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Playlist No. 47: Harpist Bridget Kibbey Selects

Thursday, March 4, 2021, 8:00 PM

Program

To kick off our month-long celebration of Women's History Month, get to know the "Yo-Yo Ma of the harp" (Vogue) and Avery Fisher Career Grant-winning harpist Bridget Kibbey, who is renowned for her ability to cross genres, as she redefines the role of the harp across centuries and cultures. You can begin by listening to her curated playlist as part of our Collective Listening Project and hear Bridget play when she comes together with three other trailblazing women virtually at the end of the month for our next Watch Party event. LEARN MORE>

LISTEN TO THE PLAYLIST>

This playlist project gave me the most lovely realization: All of my choices here came about via moments of friendship…conversation, travel, or time in each other’s homes…it’s chances to connect and be challenged (like Marna Seltzer has crafted in this very project) that enlarge my palette for listening. It’s delightful to see so many friends here who’ve “passed through” Princeton this season, and I look forward to discovering their choices…and meeting you very soon!

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Doráti, conductor
One of my favorite surprises during the pandemic has been a developing friendship with my neighbor, Matthew, in Hudson Heights, Manhattan. Meeting for coffee in the park, we discuss recordings via interpretation, historical context, and the cultural migration patterns that influenced it all. Matthew isn’t a musician—but his ears are so sharpened and his record collection so vast—his comments have made me more aware… and a better harpist! So, the following is a new-to-me discovery, thanks to Matthew.

Although it’s an iconic work…and a historic recording, Maestro Doráti’s interpretation with the London Symphony Orchestra makes you feel like you’re hearing a world-premiere, with vitality jumping off the speakers. Listen to the crispness of the articulation in the first movement—the shortened bow, that heavy bow pressure…a note finishing as clearly as it begins…it creates an incisiveness that grips the ear. The 2nd movement tempo is so agile and simple (no over-romanticism here!), just a developing line with changing motors. It allows Beethoven’s clearly crafted architecture to shine. Then that seamless transition and timing of the 4th movement is so glorious.

The intention behind the recording challenges me to hear articulation anew on the harp.

SERGIO ASSAD Recife dos Corais ("Coral Reef"), from Três Cenas Brasileiras ("Three Brazilian Scenes")
Sergio & Odair Assad, guitars
Years ago, I was visiting a friend in Belgium, who happened to be studying with guitarist Odair Assad at the time. He introduced me to the Assad brothers’ record The Debut Concert—Live in Brussels, 1983. There was no going back. These brothers, performing together since early youth, have flanked the great Jacob do Bandolim, commissioned the greatest of Brazilian composers, while writing themselves to add to the body of rep we call "Brazilian Popular Music." For a specific track, I’ve chosen an iconic work of Sergio Assad. It showcases the seamless way these two brothers weave their sound and energy in a ball of playful joy.

I’m also fan of the region depicted. Although I’ve yet to visit (c’mon 2022!)…Recife boasts a lesser-known Carnaval, but the best rhythms! Maracatu, Frevo…. With fancy feet-work, brass bands, and twirling umbrellas, this is heart-on-your-sleeve celebration.

CLAUDE DEBUSSY String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10
Quatuor Ébène
The Ébène Quartet has developed one of the most beautiful, organic string quartet sounds! In the 3rd movement of Debussy’s String Quartet, the manner in which one voice comes out of the texture to lead the mix is stunning. An example? Debussy has this magical thing he does about three minutes into the 3rd movement: The viola plays a sort of Gregorian chant-like solo, ends on a final suspended pitch, while the other strings enter on the quietest chord to respond. The same thing happens three times. It’s like a mystic stating an eternal truth…a moment of digesting it… and then those listening chime in for an awe-inspired “Amen.” Of course, Debussy’s incredible harmonic choices surprise, bend, and twist to completely manipulate our emotions in the most sublime way. The Ébène Quartet doesn’t miss a beat in interpreting (see what I did there).

JOAQUÍN TURINA Sevillana (Fantasía), Op. 29
Andrés Segovia, guitar
Being a harpist, I’m a fan of all things plucked. And perhaps my obsession with the guitar stems from viewing the harp as…indeed a massive guitar! Or, perhaps the guitar has so often created the backdrop for songs, laments, and dances of the mighty to the lowly throughout history. It’s truly a soulful history; and Andrés Segovia is my timeless beacon, here playing Turina’s Sevillana. Although you can clearly see and hear the flamenco dancers in the opening, it’s the interior lines that contain such subtle shifts in color, note-by-note… it becomes a blend of French and Spanish aesthetics. In fact, composer Turina studied with the great French masters but brought his own Spanish native folk music to his writing, so Segovia’s interpretations ring true every time. He takes his time to let the color bleed and bend into a new emotion…or, letting the rhythm rip in unabashed pride.

I’ve stared at Segovia’s guitars at the Met Museum and sighed a couple times, on more than one occasion.