Worthing harpist launches new CD at Festival of Chichester

Worthing-based harpist Alexander Rider launches his new CD Fresque Marine at a special concert for this year’s Festival of Chichester on Sunday, June 12 at 3pm in Pallant House Gallery.
Alexander Rider photo by Kate BenjaminAlexander Rider photo by Kate Benjamin
Alexander Rider photo by Kate Benjamin

The full title is Fresque Marine – Forgotten Jewels for Harp Volume 1; in his concert Alexander will present a selection of French repertoire, played on a 1902 Erard harp.

Alexander, who did A levels at Chichester College and grew up in Littlehampton/Rustington, said: “It is my debut CD in as much it is all me. I've done commercial recordings for a number of other projects but this one really is born out of a labour of love.

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“When I finished my studies in London in 2014 or 15 I was given a fellowship to do some research. I had a special interest in this explosion of French music for the harp. I worked on that and I found all these wonderful pieces sometimes from archive sources and sometimes from individuals.

"I found these pieces that had either not been printed or we're not really being played, and unfortunately a lot of them just hadn't been recorded

“And I realised these pieces were not languishing because they weren’t good. They were languishing because they weren’t being performed.”

As ever, it's difficult to know why some things survive and others don't: “But with the advent of World War One, trends around music playing changed so much.

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"At the end of the 19th and 20th centuries there was a concert culture but it was still at the time of the salon concert where people went to hear music in private houses. A lot of great music was often premiered at private soirees.

“After World War One anything that was attached to that time probably started to seem a bit trivial and parochial and I think they were trying to get away from the delicacy and intimacy of that kind of music on the harp. Harp music was starting to develop in a more contemporary way. So I think it was a bit of a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

"There was a bit of a feeling that ‘We must be playing bigger pieces on bigger stronger harps.’ Harps certainly changed and I think this music was just lumped in and left behind and has been unjustly neglected.”

And it is time to rediscover it: “You read a lot about trends in classical music where everything seems to have to be a novelty though I'm not putting anyone down.

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“But the point is that this is music that was conceived for the harp and is unique to the harp. It is idiomatic music. but also you tie it up with the harp of the time and the harp changed so much just after World War One.

“I just think it is really a refreshing change for the senses to go back to this music now.

"After World War One the harp just got bigger and bigger and was having to compete with bigger orchestras, but this music goes back to something really different and special.”