Naoko Yoshino’s status as a cultured musician and a harpist of superb technical control is asserted in the opening track of this, her first solo recording. Her phrasing is finely moulded, her articulation splendidly varied and clear, her use of tone colour enhancing but not obtrusive, her sound happily free from the mechanical noises that are the harpist’s bête noire – the low-register trill in the first movement of the Spohr (first at 1'40'') isn’t as easy as it is made to sound here, and she is most adept in preventing notes from outstaying their musical welcome. In short, one may listen to the message without being overly conscious of the medium.
Recordings of romantic harp music often lean heavily on pleasant pieces by harpists, spiced with tricks of the instrument’s trade, and arrangements; here, only the Debussy is arranged (the Prokofiev is marked “for piano or harp”), and the only tricksy bits are in Tournier’s piece, more ragtime than jazz; gestural sweeps across the strings, and sound ‘cumuli’ are in thankfully short supply. Casella offers the most substantial fare in what is in fact a more than usually interesting programme of this instrumental genre.
Yoshino is a musician, whose instrument happens to be the harp, and it shows to far better advantage than it has done in her previous recordings in various ensemble situations. Suppress any hesitation you may feel when faced with a harp-solo disc; this one is highly recommended.
by John Duarte