Sivan Magen - Fantasien - Rick Jones' Music Blog

What have you there? A new disc of harp music, Sir, plucked by the young Israeli harpist Sivan Magen. Is he playing the Jew's harp? Oh very good, Sir. In his own introduction he summons the ghost of King David so he's aware of his heritage. He plays keyboard works on it, Sir, all at pitch so one imagines he reads them straight from the score without bothering with transcriptions, although that's technically what we're dealing with here. He opens with a keyboard Fantasie by CPE Bach who actually wrote a harp sonata unlike most composers. His instrument sounds like a very large lute with his throbbing bass notes and dry treble. It is refreshing to hear Brahms Intermezzi not played on the grand piano. The touch is soft, the tone watery and the chords have rounded edges as if Magen had taken a plane and sandpaper to Brahms. Mozart's D minor Fantasie on the other hand is rather clunky on the harp compared to the pleading legato which can be achieved on the keyboard. He sounds like he is firing shafts with the repeat notes. Rendering Bach's Chromatic Fantasia on the harp is just showing off. Two works were conceived for harp, both by female composer-harpists. The first is the Fantasie on Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin by Ekaterina Walter-Kuehne which exploits the harp's romantic leanings in waves of arpeggios and conscience-piercing twangs. The second is the extraordinary Ballad fantasque d'apres le Coeur revelateur d'Edgar Poe, or The Tell-Tale Heart by Henriette Renie, a nineteenth century child prodigy. Magen magics the listener into the Gothic horror story with dream swirls, violent tugs, inveigling melodies and an appreciation for Renie's feverish imagination. King David rides again.

12 February 2014