CD A0163: The Eternal Dreamer by David Watkins

The Eternal Dreamer by David Watkins

CD Cover: The Eternal Dreamer by David Watkins

A world class recording from a world class harpist. David Watkins performs Tournier, Prokofiev, Glinka, Liszt, Parish Alvars, Zabel, Mathias, Debussy, Ruiz-Pipo and Watkins! The CD includes the first recording of his Passacaglia In Memoriam Tsunami, published by Adlais in 2005.

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Track Listing & Audio Samples

1 Etude de Concert (Au Matin) TOURNIER
2 L’Éternal Rêveur TOURNIER
3 Vers la Source dans le Bois TOURNIER
4 Lolita la Danseuse TOURNIER
5 Pièce for Eleonora PROKOFIEV
6 Pittoresco PROKOFIEV
7 Prelude in C (Opus 12 No.7) PROKOFIEV
8 Nocturne GLINKA
9 Nocturne CHOPIN
10 Nocturne (Consolations No.3) LISZT
11 -14 Four Romances PARISH ALVARS  
1:41 0:41 3:28 1:03
15 Sad Marguerite at the Spinning Wheel ZABEL
16 The Fountain ZABEL
17-19 Three Improvisations MATHIAS  
1:26 2:31 11:21
20 La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin DEBUSSY
21 Première Arabesque DEBUSSY
22-23 Cançion y Danza RUIZ-PIPO  
2:16 1:52
24 Passacaglia In Memoriam Tsunami WATKINS
  Petite Suite WATKINS
25 Prelude  
26 Nocturne  
27 Fire Dance    

CD Notes & Credits

Sleeve Notes

Marcel Tournier 1879-1951

A distinguished composer and harpist who won the coveted‘Prix de Rome’ (a prize that eluded Maurice Ravel) and whose teaching at the Paris Conservatoire inspired a whole generation of harpists.

Etude de Concert - Au Matin (In The Morning) is a concert study, playful, sparkling and brilliant and performed by all harp players.

L’Éternel Rêveur (The Eternal Dreamer) The cello-like melodic line of this Nocturne breathes poetry into this sensitive and rather introverted composition.

Vers la Source dans le Bois (Toward the Waterfall in the Forest) This is an outstanding example of the one of enharmonics (two adjacent strings tuned to the same note) in a composition which depicts the cascading of water.

Lolita la Danseuse (Lolita, the Dancer) seems to be the typical North African dancer, subtle, sensual and exciting who perhaps, in the end, throws off all her beads!

Sergei Prokofiev 1891-1953

Prokofiev’s astringent and personal style is shown in these three pieces which make an effective little suite’.

Pièce for Eleonora was written for the harpist Eleonora Damskaya and found in her music after her death. Both she and Prokofiev were student friends. It is rather a sinister slow march with a middle section of filagree arpeggios in an obsessive and repetitive harmonic idea.

Pittoresco (Visions Fugutives No.7) This piece was brought to my attention by the conductor Jack Lanchbery when I was playing at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. He orchestrated it for a ballet and suggested that I should play it as a harp solo. Subsequently I found that Marcel Grandjany performed it in a concert at the Salle Erard, Paris in 1927. The piece has a strange logic and is rather haunting. The original for piano is subtitled ‘Arpa’.

Prelude in C (Opus 12 No.7) was written at the beginning of the 20th century for piano or harp. Exquisite arpeggios of breathtaking lightness and speed frame a middle section of earthy bass notes under cut-glass stacatti.

The Dawn of Romanticism

Mikhail Glinka 1804-1857 Nocturne

Frederick Chopin 1810-1849 Nocturne

Franz Liszt 1811-1886 Nocturne, (Consolations No.3)

Elias Parish Alvars 1808-1849 Four Romances M-W14, M-W18, M-W100, M-W81

Albert Zabel 1835-1910 Sad Marguerite at the Spinning Wheel, The Fountain

John Field (1782-1837) was the real founder of the Romantic Movement in music. Irish pianist and composer, his one movement nocturnes inspired the compositions of Glinka, Chopin. Liszt, Parish Alvars and many others. He travelled to St. Petersburg and became Glinka's teacher. The beautiful Nocturne in E flat written by Glinka especially for the harp in 1828, is very much in Field’s mould.

Following this tradition. Chopin wrote his fascinating Nocturne in C# minor (played here in C minor) before he left Poland He dedicated it to his elder sister Louise "for practice before she starts playing my concerto.” The Nocturne is filled with fragments from his Concerto in F minor but moulded together in a cohesive whole that gives this masterpiece a powerful emotional impact

Franz Liszt was a great lover of the harp and even encouraged harpists to play transcriptions of his piano music in their concerts. His Nocturne (Consolations No. 3) is still very much in the tradition of Field and contains modulations that must have been quite astonishing for musicians at that time. Elias Parish Alvars, born in Teignmouth in Devon, was the most famous harp virtuoso of the first half of the nineteenth century. Berlioz called him the“Liszt of the harp”.

Some of his Nocturnes (or Romances as Parish Alvars called them) are still in manuscript form in the famous Morley Harp Library There are over one hundred of then and I have given them Morley-Watkins numbers and published those that I liked the best.

Albert Zabel was a German harpist who went to St. Petersburg, becoming a musician in the Imperial Ballet where his playing inspired Tchaikovsky.

Many of his compositions were dedicated to his titled students and Sad Marguerite and The Fountain are characteristic of his late romantic style.

William Mathias 1934-1992

William Mathias is the most famous of Welsh composers with strong ties to his Welsh roots. Bill and his lovely wife Yvonne, were my closest friends when we were all students at the Royal Academy of Music. The Improvisations were written for me at this time. A doting Great Aunt gave me £5 at my 21st birthday party which I passed under the table to ‘pay’ for this fine composition.

Since then, Bill wrote several harp solos including a Concerto, but the Improvisations remain my favourite work.

Three Improvisations. The first movement is a ‘toccata’ - rather in the eighteenth century tradition, the second a Nocturne, which is a subtle interplay between the treble and the bass of the instrument. The third is remarkable far the rhythmic vitality that is created in a piece of such brevity.

Charles Debussy 1862-1918

La Fille au Cheveux de Lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair) is taken from his Piano Préludes written in 1910. His impressionistic approach a already very evident, with colour, sonority and dynamic contrast suspended between heaven and earth. Birds singing outside the church during the recording enhance the feelings of nature!

Première Arabesque (First Arabesque) is a piano piece written in 1888. It is a rather romantic piece, but with glimpses of Debussy’s later style. However I have to admit that it is one of those rare keyboard pieces which sounds better on the harp!

Antonio Ruiz-Pipo 1934-1997

Cançion y Danza. I have such a debt of gratitude to Antonio whose musical influence I feel to this day When I was studying in Paris, he introduced me to so much Spanish music, both ancient and modern. I shall never forget his playing of early keyboard sonatas and I stole some of them for the harp. The Cançion y Danza was stolen from the guitar as I was completely seduced by the music. So Antonio and I transcribed it for the harp and I have been playing it ever since. Both movements hark back to the Renaissance - Cançion with a beautiful long melodic line and Danza with hypnotic rhythms.

David Watkins

In Memoriam (Tsunami) The ‘In Memoriam’ was written for the talented young harpist Verity Thirkettle.

I was horrified when we went to war in Iraq and wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury and received a kind personal letter from him. Then the Asian Tsunami happened and I wrote the ‘In Memoriam’ remembering so much human suffering.

The Passacaglia is based on the repetitive pattern of four bass notes - Eb, Ab, Db, Bb and back to Eb. It is brutally broken by a discordant E as the wave engulfs everything in its path. Time goes on and peace and hope return.

Petite Suite
(Prelude - Nocturne - Fire Dance)
The 'Petite Suite’ was my first major composition and was written out of the frustration of only being allowed to play studies and exercises in my first year of student life in Paris. Since then I have been composing and arranging music continuously including a Harp Concerto that I performed with the London Philharmonic at the Royal Festival Hall conducted by Walter Susskind, a Concerto for Two Harps, chamber music and songs.

The first movement (Prelude) is a sparkling barcarolle welcoming Spring. From a boat one sees the swallows skimming over the water with their joyful cries and there is a feeling of happiness and regeneration.

The Nocturne is more somber. A thunderstorm seems about to break, but instead, the clouds open and a black velvety sky is hung with stars.

The Fire Dance was inspired by the music from Paraguay. Rhythmically compelling it is a 'hot little number'!

David Watkins


Recorded in St. Mary's Parish Church, Chipping Norton, March 2007
Recording and editing: Paul Arden-Taylor DDD 24-bit.
Cover photo© David Markson. Design and layout

©2007 David Watkins

Album Information

Instruments:      Harp
Genre: Classical
Format: CD
Our Ref: A0163
MCPS: DD0-CD-471
Label: Disque D'or
Year: 2007
Origin: UK

Artist Information & Contact Details

Photograph of David Watkins

While still at school, he was a member of the National Youth Orchestra and a finalist in a Daily Mirror Competition for young instrumentalists. After studying at the Royal Academy of Music, a French Government Scholarship enabled him to continue his studies with Solange Renié in Paris. Returning to London, Solti those him to play with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. It was a ‘Golden Age’ which included performances by Callas, Sutherland, Schwarzkopf, Fonteyn and Nureyev. He then became a founder member of the new Welsh National Opera Company under the direction of James Lockhart and, after a short time with the Royal Philharmonic joined the London Philharmonic under the batons of Boult, Solti, Haitink and Tennstedt.

His solo concerts have taken him all over the world, performing many of the compositions that have been written especially for him. He has also performed as soloist with the London Philharmonic. BBC Philharmonic, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, etc. and appeared as soloist with the London Sinfonietta at the London‘Proms’ with Sir Simon Rattle conducting.

Since winning first prize in an International American Competition with his composition‘Petite Suite’ for Harp, he has written many pieces including the ‘Concertina Pastorale’, which he played with the London Philharmonic at the Royal Festival Hall, Walter Susskind conducting.

With Princess Grace of Monaco, he devised a recital of poetry and music for the official engagement of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

In 2000 he was Principal Harpist at a ‘Prom’ Concert given by the World Orchestra for Peace conducted by Gergiev. This orchestra was composed of principal musicians from the world’s great orchestras.

Recent concerts have included a performance of his solo harp concerto and his new Concerto for Two Harps with the Budapest Strings, and a solo recital attended by the widow of Zoltan Kodály.

In 2004 he gave concerts and master classes in France, Germany and Italy.

He has recently formed a duo with the distinguished violinist Michael Bochmann.

His recording of Ravel’s Introduction & Allegro with the National Philharmonic became a bestseller in the USA, and other highly acclaimed recordings have been issued by RCA, Meridian and Pyramid.

For many years he was Professor of Harp at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and has written a ‘Method’ for the harp published by Boosey and Hawkes.

How the Harp Chose Me

At the age of fourteen I started making clavichords and harpsichords in the wonderfully equipped work-shops at Oundle School. A chance discovery of an old harp (lying under a pile of coal in the Science Block.’) changed my life.

Deriving from the hunter’s bow, the harp is one of the oldest instruments in the world. Playing it is real ‘musical sculpture’ as all the dynamics and tone colours are achieved by the hands alone.

The modern harp is tuned like the white notes of a piano (diatonically) and a system of seven pedals (one for every note of the scale) is able to produce three notes out of each string - flat, natural and sharp. Throughout history, the harp has enjoyed a revered position in society, whether in a spiritual or sensual context.

It has played a part in folk music accompanying the voice or the dance, and its modern counterpart lends its voluptuous voice to orchestral texture.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the early pedal harp spawned an extensive solo repertoire and now, the contemporary harp has an important voice in ‘Avant Garde’ music and Music Therapy.

Contact Details David Watkins
Vanbrugh House
7 High Street
Artists Web Site

David Watkins Recordings and Compositions

Available from Creighton's Collection:
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The Glory of the Harp The Triumph of Time Part I The Triumph of Time Part II The Eternal Dreamer Sacred & Profane
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Concerti & Chamber Music Music for Flute & Harp      
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In Memoriam
Tirlun Cymreig
A Welsh Landscape
First Easy-Medium Grade Book
First Medium-Difficult Grade Book