Czech harpist Katerina Englichova, all of 26 years old, arrived at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wednesday for a dazzling and at least somewhat diverse showcase on a neglected instrument.
The harp is one of those narrowly perceived instruments, too often relegated to a role as coloristic window dressing. In her mostly solo performance, the young virtuoso conveyed anything but that.
Particularly in the first half, she worked with material--such as a genteel Sonata by the Bohemian classical era composer Jan Ladislav Dussek--that supported the harp's archetype as a producer of flowing romantic sonorities and celestial arpeggios. The Fantasy for Violin and Harp by Saint-Saens, played nimbly by violinist Ioana Missits, came across with requisite delicacy and subtle power. It was all lovely to behold.
Just when you thought the concert would go no further than "lovely," Englichova ushered out the evening's most exciting works. After the intermission came the brief but potent Suite for Harp Solo of Benjamin Britten. Britten's work, played masterfully here, introduced modern intrigue, polytonality, almost jazzy syncopations and a generally cryptic charm. Britten's "Lachrymae," Opus 48, originally for viola and piano but adapted here for harp, found Englichova and violist Kira Blumberg working a gutsy musical language. Post-impressionistic fiber from composer Carlos Salzedo, full of gushing harp cascades and angular turns, closed the program muscularly.