Alfred Kastner Deux Esquisses
The late 19th century harpists were inveterate travelers. Originally from Vienna and a student of Zamara, Kastner moved from job to job throughout Europe and the East Coast. He ended up in California as a founding member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Kastner was a close friend of Fritz Kreisler, and his home was famous for welcoming the many prominent Austrian emigres that had taken refuge in the Hollywood area before World War II. His late-romantic compositions, so different from the well-known French repertoire, date back to his early years in Europe and England. They show in essence how Mahler’s powerful and long-winded orchestral concepts would sound on the solo harp. Whether shorter character pieces in ABA form or longer, substantial compositions, Albumblätter, Serenade, Etude de Concert, Romance Fantastique and Mazurka Caprice all demand to be performed in what Stella Castellucci, his last living student, called “the grand manner”. Think Mahlerian grandeur painted with a vigorous brush, and schleppend chord textures resolved at the conclusion of long sweeping phrases.