Bochsa's Harp Concerto No. 1

at the World Harp Congress in Cardiff, Wales, 2022

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I'm delighted to announce that I'll be performing my new edition of Bochsa's long dormant masterpiece in a chamber setting at the World Harp Congress next summer!

[This was initial scheduled for 2020, but of course then we had the pandemic... the Congress has currently been rescheduled for July 22-28, 2022!

(Note that the World Harp Congress has been moved to 2022 - see new date above)

Nicolas Charles Bochsa (1789-1856) wrote his "Premier Concerto pour la Harpe in Re minor", Op. 15" early in his career, while still in Paris. As a young man he had a very successful career there, under both Napoleon and later Louis XVIII. But Bochsa apparently liked living outside his means and wasn't particular about how he did so. He engaged in a series of forgeries that led, just ahead of persecution, to an abrupt decampment for England in 1817.

There, too, he found both success - a founder of the Royal Academy of Music, and later director of the King's Theatre - and scandal - eventually running away with soprano Anna Bishop, the wife of the man who wrote (ironically) Home, Sweet Home. From 1839 Bishop and Bochsa toured the world together until Bochsa eventually died in Australia in 1856.

I'm unsure of the exact date the concerto was written, but the low opus number (Op. 15) and in particular the location it premiered at ("Salle Olympique") suggests a date between 1807-1814, so likely written in Bochsa's early twenties.

For me, a formative part of my early years learning the harp was listening to Lily Laskine's recording of four harp concertos. I've since learned or performed three of the four, but Bochsa's Concerto No. 1 proved elusive - there is no sheet music available.

So it became a bucket-list dream of mine to somehow track down the music and perform the concerto. In 2018 I managed to obtain copies of both the harp and orchestral parts and started working on a new, readable, corrected edition. After many hours at Finale I'm delighted to have done so.

The full orchestral scoring of the concerto calls for strings plus two clarinets, oboes, bassoons, French horns, and a single flute. As well as creating a new edition of the original scoring I've also chosen to create a slimmed-down chamber version for string quartet plus flute and clarinet. The winds in the original have a lot of doubling and very little independent material and so I think this chamber version works quite well.

The concerto is made of up two movements, an opening Allegro Moderato followed by a Bolero.

You can watch Laskine perform a portion of the first movement in this televised event from 1966:

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Josh Layne