It was a fortunate group of 50 invited guests who were on hand to hear a concert by harpist Noēl Wan in the lovely Pebble Beach home of Christine and Jerry Baker on Sunday afternoon. The concert was a fund raiser for the Carmel Music Society’s biennial competition and also served as a return engagement for Ms. Wan, the Grand Prize Winner of the Society’s 2014 competition. The weather outside was dark and threatening, and the churning Pacific Ocean was clearly visible via the beautiful panoramic view from the Baker’s home. However, Noēl Wan was master of the elements seated behind her Lyon & Healy Harp drawing beautiful music from its strings.
Although in her Sunset Center recital last May we heard two of the works on this program, Sicilienne Variée by Jean-Michel Damase and Le Carnival de Venise by Félix Godefroid, everything else on the program was refreshingly new. This is not surprising, for harp recitals are so rare, we are not likely to overdose on the instrument’s repertoire. The bottom line is that her playing is uniquely masterful, and she makes it all look so very easy.
The concert opened with a Sonata for Harp by Jan Ladislav Dussek, a Toccata in F Major by Jean Baptiste Loeillet and a transcription for harp of Bach’s Concerto in the Italian Style. Hearing the “Italian Concerto” played on the harp gave us an entirely new perspective on this familiar work as did her performance of another transcription from a keyboard work, the Deux Arabesques by Debussy.
Ultimately it was the last two works on the program, Henriette Renié’s Pièce Symphonique en trois episodes and Godefroid’s Le Carnival de Venise, a work that exists in many forms, were the two “show stoppers” demonstrating the extraordinary and masterful artistry we have come to expect from Ms. Wan.
We predict a great future for Noël Wan.