Hannah Lash: a premier at Chautauqua

Composer and Harpist Hannah Lash

2016 Click! Composer-in-Residence and harpist Hannah Lash joins the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra on Sunday, July 31 as soloist for the world premiere of her Harp Concerto No. 2, commissioned by CMF through audience contributions to its Click Program.

New music is the life blood of any music festival that hopes to sustain itself for the long term and so this is a hugely important part of CMF’s programming. Hannah took time out of her busy week here in Boulder to answer a few questions on her new work.


ST: Tell us a little about how you decided what to write for the Click! commission?

HL: Well, I had just finished writing my first harp concerto, and had ideas for a second one — I was thinking about a more extended three movement form so I thought I’d like to do that!

ST: Your first Harp Concerto was premiered just last October at Carnegie Hall. What was that experience like?

HL: It was really wonderful — I did feel the pressure that I think is sort of inevitably associated with the idea of playing in Carnegie Hall; it was my first time there, and to have your first time there as a soloist can be a little intimidating!

But what was fun was that I felt the audience listening: after about the first minute I just knew they were with me; the hall was totally silent, and the energy was incredible.

But what was fun was that I felt the audience listening: after about the first minute I just knew they were with me; the hall was totally silent, and the energy was incredible.

Hannah Lash Harp Concerto No. 1

ST: Does the second concerto have different goals or inspirations than the first?

HL: Yes, of course. The first concerto is a single movement form. I’m really interested in playing and interacting with a traditional three-movement concerto format in the second concerto, but in a very personal and reimagined way.

The harp’s relationship to the orchestra is a particularly poignant one for me as a harpist, because the harp is traditionally more an effect or burst of color rather than a real and fully independent voice. So what I did in my piece was to highlight and sometimes invert this relationship. In the first movement, the orchestra is truly accompanying the harp, never challenging it’s supremacy.

In the second movement, the orchestra and the harp live in two totally different musical worlds, and the orchestra seems constantly to be threatening the harp. The harp never cedes, and continues serenely playing some very quiet and nostalgic music. In the third movement, the harp and orchestra truly interact, the harp as a solo voice in conversation with the orchestra.

ST: Your concerto is programmed in between pieces by Bach and Richard Strauss. Are there any influences or shared ideas we should listen out for across the three works?

HL: Well, maybe not totally explicitly, but both those composers are inspiring to me. In my piece I think you’ll hear a lot of contrapuntal writing, which reflects my love of Bach. I also think you might hear a sort of harmonic leaning and expressivity that might remind you of Strauss in some ways. But I didn’t know what the rest of the program would be when I sat down to write my piece, so these are just general characteristics and not direct inspirations.

ST: As a performer, what’s your favorite writing for the harp? Why?

HL: I think my favorite piece for solo harp is Fauré’s Une châtelaine en sa tour. This is an incredibly difficult piece, even though its surface is not necessarily overly virtuosic. But what I love about it is the compositional tightness; it plays with the idea of canon throughout in ways that are beautifully subtle. The material is so delicate and so finely wrought.

Hannah Lash performs Fauré’s Une châtelaine en sa tour, Op.110

Hannah’s compositions are published by Schott.

2016 Click! Composer-in-Residence and harpist Hannah Lash joins the CMF Orchestra on Sunday, July 31 as soloist for the world premiere of her Harp Concerto No. 2, commissioned by CMF through audience contributions to its Click Program.

The program also includes three other masterworks from three centuries — Bach’s dancelike Orchestral Suite No. 1, Beethoven’s energetic Symphony No. 1, Richard Strauss’ lyrical Duet-Concertino, which showcases two of CMF virtuosic principal musicians — clarinetist, Louis DeMartino and bassoonist, Glenn Einschlag.