Felix Godefroid's Role in the Development of Modern Harp Virtuosity as Exemplified by Selected Solo Compositions
Committee ChairMcLaughlin, Carrol
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractFelix Godefroid was a concert harpist and composer of over 300 works for harp, piano, and opera. His solo harp works Carnaval de Venise, Etude de Concert en Mi b mineur, and La Danse des Sylphes are still performed and revered, but very little has been written about him or any of his compositions. This document will present a brief biographical overview of the life of Felix Godefroid, followed by a short history of the evolution of the modern harp. It will consequently provide examples from Godefroid's works to demonstrate the virtuosic brilliance of his compositional style and attempt to make evident why his music still holds a prestigious place among virtuosic showpieces for the harp.Felix Godefroid was a virtuoso in the truest sense, showing his command of the instrument by both composing and performing works of extreme technical difficulty. He was considered the "Paganini of the harp," touring Europe successfully by the age of 21 and associating with musicians such as Adrien-Francois Servais and Franz Liszt. Godefroid's piano compositions were studied by George Bizet and Cesar Franck.Felix Godefroid found a way to make the mastery of one particular fingering (4-3-2-1) allow for successful execution of multiple effects previously thought to be difficult or impossible upon the harp, such as trills, tremolos, and complex finger-work patterns. He experimented with the double-action harp, utilizing its enharmonic capabilities to exploit the possibilities of one-handed arpeggios, trills and tremolos, and pure glissandi.Felix Godefroid's student Alphonse Hasselmans taught such renowned figures such as Henriette Renie, Marcel Tournier, Carlos Salzedo, Marcel Grandjany, Lily Laskine, and Pierre Jamet, thus earning the credit for beginning the French and Italian schools of playing. Through their influence, Godefroid continues to impact the world of virtuoso harp playing not only by the techniques which he created and passed on, but also by the effects that mark the masterful compositions which his students contributed to the modern harp repertoire.