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Harp as soloist

Australian music for harp

Harp music and harp playing in Australia have a long and rich history, dating back at least to the first half of the 19th century. But it is since the 1950s that Australian composers have really discovered the potential of the harp as a solo and ensemble instrument. Eugene Goossens wrote many works including harp, inspired by his two sisters who were both virtuoso players. Peggy Glanville-Hicks, although based in the USA at this time, undoubtedly influenced many who came after her.

As Australian eyes and ears turned north towards Asia, the sounds of the harp started to evoke increasingly rich explorations. Since the 1970s, composers such as Anne Boyd, Peter Sculthorpe, Barry Conyngham, Richard Meale, and many others have created beautiful soundscapes using all manner of techniques on the instrument.


The list of representative works for harp has been prepared in cooperation with Marshall McGuire.

Representative works

  Work Notes
Sonata for harp (1951) by Peggy Glanville-HicksOne of the great works of the harp repertoire, this work in three movements is brilliantly written for harp, using the full range of colours and timbres from the instrument. A twentieth-century classic.
Threaded stars 2 (2006) by Jennifer FowlerA sparkling, gently evolving work from the London-based Jenny Fowler, Threaded Stars slowly unravels in an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colour.
Chamber of horrors (1995) by Elena Kats-CherninA dramatic way to open or close any recital, Kats-Chernin's piece is about as scary as a three-year-old with a sheet over her head. Full of rich chords and dramatic arpeggios, this piece is now a favourite around the world.
Awakening (1991) by Barry ConynghamWritten with the advanced student in mind, this work (in 11 separate movements) can be played as whole or movement by movement. Some retuning of the harp is necessary to enable a greater range of tunings.
Digital sheet music sample There ain't no harps in hell, angel! (2001) by Colin BrightFor harp and electronics, this is a full-on, rock-and-roll piece for amplified harp and pre-recorded tape. Snippets of AC/DC and Handel frame this fantastic piece.
Digital sheet music sample The harp and the moon (2008) by Ross EdwardsThe newest work from Ross Edwards, this work in two-movements starts as a gentle meditation and turns into a rhythmic dance. Brand new in the harp repertoire, this has already proven a hit with audiences.

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