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Mexican harpist eager about striking a chord with Beijing audiences

By Vera Penêda (Global Times)

08:41, April 25, 2012

Standing an imposing two meters tall and tipping the scales at half a ton, the harp hardly ever takes center stage in a classical orchestra. However, the instrument will bask in the spotlight for the China premiere of Mexican harpist ángel Padilla Crespo, who will pluck and strum Latin melodies at a free recital at Instituto Cervantes tomorrow night as part of its Spring Symphony series.

"I would be a diplomat if I hadn't taken up the harp when I was five," said Crespo, 46, an internationally recognized translator whose China debut resonates like a musical diplomatic mission. "I'll be interpreting music from Spanish composers including Mateo Albéniz, Enrique Granados and Mexican composer Manuel María Ponce. The music portrays the regions and traditions of Spain and Mexico between the 16th and 20th centuries."

Crespo, who once performed for Queen Elizabeth II, described his upcoming recital as presenting an "accessible, appealing program," while hinting at his hopes for Chinese audiences to embrace it with "interest and gusto."

An award-winning harpist who graduated from the prestigious Royal College of Music in London, Crespo has been an ambassador for the instrument and has performed throughout the Americas and Europe. "The harp has always been regarded as a solo instrument, which explains why famous composers paid little attention to it," noted the dual album artist, lamenting that a large number of harp composers of different periods remain obscure. "The functioning and technical difficulties are additional challenges that hamper the work of composing for the harp."

Praising China's cultural legacy, Crespo is also familiar with ancient Chinese harp the konghou, along with the guzheng, or plucked Chinese zither. "Those are instruments of beauty when it comes to their sound and looks. They are stringed like the harp, but technique-wise they are very distinct," he stated. Crespo noted that countries including France, Britain and the US have a harp tradition, whereas in the contemporary age it holds a relatively low profile in Asia - something he hopes to change during his maiden Middle Kingdom tour.

Where: Cervantes Institute, A1 Gongti Nan Lu, Chaoyang district

When: Wednesday, April 24, 7 pm

Admission: Free

Contact: 5979-9666

Where: Forbidden City Concert Hall, Chang'an Avenue, Xicheng district

When: Thursday, April 26, 7:30 pm

Tickets: 30-380 yuan

Contact: 6559-8285

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