Elias Parish-Alvars was born in Teignmouth, Devon, in 1808 and studied the harp with Théodore 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 of consumption in Vienna only two years later. One of over eighty pieces which he wrote for solo harp, the Grande fantaisie
consists of an introduction (the ‘fantaisie’, Maestoso) followed by a theme (Moderato con espressione) and three variations (Allegro moderato, Brillante and Lento). These are followed by a cadenza and finale (Allegro grazioso), concluding the piece in a blaze of virtuosity.
from notes by Susan Drake © 1989