Just So Bach, harpist Anne-Marie O’Farrell’s sixth and latest album, marks a significant advance in the repertoire for the Irish Harp. Devoted primarily to works by Bach, all of which have been hitherto considered beyond the scope of the instrument, it has been possible to perform them because of recent advances in the design of the Irish harp. Movements from the cello suites and keyboard collections are included, along with an early version of the well-loved Bach-Gounod Ave Maria (from 1853) and Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring from Cantata no. 147. The guest musicians on this recording are cellist Aisling Drury Byrne and Viennese flautist Karin Leitner. The album also features two sets of chorale variations, original compositions by Anne-Marie O’Farrell, which are structurally in Bach’s musical and theological lineage.
The development in recent decades of the semitone mechanism on the lever harp or Irish harp has made it possible to play works previously unplayable on the instrument, among them certain compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach. Anne-Marie O’Farrell’s groundbreaking work in this area is such that the world’s leading harpmakers, Salvi, redesigned their Irish harps as a result of her pioneering technical developments.
Performances so far this year include concerts at the EU in Brussels, in Tanzania and at the Edinburgh International Harp Festival where she performed with her 14-member harp ensemble from Kylemore College (CDVEC). Furthermore she has been invited to present extracts from her new CD at the forthcoming World Harp Congress in Amsterdam, before returning to adjudicate at the O’Carolan Harp Festival in Keadue. Other engagements include harp duo concerts with Cormac De Barra with whom she has recorded the acclaimed album Double Strung, and they appear together at the Séamus Ennis Cultural Centre on 14 June at 8pm.
Other recordings include Heads & Harps, Harping Bach to Carolan, The Jig’s Up and My Lagan Love in addition to guest appearances on numerous other albums. Last May she recorded with the Chieftains in Abbey Road studios in London for the soundtrack to the recently released film, The Waterhorse.
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‘unfailingly musical’ — Martin Adams
‘this extraordinary concert artist plays the Irish harp as though she has a third arm with which to obtain dozens of chromaticisms’ —Giorgio Calcara, Keltika Magazine, Italy
‘O’Farrell’s transformation of the harp from an instrument of gentility to one steeped in an earthy sensuality is remarkable’—Siobhán Long
‘Bright, effortless and cheerful playing from beginning to end’ — Fintan Vallelly
‘This virtuoso harpist magically brought a richly decorated soundworld into being’ —Ostschweizer Tagblatt