Jing-I Jang- Harpist, Pianist

Introduction and Variations on Bellini’s “Norma,” op. 36 for Harp and Orchestra
Program Notes
by Jing-I Jang

Introduction and Variations on Bellini’s “Norma,” op. 36 by Elias Parish Alvars was composed in 1838. It is based on a theme from Vincenzo Bellini’s opera Norma (1831).Parish Alvars was a virtuoso performer and a prolific composer. During his brief lifetime, his activities as a performer, composer, and teacher elevated the harp from its status as a salon instrument to a viable concert solo instrument and helped promote the use of the double-action pedal harp (only recently developed and patented by Sébastien Érard in 1810) in orchestral works in the mid-nineteenth century.

The introduction is followed by the theme Parish Alvars chose to set from the opera, followed by three variations and an Andante and concludes with the Finale, which is also adapted from the opera. In the orchestral version, the instrumentation is mainly used as an accompaniment to the solo harp and serves the function of embellishing the solo harp melody through long sustained notes, string pizzicato, doubling of the thematic line, or by answering the solo harp motives. Between each variation and the last Finale section, there are additional orchestra interlude passages in the orchestral version, while these passages are absent in the solo harp version.

The solo version of the Introduction and Variations on Bellini’s “Norma” has enjoyed a return to the repertoire. However, the version with orchestral accompaniment had never been published and is largely unknown. It is originally titled Fantasy on some motives of Norma.

I have created and edited a modern edition of this work, which was previously not available. The first modern performance of the orchestral version for harp and orchestra was given as part of my Doctoral project with the Illinois University School of Music Orchestra on September 14, 2008. The piano reduction, harp part and score were launched at the Eleventh World Harp Congress, Vancouver, Canada on 27 July 2011. Music has recently published by Adlais Music Publishers, and is now available from harp.com.

Listen here for the Finale part of the Norma variations for harp and orchestra, which was recorded live when I premiered this piece in 2008 at the University of Illinois.

copyright © 2011 Jing-I Jang