ Chorus from Oberon, and a score of similar pieces, delighted me more than I can say. The advantages the new harps possess of being able to sound two strings in unison by means of the double action of the pedals, has stimulated him to invent combinations which on paper look quite impossible’. Hector Berlioz (Letter to ERNST from Dresden) ‘Continuing on my way, I reach Frankfurt, my fourth visit. Here I meet Parish-Alvars again, and 1 am mesmerised by his playing his fantasia for harmonics on the Nymphs’ Chorus from Oberon. The man is a magician, in his hands the harp becomes a siren, lovely neck inclined and with wild hair flowing, stirred by his passionate embrace to utter the music of another world’. Hector Berlioz (Letter to GEORGE OSBORNE from Darnstadt) Extracts from the “Memoirs of Berlioz”. Quoted by kind permission of David Cairns and Victor Gollancz Ltd. and also “The Harp” by Roslyn Rensch. As the pedal harp progressed from private salon to the concert hall; the instrument became increasingly popular and was slowly being taught to the crowned heads of Europe and to the wealthy ‘bourgeoisie’. A gifted Belgian born harpist (Dizi) was once engaged in 1820 to lead a band of twelve harpists at London’s Covent Garden. Not to be out done, the Drury Lane Theatre engaged another harpist, Bochsa, to lead a band of thirteen harp players. While the pedal harp is so often depicted with women musicians in art of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, the list of teachers and composers for the instrument is a predominantly male one. Johann Baptiste Krumpholz has been called the father of the harp playing since the pedals were invented in the early Eighteenth Century. The harpist had originally received some harp instruction from Matthias Haydn (father of the famous Franz Haydn). From time immemorial the harp has been ideally suited to the accompanying of the voice. It remained for the Eighteenth Century harpists to establish it as a solo concert instrument. The best known of the male harpists of the Nineteenth Century were Bochsa and Parish-Alvars. Schools of harp playing began to flourish during the Nineteenth Century with Paris becoming the centre of the harp development. Concert harpists began to ‘concertise’ throughout Europe and Parish-Alvars was being called the “Paganini of the harp”. Wilhelm Posse (1852-1926) was another noted harpist during this period. He became a close friend of Franz Liszt and made some notable transcriptions of Liszt’s music for solo harp. Another harpist within the close circle of Liszt was the wife of his very good friend Richard Pohl, Johanna Eyth. She eventually toured Europe playing the works of Parish-Alvars and others. Liszt renewed his acquaintance with his friend Richard Pohl in Dresden and invited him to Karlsruhe to cover the festival (he was a music critic byprofession). Liszt also offered the harpist position in the orchestra to Jeanne Eyth (Pohl’s wife), Jeanne then became a permanent member of the Weimar Orchestra where they settled and became some of Franz Liszt’s staunchest supporters. Some of the most imaginative writing for the harp during the Nineteenth Century is to be found in Liszt’s orchestral writing. The source of his inspiration was again Jeanne Pohl. He was the first to write a true harp glissando (cadenza near the end of the orchestral version of the Mephisto Waltz). There are many other telling effects in such works as ‘Orpheus’ (use of two harps) etc.. It is though, in the Dante Symphony that we find Liszt’s use of the harp at it’s striking best. Apart from summoning up the swirling winds of Hell, it is also used as the sensitive accompanist to the mournful strains of the cor anglais an unusual colour combination inspired by the lines of Dante; “There is no greater pain than the remembrance of past joys in times of misery”. Liszt always remained faithful to the Pohls for their devoted and loyal services during the ‘War of the Romantics’. Pohl’s three volumes of collective works are devoted largely to Wagner, Liszt and Berlioz and he could count all three composers as his close friends. The Pohl’s remained in Weimar simply because Liszt himself made it pleasant for them to do so. In 1864, three years after Liszt himself had left Weimar, the Pohl’s moved to Baden-Baden, where after a long illness Jeanne died in the arms of her husband. Many keyboard works continued to be transcribed for the harp. Liszt in a letter to Posse specifically requested that Posse programme a Chopin ‘Etude’ and Liszt’s third Liebestraume for a forthcoming concert at Weimar, this was just the start of a better acquaintance with the harp, on the part of the non-harp playing composers. It is interesting to note that following on from Liszt, his son in law, Richard Wagner, wrote many taxing harp parts, he required as many as seven harpists in the festival orchestra at his Bayreuth Theatre in Bavaria. The scores of all the Wagnerian operas use the harp to advantage from the splendid solid chords of the part in the Overture to Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, to the haunting broken chords and arpeggio passages of the Liebestod in the last act of Tristan und Isolde.

leuan Jones is one of very few truly solo harpists in the world today. He is renowned for his extrovert and flamboyant performances all over the world, described by the late Sir Georg Solti as “outstandingly gifted” and probably without parallel on his instrument. Born in mid-Wales, leuan gained a scholarship to study with Marisa Robles at The Royal College of Music in London. On leaving the College he gained all the major awards including the Tagore Gold Medal and the Queen Mother’s Rose Bowl, a feat never previously nor since accomplished by a harpist. He also took the gold medal at the Royal Over Seas League Competition, only the second harpist to do so in its 47 year history. leuan Jones tours the world regularly with his harp. Recent concerto appearances have been with the London Mozart Players and James Galway, London Philharmonic, City of London Sinfonia, BBC Symphony, Orquesta Sinfonica de Seville, Buenos Aires Philharmonica at the Teatro Colon, Mexico State Orchestra with Batiz, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. His recordings include a previous Claudio Records release ‘All through the Night’ with the much acclaimed tenor Huw Rhys-Evans performing traditional Welsh songs for tenor and harp. Other recordings include Concertos by Rodrigo, Mozart and solo repertoire from the great French Harp compositions from the turn of the last century. In 1996 leuan Jones was appointed Professor of Harp at the Royal College of Music. 1999 sees another tour of the Far East and Australia as he continues to tour the world taking delight in performing works not often heard on the harp.

” If all harpists were as sure and exact as Jones was with his instrument, the audience would be spoiled by such abundance. Alas this is not so “. Joseph O. Cortes (Philippine Journal) “Pure Wizardry Rosalinda L. Orosa (Philippine Star) “A harpist of exceptional musical imagination and stylistic panache….Hilary Finch (The Times, London) “Jones is an instrumentalist who seems welded to his instrument by more than career choice. He convinces you that while he is playing, nothing else matters; an anazingly focused musician who should be heard by a larger audience “. Clive O’Connell, (The Age, Australia)

© Ieuan Jones

**Artists Website

Ieuan Jones was born and brought up in Mid-Wales and started playing the harp at the age of six with Frances Mon Jones.

At the age of 13, he was the youngest member of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. Shortly afterwards Jones went on to join the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. In 1981 he gained a scholarship to study with Marisa Robles at the Royal College of Music. After four years at the RCM, winning all the major prizes including the Tagore Gold Medal and the Queen Mothers Rose Bowl for the most distinguished student of his year, he won he Royal Over-Seas League Music Competition in 1985 (only the second harpist to do so in the history of this competition). He was the runner up at the Israel International Harp Competition in the same year.

While still a student he was appointed harpist to the House of Commons; an appointment which went on for 13 years, and has not since been repeated.

Jones has played for audiences all over the world, concerto appearances include the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Teatro de la Maestranza during the Seville EXPO and recitals including Melbourne Festival, Hong Kong City Hall, Madrid, Rome, Paris and many more. He is a member of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music’s diploma examiners and is regularly invited as a member of international competition panels worldwide.

In 1997 Jones was appointed Professor of Harp at the Royal College of Music and in 2016 was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal College of Music.

“…harpist of exceptional musical imagination and stylistic panache” Hilary Finch, The Times

“…one of the most talented harpists…of any generation” Nicanor Zabaleta

“Pure wizardry…”The Philippine Star

“Jones is an instrumentalist who seems welded to his instrument by more than career choice. He convinces you that while he is playing, nothing else matters: an amazingly focused musician.” The Age, Australia.

“…he is outstandingly gifted….” Sir Georg Solti