Eleanor Kirk, harp 


February 3, 2021

Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts

David Schwan, host


Sophia Dussek – Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Op. 2 (11′)

I. Allegro

II. Andantino

III. Rondo-Allegro

Lili Boulanger; trans. Kirk – D’un Jardin Clair (3′)

Florence Price; trans. Kirk – Sketches in Sepia (3′)

Marcel Grandjany – Children’s Hour, Op. 25 (11′)

I. Into Mischief

II. Little Angel

III. Giddap Pony

IV. Playing in the Garden

V. Parade

VI. The Sandman

Brandee Younger – Essence of Ruby (6′)


Eleanor Kirk serves as the Principal Harpist with both the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, and Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Season highlights from the past year include guest principal appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, the Ring Cycle at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and a Midwest tour with the Chicago Harp Quartet. Eleanor is a founding member of 5th Wave Collective, a Chicago based classical music ensemble dedicated to the performance and promotion of music by womxn, where she performs and works as development director. She is a passionate educator, teaching in her private studio, and as Harp faculty at The People’s Music School, the only completely free music school serving Chicago metropolitan area children. Kirk holds degrees from Chicago College of Performing Arts, and Columbia University; her major teachers are Sarah Bullen, Lynn Williams, and June Han. 

Sophia Dussek (1775-1831)

Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Op. 2  

Sophia Giustina Dussek was a prolific performer and composer, giving recitals as a pianist, harpist, and soprano in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Originally published under her husband’s name, and in a set of six “Sonatas with Scots Airs and Reels” Sophia Dussek’s C Minor Sonata evokes emotional intensity within the classical sonata form, and is reminiscent of her contemporaries, Haydn and Beethoven. The first movement opens with a spirited, driving bass line, then transitions into a plaintive, slower second movement, and finally closes with the playful “Rondo-Allegro”.

Lili Boulanger (1893-1918)

trans. Eleanor Kirk

D’un Jardin Clair (1914) 

For many of us, Lili Boulanger is known only as the sister of famed composition teacher Nadia, but Lili deserves a place in history in her own right. I started listening to her work after playing a few of her orchestral works, and was drawn to her Trois Morceaux Pour Piano for its effortless grace, inventive harmonies, and unexpected melodic turns. D’un vieux Jardin (“Of an Aged Garden”) is the second piece in the set, and builds on an elegant melody, eventually leading to a cascade of descending fourths in an instantly French sound. The piece works beautifully on the harp, and it’s been wonderful to work on adapting the different textures to the instrument.


Florence Price (1887-1953)

trans. Eleanor Kirk

Sketches in Sepia (1947) 

Florence Price’s Sketches in Sepia is another transcription from the piano literature, adapted for harp. Price, a Chicago native, achieved great renown as the first female African American composer to have a work performed by a major symphony orchestra (our hometown Chicago Symphony in 1933). This lyrical work for piano is written in ternary form, and we can clearly hear the contrast between the legato ‘A’  section, and its uptempo, rhythmically driven counterpart. The return to the original theme deepens in harmonies, and brings the work back to it’s tranquil beginnings.

Marcel Grandjany (1891-1975)

Children’s Hour, Op. 25 (1947) 

Marcel Grandjany was an incredibly virtuousic harpist, organist, and composer who brought French harp technique to the United States in the twentieth century. After studying at the Paris Conservatory, he went on to head the Juilliard harp department, and taught many prominent harpists at his post there. The movements of Grandjany’s Children’s Hour were composed separately as technical studies for his students, and later assembled into the suite we hear today. As with the best etudes, the technical problem served to inspire the composer’s imagination, and these charming pieces each evoke a different childhood scene.

Brandee Younger (b. 1983)

Essence of Ruby (2016) 

Brandee Younger is a classically trained, American harpist who carries on and evolves the jazz, soul, and funk traditions of Dorthy Ashby and Alice Coltrane. Younger seeks to “make the harp a more relevant force in today’s music”, and injects the instrument into artful arrangements and compositions. Her work Essence of Ruby was originally written for a small ensemble of harp, electric bass, drums, tenor sax, and flute in 2015, and was later adapted for harp solo in 2018. The title is a nod to Dorthy Ashby’s Essence of Sapphire, and Younger references harmonies in Grandjany’s Children’s Hour Suite in the B section of the piece.



Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts are made possible through the generosity of the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council and the Union League Club of Chicago.
Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts are presented in partnership with the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and 98.7 WFMT

Don’t miss Brian Hong and Victor Asuncion

next week on the

Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts!

Wednesday February 10, 12:15pm

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