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Friday, Dec 2, 2022

Adjunct harp professor presents enlightening recital

It’s not often that we get to hear a harp perform in concert. Less often are six to eight harpists filling a hall at one time. Such was the treat in Fickling Hall this last week, as adjunct harp professor Calista Anne Koch led a thorough harp recital.

Koch was the front-woman and chieftain of the group, which was primarily composed of students. The program included a blend of ensemble works as well as solo works over which Koch took the reins. Prior to each piece in the well-balanced program, Koch provided some insight to the music.

She revealed the interesting challenges involved in bringing the music to life on the harp. She also enlightened the audience to the work that she has undergone in making each piece unique to her individual performance preferences. Koch would often elaborate and improvise on otherwise spare musical material. Furthermore, she took the liberty of arranging all the orchestrations to function for harp ensemble.

The solo pieces included a wide range of musical styles. The most familiar work was the Vivaldi Concerto in D Major, originally written for lute. Half the ensemble performed the original lute part, while the other half supplied the accompaniment. The performance was tight and refreshing, making one wonder if the work were not better off as a harp arrangement.

Other group pieces included the popular Intermezzo from the Opera “Carmen” and a lovely Sicilienne from “Pelleas et Melisande” by Gabriel Faure. The “Carmen” excerpt consisted of an entire re-orchestration of the original score. Each section of the typical orchestra was thus assigned to a side of the harp ensemble. Meanwhile, Koch provided the original harp part as it appeared in the authentic score. The Sicilienne was a beautiful representation of the harp’s natural elegance. The students impressively delivered the serenade in exemplary fashion.

The most rewarding part of the concert, however, were the pieces in which Koch performed solo. Her mastery of the daunting instrument is unparalleled by anyone in Middle Georgia. She demonstrated this fact with the opening works, selections from Sergei Prokofiev’s “Pieces for Harp or Piano Op. 12.” The prelude was a virtuosic character piece indicative of Prokofiev’s enigmatic style. The energy was forthright and the technical execution infallible. The eleonora movement was a gorgeous piece full of spirit and vibrancy. While listening, one is easily reminded of Rembrandt paintings depicting serene landscapes.

The other solo work was the Angelus from “Feuillets D’Album” by Henriette Renie. Somewhat of a capstone for Koch, the piece was revealed to be the result of a large research undertaking. Thus, she had a very personal connection with the work, having been responsible for its conception in its present form.

Koch is an underrated blessing for the community of Middle Georgia. She is truly a master at her instrument, a dedicated musical scholar and an inspiring artist. She can be seen at nearly every concert in the area that features the harp; no group would pass the chance to utilize her skills. Though she teaches privately, she currently has no students at Mercer. The only thing preventing her from teaching here is lack of awareness. Yet, Koch made her presence quite well known with this recital, and it won’t be long before students enroll in Townsend exclusively to study harp with her.


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