La Harpe Reine by Xavier De Maistre

In late eighteenth century Paris, a person in want of a harp could search for the perfect instrument in over two hundred speciality shops, such was the harp’s popularity. While today we think of it as a fancy to occupy the leisure time of aristocratic young ladies, it was the instrument of choice for Marie-Antoinette who took a harp lesson every morning, and inspired composers to dedicate their work to the Queen. French harp virtuoso Xavier de Maistre, performing alongside Les Arts Florissants under the direction of William Christie, presents a selection of these compositions on his latest recording with Harmonia Mundi.

Among the selection is Jean-Baptiste Krumpholtz’s enchanting Concerto for harp and orchestra no. 5 Op. 7. There is something utterly beguiling about Maistre’s harp solo here  – the way each note sounds and decays with an almost magical quality  – as it rises out of William Christie’s orchestra. It’s as familiar as it is unfamiliar: we all recognise the sound of the instrument, but it is so infrequently showcased as a solo instrument in the classical repertoire. All the more reason to enjoy Maistre’s recording, and acquaint yourself with the beautiful strains of solo classical harp.

Alexandra Mathew is from Readings Carlton.