Valérie Milot: Harping On with 'Aquarelles'

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The title “Aquarelles,” or watercolors, doesn’t entirely do justice to a new album by the Canadian harpist Valérie Milot. Harp music often gets a bad rap for being wishy-washy and bland but Milot plays with a vivid tone, nimble fingers and ear-tickling nuance in a rich collection of original harp pieces and transcriptions.

Born and raised in Trois-Rivières, Québec, Milot studied at her hometown conservatory before traveling to New York to continue her studies with Rita Costanzi. In her young career, Milot has shown a willingness to stretch out stylistically, as with her last album, a collection of Simon & Garfunkel transcriptions with violinist Antoine Bareil.

Her fifth release for the Analekta label features several well-polished gems, including Satie’s three Gymnopédies, the Clair de lune by Claude Debussy and Franz Liszt’s Third Liebestraüme. Smetana’s The Moldau sounds surprisingly rich and orchestral. 

But particularly interesting are two slightly more recent works. Marcel Tournier’s Suite No. 4 “Images” offers three evocative tableaux that feature some striking effects of register and sweeping glissando effects. Pour le tombeau d’Orphée by the late Dutch composer Marius Flothuis has a broad expressive arc that highlights the instrument’s ethereal qualities while Henriette Renié’s Légende has a declarative sweep.

Below, watch Milot in the album's final piece, Zaragoza, from Isaac Albéniz’s second Spanish Suite

Valérie Milot, harp
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