Introducing the Antique Erard Harp of the Tunisian National Symphony Orchestra

  • 23/02/2015

Maia is currently in Tunisia, putting back into shape the antique pedal harp of the National Symphony Orchestra. It was built more than 100 years ago, in 1908, by none other than the house of Sébastien Erard. Erard invented the ‘double action’ mechanism that allows harpists to change keys and play chromatic alterations. His system of 7 pedals with 3 positions each (flat, natural & sharp), patented in 1810, was met with immediate success and is still used today — albeit with mechanical improvements. Although the house of Erard stopped producing harps in 1959, their instruments are still very much sought after.

The harp was bought by the Orchestre de la Radiodiffusion Française à Tunis in 1948 and had not been played since 1956. It is a Gothic model, named after its richly sculpted golden column. The soundboard is narrow (as was the case for all harps at that period), which means the sound is not as loud as that of modern, wider concert harps. On the other hand, it has a very precise attack and rather defined timbre, especially in the bass. The wood of the harp is relatively well preserved. The mechanism however suffered from the wear of time and needs work.

Maia is now based in Tunis although she will be travelling frequently to other countries to continue her concert work. In Tunisia, she will continue studying Arab and Berber traditional musics and investigating ways of transcribing them for her instrument.

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