Valérie Milot: Harping On with 'Aquarelles'

Sunday, February 03, 2013

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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Comments [4]

John from Rockville Centre, NY

There are those with gifts of musical ability and interpretation which defy description. This my friends, is one such artist. RUN, don't walk, and get this album. Tell 'em JR sent ya.

Feb. 17 2013 08:12 PM

Everyone of the selections from this CD have stopped me in my tracks. It is amazing to think this is just a performer with a harp as the lush tones and sounds make one feel as if it could be a performance by an entire orchestra. Job well done on bringing this to the attention of your listeners and KUDOS to this talented woman. Ordering the disk now!

Feb. 10 2013 12:50 PM
Bob from Putnam Valley

Some people dream they can fly. I dream I can play the harp! Beautiful. I just ordered the CD. Can't wait till it gets here.

Feb. 09 2013 07:58 AM
Karen from NYC

Absolutely gorgeous!! Perfect for a snowy evening in New York! Snowflake crystals cascading thru the spheres to harp "Aquarelles"!

Feb. 08 2013 02:56 PM

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The Albums of the Week are compelling new recordings that we spotlight every week. These include creative repertoire choices, engaging musical personalities and artistic statements that stand out from the pack. You can hear the Albums of the Week throughout the day and evening on WQXR.