The descriptive miniatures of Alphonse Hasselmans and Henriette Renié: an examination of the pedagogical and artistic significance of salon pieces for harp
Characterized by the ascendance of the double-action pedal harp and a resulting evolution in harp literature and performance practice, the modern French school of harp developed at the fin de siècle. Belgian harp virtuoso and composer Alphonse Hasselmans (1845-1912) founded this new method after his appointment as professor of harp at the Paris Conservatory in 1884. Championed by his most beloved student, harp prodigy and composer Henriette Renié, the French school of harp flourished in the early twentieth century. This document offers an examination of the relationship between Hasselmans and Renié, as well as a study of their salon pieces for harp. Chapter one, an overview of the political and religious environment of France during the Third Republic, explains how government and gender stereotypes affected the lives of these musicians. It also provides a concise history of the role of the harp in Parisian salons and assesses the importance of program music during the belle époque to illustrate how Hasselmans' and Renié's descriptive works fit into a broader cultural and musical context. Chapter two provides a detailed study of the close, but at times tumultuous, rapport between these composers. The analysis of their relationship is supported by unpublished primary source material, including letters from Hasselmans to Renié and anecdotes from Renié's memoirs, from the Henriette Renié (1875-1956) and Françoise des Varennes (1919-2004) Papers located at the International Harp Archives at Brigham Young University. Building on the previous discussion, chapter three details the compositional influence of Hasselmans' works on those of Renié through similarities in genre, form, and compositional style. Chapter four discusses the pedagogical features of the salon pieces that resulted from this collaboration. Although the works are recognized for their pedagogical value, harpists today rarely appreciate their worth as performance pieces. To correct this oversight, chapter five illustrates the artistic showcases that the performance and recording of these works offer to seasoned performers. Despite their vital contribution to the harp community, scholars have too frequently ignored Hasselmans and Renié. This document seeks to encourage further biographical research and to inspire performance and recording of their works.