The Garden of Peacocks takes listeners on a fascinating journey through the ecelctic repertoire for the harp, beginning with the modern incarnation of the instrument in the early 19th-century through to the 21st century. Jennifer Swartz and Lori Gemmell, two of Canada’s foremost harp virtuosi, perform the selections on this recording, which include arrangements of well-known classical compositions alongside new works by Andy Creegan, Caroline Lizotte, and a transcription of an Eric Clapton tune.
The Garden of Peacocks begins with a transcription for two harps by former Los Angeles Philharmonic harpist Stanley Chaloupka of Respighi’s best known work, Ancient Airs and Dances. The title work on the CD, Le Jardin des Paons, is inspired by the mythological figures of Zeus and Hera and was composed in 1993 by Bernard Andrès, a prize-winning French harpist. Grand Duet was composed by John Thomas, a protége of Lord Byron’s daughter, around 1874 and is one of the first large-scale works for two harps.
The program shifts to three works that stretch the boundaries of the instrument:Caroline Lizotte’s Raga, commissioned in 2006 for Swartz and Judy Loman, is inspired by classical Indian music and takes listeners into an exotic world of rhythmic incantation, ornaments, glissandi and percussive effects. Going West, by Andy Creeggan of Barenaked Ladies fame, was commissioned by Swartz and Gemmell in 2007 with the request that he compose “cowboy music for harp”. The resulting piece incorprates Balinese, Indian, African and European influences together with musical references to the American West. The CD wraps up with a transcription for two harps of an Eric Clapton tune, Signe, by Kevin Fox.