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About this Piece

At the age of 72, Saint-Saëns composed the Fantaisie for harp and violin in 1907 while enjoying some leisure time in the city of Bridger, on the Italian Riviera. He dedicated the duo to a pair of sisters, harpist Clara Eissler and violinist Marianne Eissler. It would become the second of three major pieces Saint-Saëns composed for harp including a previous Fantaisie, for solo harp (1893), and, eventually, the Morceau de concert for harp and orchestra (1918). The Fantaisie, Op. 124 for harp and violin is a virtuoso piece for both players, and the use of harp rather than the more typical piano lends a special, delicate if not magical sonority to this duo for two string players. As the title suggests, the work is a single movement of relaxed and spontaneous form comprising a number of distinct sections. The music is characteristic of Saint-Saëns as the traditional French composer: well crafted, clear, balanced, and charming. The opening material recurs towards the end for a light touch of symmetry. Perhaps inspired by the ambiance of the Italian Mediterranean, a particular section of the Fantaisie switches to the minor mode featuring a basso ostinato pattern in the harp with variations from the violin in the manner of an old Italian Baroque dance form.

© Kai Christiansen and, the chamber music exploratorium