"Edgar Allan Poe has inspired several pieces for the harp, including the Ballade Fantastique, composed by the French harpist Henriette Renié (1875-1956) after Poe’s short story The Tell-Tale Heart, written in 1843. It is a dramatic and atmospheric work, which Renié herself recorded in an unforgettable performance. The Swiss Julia Wacker, born in 1985, may not quite match Renié’s subtle colour nuances, but she plays the piece very rhetorically and grippingly.
André Caplet’s Conte fantastique for harp and string quartet was written in 1908 and revised in 1923. The composer had originally composed the solo part for the older Pleyel harp, but later arranged it for the richer-sounding Erard harp. This work, too, is played with the greatest eloquence in this recording.
With the Conte Fantastique after Poe’s novella The Mask of the Red Death (1842) Caplet composed a very original and actually still highly relevant piece. In a country threatened by a terrible epidemic, Prince Prospero withdraws to a remote castle to save himself and his friends in a kind of confinement. But at a masked ball in the princely suite, an unknown person in the mask of the Red Death appears and brings death to the castle.
Caplet has used his pen more or less like a camera, compellingly translating the events of the story in a very narrative music. Julia Wacker and the Galatea Quartet put the gruesome events into musical terms in an incredibly exciting and dramatic way.
For his solo piece A Wind Blew Out of a Cloud Swiss conductor and composer Thüring Bräm (*1944) has used Poe’s poem Annabel Lee. Bräm took the line A Wind Blew Out of a Cloud from this poem in which the writer deals with the death of his wife and written a seven-minute meditation about it, which Julia Wacker performs excitingly. In general, the way Wacker uses the harp as a drama instrument is absolutely enchanting and catchy.
The moods of the music are extended by readings from the Poe works that serve as models for the music. Petra Auer is the sensitive narrator."