Episode 89. The Radiant Heather Harper

Episode 89. The Radiant Heather Harper



I have dreamed of doing an episode on the great Irish soprano Heather Harper (1930 – 2019) since before I began the podcast. As we we find ourselves in close proximity to both the anniversary of her birth on 8 May 1930 and her death on 22 April 2019, I feel compelled to bring that dream to life. A peerless artist, probably most renowned today for her close collaboration with Benjamin Britten, whose War Requiem she learned ten days before the premiere when the scheduled artist, Galina Vishnevskaya, was refused by the Soviet government to participate in the performance. Her crackerjack musicianship is heard to full advantage in 20th century works by Michael Tippett, Leif Segerstam, Anton Webern, Luigi Dallapiccola, Francis Poulenc, William Walton, and Alban Berg. But her focused, flexible instrument also made her an ideal performer of the Baroque repertoire (we hear her in Purcell, Monteverdi, Cavalli, Bach and Handel). And the surprising stores of power she could summon made her a vital and sympathetic heroine in the operas of Wagner, Mozart, Strauss, and Gounod, as well Britten’s Ellen Orford, of which she was the definitive interpreter. She also excelled in the intimate medium of the Lieder recital. Vocal guest stars include Jessye Norman, Helen Donath, Nicolai Gedda, John Shirley-Quirk, Norman Mittelmann, Nicolai Ghiaurov, and others. Conductors heard include Pierre Boulez, Rudolf Kempe, Colin Davis, Raymond Leppard, Gary Bertini, Meredith Davies, Horst Stein, Anthony Lewis, Carlos Païta, Bernard Haitink, Steuart Bedford, Hans Swarowsky, David Atherton, and Gianandrea Gavazzeni. Fasten your seat belts and settle for an overdue tribute to the dazzling versatility and artistry of the great Heather Harper.


Francesco Cavalli, Giovanni Faustini: O delle mie speranze (La Doriclea). Heather Harper, Raymond Leppard, Bath Festival Ensemble [1967]

Raymond Leppard (11 August 1927 – 22 October 2019)

Alban Berg, Theodor Storm: Schließe mir die Augen beide (second version [1925]). Heather Harper, Paul Hamburger [1967]

Benjamin Britten: Sanctus and Benedictus (War Requiem). Heather Harper, Benjamin Britten, Meredith Davies, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Coventry Festival Choir [World Premiere, Coventry Cathedral 30 May 1962]

Carlos Païta (10 March 1932 – 19 December 2015)

Giuseppe Verdi: Requiem aeterman [from Libera me] (Messa da Requiem). Heather Harper, Carlos Païta, London Philharmonic Choir [1975]

Anthony Lewis (2 March 1915 – 5 June 1983). Painting by Pamela Thalben-Ball

Henry Purcell, John Dryden: Fairest Isle (King Arthur). Heather Harper, Anthony Lewis, Philomusica of London [1959]

Kieth Engen (5 April 1925 – 2 September 2004)

Johann Sebastian Bach: Herr, dein Mitleid (Weihnachts-Oratorium, BWV 248). Heather Harper, Kieth Engen, Hans Swarowsky, Wiener Symphoniker [1968]

Hans Swarowsky (16 September 1899 – 10 September 1975)
Helen Donath (born 10 July 1940)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Domine Deus (Mass in c minor, K.427). Helen Donath, Heather Harper, Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra [1970]

Jessye Norman (15 September 1945 – 30 September 2019) 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Ah, il gioir sorpassa in noi (Idomeneo). Heather Harper, Jessye Norman, Colin Davis, Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI [live Roma 25 March 1971]

Grand Gala du Disque Klassiek . Collin Davis *6 oktober 1967
Bernard Haitink (born 4 March 1929)

Gustav Mahler: Ach, Bruder, lieber Bruder mein! (from Hochzeitsstück, Part Three of Das klagende Lied). Heather Harper, Bernard Haitink, Concertgebouworkest, Groot Omroepkoor [1973]

Pierre Boulez (26 March 1925 – 5 January 2016)

Maurice Ravel, Tristan Klingsor: L’indifférent (Shéhérazade, M.41/3). Heather Harper, Pierre Boulez, BBC Symphony Orchestra [1972]

Paul Hamburger (03 September 1920– 11 April 2004)

Alban Berg, Alfred Mombert: Nun ich der Riesen Stärksten (Vier Lieder, Op. 2/3). Heather Harper, Paul Hamburger [1967]

Anton Webern, Hildegard Jone: Kleiner Flügel Ahornsamen (Cantata No. 1, Op. 29). Heather Harper, Gary Bertini, English Chamber Orchestra [1967]

Gary Bertini (01 May 1927 – 17 March 2005)

Charles Gounod, Jules Barbier, Michel Carré: Marguerite!… Anges purs, anges radieux (Faust). Heather Harper, Nicolai Gedda, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Gianandrea Gavazzeni, Orchestra of the Teatro Colón [live 1970]

George Frideric Handel, Thomas Morell: O worse than death, indeed… Angels ever bright and fair (Theodora). Heather Harper, Johannes Somary, English Chamber Orchestra [1969]

Anton Webern, Rainer Maria Rilke: Du machst mich allein (Zwei Lieder nach Gedichte von Rainer Maria Rilke, Op. 8-2). Heather Harper, Pierre Boulez, Instrumental Ensemble [1967]

Luigi Dallapiccola (03 February 1904 – 19 February 1975)

Luigi Dallapiccola, Alcaeus (translated Salvatore Quasimodo): Ma d’intrecciate corolle (Sex Carmina Alcaei, No. 4). Heather Harper, Frederik Prausnitz, English Chamber Orchestra [1967]

Meredith Davies  (30 July 1922 – 9 March 2005)

Francis Poulenc, George Bernanos: Father, there is nothing small or unimportant (The Dialogues of the Carmelites). Heather Harper, Otakar Kraus, Meredith Davies, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden [live 14 October 1963]

Benjamin Britten, Montagu Slater: Embroidery in childhood (Peter Grimes). Heather Harper, Colin Davis, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden [live Royal Albert Hall 03 September 1975]

Richard Wagner: Du Ärmste kannst wohl nie ermessen (Lohengrin). Heather Harper, Grace Hoffman, Rudolf Kempe, Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele [live 30 July 1967]

Norman Mittelmann (25 May 1932 – 17 March 2019) as Mandryka

Richard Strauss, Hugo von Hoffmansthal: Der Richtige, wenns einen gibt für mich… Und du wirst mein Gebieter sein (Arabella). Heather Harper, Norman Mittelmann, Horst Stein, Orchestra of the Teatro Colón [live Buenos Aires 23 October 1971]

Horst Stein (02 March 1928 — 27 July 2008)
Michael Tippett (2 January 1905 – 8 January 1998)

Michael Tippett: Years back, when I first brought you to these lands (The Ice Break). Heather Harper, Sanford Sylvan, David Atherton, London Sinfonietta [1990]

Steuart Bedford (31 July 1939 – 15 February 2021)

Benjamin Britten, Paul Verlaine: Sagesse (Quatre chansons françaises, No. 2). Heather Harper, Steuart Bedford, English Chamber Orchestra [1980]

William Walton (29 March 1902 – 8 March 1983)

William Walton, Anonymous Text: Wapping Old Stairs (A Song for the Lord Mayor’s Table, No. 3). Heather Harper, Paul Hamburger [1972]

Franz Schubert, Johann Mayrhofer: Nachtviolen, D.752. Heather Harper, Paul Hamburger [1974]

Leif Segerstam (born 02 March 1944)

Leif Segerstam, Walt Whitman: Lingering last drops (Three Leaves of Grass, No. 2) Heather Harper, Walter Süsskind [1967]

John Shirley-Quirk (28 August 1931 – 7 April 2014) and William Walton

Frederick Delius, Walt Whitman: Sweet are the blooming cheeks (Idyll) Heather Harper, John Shirley-Quirk, Meredith Davies, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra [1968]

“I ascend, I float to the regions of your love,
All is over and long gone, but love is not over.” – Walt Whitman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.