Elias Parish-Alvars was born in Teignmouth, Devon, in 1808 and studied the harp with Theodore Labarre, François Dizi and Robert Bochsa before becoming the most celebrated performer of his day. He was greatly admired by Mendelssohn, and by Berlioz who called him ‘The Liszt of the harp’. He toured Europe from 1831 to 1836 and the near East from 1838 to 1841. His compositions include many of the national melodies of the countries he visited. He is reputed to have had a formidable technique (it is said that he played at sight, on the harp, the Chopin piano sonatas and the Beethoven and Hummel concertos) and many of his pieces must be among the most demanding in the harp’s literature. He was appointed chamber harpist to the Emperor of Austria in 1847 but died in Vienna only two years later of consumption.
The Grand Study in imitation of the mandoline was composed late in 1844 or early 1845, inspired by his visit to Naples. The Romance in G flat major, one of a set of pieces published as Op 48, is preceded by a few lines from Lord Byron:
It was enough for me to be
so near, to hear and—oh! to see
The being whom I loved the most.
from notes by Susan Drake © 1983