Carlos Salzedo6 apr 1885 (Arcachon) - 17 aug 1961 (Waterville)
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Carlos Salzedo was born Charles Moïse Léon Salzedo on April 6, 1885 in Arcachon, France. Salzedo's parents, Isaac Gaston Salzedo and Thérèse Judith Anna Salzedo-Silva, who resided in Bayonne, were vacationing in Arcachon when Mme. Salzedo fell down a flight of stairs, causing the two-month premature birth of Salzedo. Both parents were of noted Sephardic (Iberian Jewish) families and fine musicians, he a singer, she a pianist. Their first child, Marcel, became a prominent violinist, conductor, and composer of light music. During this time, Mme. Salzedo was employed as the summer-court pianist to Queen Mother Maria Christina of Spain in Biarritz. Young Léon-Charles played the piano for Maria Christina at the age of three leading her to dub him "my little Mozart." Salzedo's mother died just two years later when he was five. The family then moved to Bordeaux and a Basque woman, Marthe Tatibouet Bidebérripé, was hired to care for and help raise the children. Salzedo became deeply attached to her, and liked to think of himself as being culturally Basque. He himself attributed this as the source of his favorite meter being five beats in a bar of music, typical of the Basque dance Zortzico. Léon-Charles, having begun playing piano by the age of three, wrote his first composition, a polka called Moustique (Mosquito), which was published when he was just five years old. Though lost, the theme reappeared in the Polka of his Suite of Eight Dances. At six, he entered the St. Cecilia School of Music of Bordeaux, where he won first prize in piano and solfège three years later, after which the family moved to Paris. Léon-Charles entered the Paris Conservatoire at nine years old, where he again won prizes in piano (Descombes) and solfège (Schwartz). He continued his piano studies with Charles de Bériot, son of the renowned violinist and a pupil of Thalberg.
Salzedo's father, by then a respected voice teacher, decided Léon-Charles should take up a second instrument, and the harp was chosen because he was felt to be too weak to play a wind instrument, and his older brother Marcel already played the violin. Beginners were not accepted at the Conservatoire, so Carlos took lessons from Marguerite Achard. After a few months, he had advanced enough that he was accepted as a pupil by Alphonse Hasselmans, professor of harp at the Conservatoire. After a year of study with Hasselmans, he entered the Conservatoire as a fully fledged harp pupil at the age of thirteen. In 1901, at age sixteen, Salzedo won the premier prix in harp and piano on the same day, an accomplishment unmatched to this day, and was awarded a Steinway grand piano. While a student, Salzedo free-lanced as second-harpist in the Orchestre Lamoureux as well as the orchestras of the Olympia theater and the Folies Bergère night club. Salzedo also won praise for his composing from the director of the Conservatoire, Gabriel Fauré.
When Salzedo graduated, he was hired as a solo harpist, first orchestral harpist, and solo pianist at the New Casino in Biarritz under conductor/composer Piero Luigini. The following winter he toured Europe with the Concerts Colonne orchestra, followed by solo appearances as pianist and harpist with that orchestra. He made his Paris recital debut at age 18 as a harpist and pianist, in 1903, for which occasion he decided to change his name to Carlos from Léon-Charles Moise. About this time, a stroke paralyzed Gaston Salzedo, who handed over his position as synagogue music director to young Carlos. Salzedo also toured in solo performances around Europe, receiving glowing praise in the papers.
America, marriage, and war
In 1909, Arturo Toscanini invited Salzedo, via an agent, to play in the orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, and so Carlos left France for America, not knowing any English. Salzedo became a member of the musical society, and thus Salzedo was introduced at a soiree to Viola Gramm, a respected pianist and singer. They became romantically involved and they traveled through the château country of France in 1913, and then were married on April 30, 1914 in New York City. Salzedo wrote a wedding cantata for the occasion, which was performed by his friends.
Salzedo had recently formed the "Trio de Lutèce", with Georges Barrère on flute and Paul Kéfer on cello, which toured extensively in the United States. The trio was scheduled to play in England, so Salzedo and Mimine took the opportunity to honeymoon in Europe; in England, they were introduced to various members of the nobility, and at one point, Salzedo performed for the Princess of Battenberg. When World War I began, they moved to Menthon-Saint-Bernard (in the Rhône-Alpes region) to have more time together, but Salzedo was soon drafted into the French Army.
Salzedo was made head cook for his infantry unit, and happened to be in the same unit as several painters and musicians. He had a sympathetic leader, and was able to organize them into a performing group that sang for soldiers and toured hospitals, for which he arranged traditional French folk songs. He got an extended leave to see Mimine, but when he returned, a new captain was in charge who did not permit the musical activities. Salzedo became seriously ill with pneumonia and a form of paralysis, for which he was hospitalized for several months before being finally discharged from the army. In order to get passports (which had not been necessary in 1914) to leave France, Salzedo and Mimine had to prove their identities by marrying a second time in Paris, August 1915.
During this early period of his adult life, he was very active in musical high society and high society otherwise. He neighbored the Rockefellers at Seal Harbor, Maine. He counted among his musical friends Edgard Varèse, Josef Hoffman, Leopold Stokowski and Dane Rudhyar. He was sought after for performances at social occasions where he could be quite the life of the party.
Return to America
On the Salzedos' return to the US in 1916, Carlos reunited with the Trio de Lutèce, but not the Metropolitan Opera, from which he had resigned in 1913. Salzedo and Mimine began spending summers in Seal Harbor, where Salzedo became friends with Vaslav Nijinsky, the legendary Russian danseur, with whom he developed a series of esthetic gestures for playing the harp that became an essential part of the Salzedo Method for the harp, as handed down from teacher to pupil. In the 1920s, Salzedo and Mimine began to grow apart, as she was spending more time in Rome, and Carlos was spending more time with the increasing number of students who were coming to him for lessons. They had an amicable divorce in 1926, remaining lifelong friends, and in 1928 Salzedo married Lucile Lawrence, a student of his for the past ten years who had developed into a virtuoso player. Salzedo had a very extensive performing schedule in these years, with tours by the Trio de Lutèce, the Salzedo Harp Ensemble, joint recitals with leading sopranos, and solo appearances in recital and with major symphony orchestras. Lawrence meanwhile served as first harp of the Salzedo Harp Ensemble, which toured the United States regularly, and she also led her own Lawrence Harp Quintette on engagements too small for the Salzedo Harp Ensemble, as well as premiering many of Salzedo's important compositions.
Salzedo was involved in many arenas, including the burgeoning "new music" circles in New York, where he co-founded the International Composers Guild with Edgard Varèse. The Guild was the first group of its kind, and presented the most prominent European composers and others in concert, figures such as Ravel and Casella. This later led to the formation of the rival League of Composers, which was organized to support "American" composers, causing a rift in musical circles not healed for many years. Salzedo was in the forefront of artistic ideas, and social circles. Salzedo became familiar with the dancer/choreographer Martha Graham, who was the roommate of one of his pupils, and perceiving her genius, he used his influence to help her to receive a Rockefeller Foundation grant which was instrumental in the development of her career. He toured with Adolf Bolm, the well-known Diaghilev dancer and choreographer, as a conductor and performer, as well as composer. Bolm's Ballet Intime performed a ballet to Salzedo's composition, Bolmimerie, written for a six-harp ensemble. Salzedo's compositions of this period, which were performed by major orchestras (The Enchanted Isle), reflect a searching, creative mind with originality and a timeless freshness of sonority. His pieces have a great appeal that does not wane, and show off the harp as an imaginative, eloquent instrument of great drama and poetic, lyric expressiveness, as well as abstract qualities and dazzling virtuoso display.
Salzedo had not forgotten the plight of his native France, and publicly led many fund-raising efforts, raising considerable amounts for wartime relief of France, and aiding propaganda efforts to increase interest in French culture. He did much to introduce modern French music to the U.S. He also raised money to buy a pipe organ in Seal Harbor, with matching funds from John D. Rockefeller, and later, was most notably able to raise sufficient funds to aid Vladimir Nijinsky and his family to escape into safety in Switzerland.
From the 1920s onward, Salzedo appeared regularly as a soloist with orchestras such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, on tour as a recitalist, harp ensemble leader and flute-harp-cello trio member. His trio became the B-S-B Trio (Barrère-Salzedo-Britt) and toured widely to acclaim. His activity in the 1920s alone was astonishing in its energy, and he was a celebrity as well, frequently appearing in newspapers for musical and other exploits. He was compared to Wanda Landowska by no less a critic than Virgil Thomson, as a pioneer and as a fascinating performer. His approach to the harp was unique from the customary programming of that time. Where most harpist played salon repertoire by preceding harpists, romantic idylls and such, he emphasized the French Baroque music and transcriptions of the classics in effective ways as well as the new music. In this fashion he was able to win the admiration of his musical colleagues. His performing season would typically include a solo recital; tours with his Trio de Lutece or B-S-B trio (Barrere-Salzedo-Britt), Salzedo Harp Ensemble, and later his Salzedo Concert Ensemble, as well as appearances with orchestras. He was a sought-after teacher as well, teaching privately in New York, in summers at his harp colony in Camden, Maine, and at the Curtis Institute of Music, where he maintained a large department until 1961.
He performed with the major orchestras as a soloist in the Chorale and Variations by Widor, his own tone poem The Enchanted Isle, premiered in America the Introduction and Allegro of Maurice Ravel, the Handel Concerto, the Mozart Concerto for flute and harp, the Triple Concerto by Wagenaar (commissioned by the Trio de Lutece) and the Concerto by Norman Dello Joio for which he contributed the cadenza, as he also did for the Concerto for Harp by Nicolai Berezowsky. His own Concerto for Harp and Seven Winds was introduced by Lucile Lawrence and Lily Laskine, and his Second Concerto was premiered for his 1985 centennial by Jennifer Hoult with the American Chamber Orchestra. (The orchestrations were completed by Robert Russell Bennett with a grant from the Alice Ditson Fund, and stolen immediately after the performance, as yet not recovered.)
Salzedo is regarded by many as one of history's greatest harpists. Where others have excelled as performers only or as composers of minor genre pieces, he was as highly regarded as a pianist and conductor by his colleagues as he was by harpists. Recordings he made evidence an unparalleled virtuosity with a signature style of clarity, facility, articulation, fluidity, and subtle phrasing. His playing gives the impression of being without limitations. His transcriptions and compositions are remarkably original and well abreast of the latest musical developments, if not ahead of them. Had he remained in France, the group may have been Les Sept, rather than Les Six. He was a progressive spirit, seeking new tonal resources in the recently improved harp of Lyon & Healy, and both inspired other composers and created new works and new styles of music. His composing progressed from French Romantic (Trois Morceaux, Pièce Concertante) to Impressionist (Five Poetical Studies; then quickly progressed into a new style uniquely his own (Preludes Intimes, Five Preludes for Harp Alone). Many harpists objected to his innovations, particularly his concise system of notation, provoking a backlash that continues into present times, yet his influences and contributions remain clearly defined. While a few harpists such as Heidi Lehwalder and Alice Giles have perhaps equalled his virtuosity, neither are composers as well, nor conductor. As a teacher, he was a figure of near-divine inspiration arousing utter devotion among his pupils. He raised the technical and musical standards of playing in the areas of strength, tonal projection, tone quality and color, facility, and his students were thus widely sought-after for leading teaching and orchestral positions.
He influenced many composers with his new ideas for the harp's sounds and notation. They are reflected in such signature works as Offrandes by Edgard Varese, Shelomo by Ernest Bloch, Concerto for Harp by Alberto Ginastera, Serenade no. 10 and Parable by Vincent Persichetti, Suite for Harp and Chamber Orchestra by Harry Somers, Divertissement by Wallingford Riegger, Deux Divertissements by Andre Caplet, Sonata by Tommasini and many other notable works.
His artistic ideas led to the designs of two harps still manufactured by Lyon & Healy, the art-nouveau style 11 and the art deco Salzedo model, which was designed by his friend, the artist Witold Gordon. The Salzedo model harp is based on the number 5, his favorite number, and has five stripes of each color on the sounding board, five sections of the base, five layers in the column, etc., for striking effect. Salzedo harp Style 11
Salzedo authored articles in many musical publications, including Musical America, and was often featured in musical publications as well, in addition to newspapers. For many years, he edited the publications Eolus and Aeolian Review. As serious artistic publications, they featured writing by notable composers such Ernest Bloch and Dane Rudhyar, and artwork by artists such as Witold Gordon in their issues.
He founded the harp program at the Institute of Musical Art in New York City (now the Juilliard School) then led by his protègé Marie Miller, at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he was an influential figure, and at the Salzedo Harp Colony in Camden, Maine, which he co-founded with his then-wife, Lucile Lawrence. He was a member of the Bohemians—the Musician's Club of New York, and a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity.
Salzedo's students numbered in the hundreds. Many continue to perform in symphony orchestras including the Philadelphia, Milwaukee, New Jersey and other symphony orchestras, and formerly occupied the Principal chairs in a great many American orchestras, as well as teaching positions at conservatories and universities. A brief list of just some of the most notable students of Salzedo in chronological order includes Florence Wightman, Casper Reardon, Lucile Lawrence, Edna Phillips, Alice Chalifoux, Lynne Wainwright Palmer, Reinhardt Elster, Marjorie Tyre, Edward Druzinsky, Marilyn Costello, Judy Loman, Heidi Lehwalder, to name a few and to omit many. Currently performing students of Salzedo include Jacquelyn Bartlett, Margarita Czonka Montanaro, Heidi Lehwalder, Danis Kelly, Joan Ceo, Phyllis Ensher-Peters, Jude Mollenhauer, and many more.
in alphabetical order:
Compositions for Cello, Flute, Piano, Trombone, Voice
Five Preludes on the name of Olga (Olga Samaroff-Stokowski), (1917)
The Enchanted Isle a tone poem for Harp and Orchestra (1918), (Lyra)
Poems of Sara Yarrow for soprano, oboe, horn, bassoon, six harps (1919)
Preludes Intimes (1919) (Boosey & Hawkes, 1954)
Four Preludes to the Afternoon of a Telephone for harp duo (1921)
Poem of the Little Stars (1921) (International Music, 1923, Lyra 1985)
Three Poems of Stephane Mallarme for soprano, harp, piano (1924)
Nocturne to Ursula for oboe (1925)
Pentacle Suite for harp duo (1928), (Faith Carman (FC), 1985)
Preambule et Jeux (harp solo, fl, ob, bsn, str quintet) (one movement)
Scintillation (1936) (Elkan-Vogel, 1936)
Panorama Suite (1937)
Vieni, Vieni (1938) (a suite of harp solos, unpublished)
Second Harp parts for Short Stories in Music (1942)
The Art of Modulating (1943) (G. Schirmer, 1950)
Suite of Eight Dances (1943) (G. Schirmer, 1950)
Mimi Suite (1946)
Wedding Presents (1946–52)
Cadenza and editing for the Berezowsky Concerto for Harp (1947) (Elkan-Vogel, 1947)
Conditioning Exercises (1951) (G. Schirmer, 1955)
Deep River (Carl Fischer)
Short Fantasies on:
Song of the Volga Boatman (Carl Fischer)
Beethoven: Adagio from Moonlight Sonata (G. Schirmer)
Cady: Oriental Dance (harp duo)
Daquin: L'Hirondelle (harp duo)
De Falla: Seven Popular Spanish Songs (voice and harp duo) (American Harp Society edition)
Granados: Spanish Dance no. 5 (harp duo) (Southern)
Guion: Alley Tunes—Three Scenes from the South (flute, harp, cello)
Haydn: Theme and Variations (edited) (Carl Fischer)
Meyerbeer: Coronation March from Le Prophete (Elkan-Vogel)
Rimsky-Korsakoff: Revised Cadenza for Capriccio Espagnole (ABC of Harp Playing, Schirmer)
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