Ina Zdorovetchi Premieres Williams' Harp Concerto with Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra

May 1, 2013

On April 21 in Cologne, Germany, Wellesley harp instructor Ina Zdorovetchi performed the European premiere of a harp concerto by legendary film composer John Williams. The concerto, On Willows and Birches, was performed as part of the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra’s “America!” concert under the direction of Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart. Renowned harp-makers Salvi Harps provided the instrument.

John Williams is one of the most recognized figures in contemporary orchestral music, especially for his work in film. According to his personal web page, he has won five Academy Awards, 17 Grammys, three Golden Globes, two Emmys and five BAFTA awards. His scores can be heard on classic movies such as Jaws, the Indiana Jones films and the Star Wars franchise.

Williams gave a brief interview about the composition of On Willows and Birches. In the interview, Williams cites Psalm 135 as inspiration for the concerto’s title; the psalm includes the line “we will hang our harps upon the willows.” Williams composed the concerto in honor of Ann Hobson Pilot when she retired from her position as principal harpist at the Boston Symphony. A 2011 recording of On Willows and Birches is available on iTunes.

Pilot recommended that Zdorovetchi perform the European premiere as Zdorovetchi was her student from 2004 to 2008, which made the Cologne performance especially meaningful. “This was an incredible honor and a very memorable experience all around,” Zdorovetchi said. “I had an amazing time working with the celebrated maestro Keith Lockhart and the wonderful musicians of the WDR Rundfunkorchester Köln! I am very grateful to have had this honor, particularly because it also marked my German debut.”

A native of Moldova, Zdorovetchi is an internationally renowned concert harpist who has performed everywhere from Bucharest to Jerusalem. In 2010, she received the highest-awarded prize at the International Harp Festival in Israel. She performs with the Boston Lyric Opera, the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, and Opera Boston, among others. She founded and continues to direct the Boston Harp Festival. In addition to her harp students at Wellesley, Zdorovetchi is on the faculty of the Boston Conservatory and the New England Conservatory Pre-College program.

Zdorovetchi’s Wellesley students will be giving a studio harp concert on Monday, May 6 at 12.30 p.m. in the Pendleton Concert Salon.

Gabrielle Linnell '13