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New York Harp Ensemble


Biographical History

The New York Harp Ensemble (1970-1997) toured the world performing the arrangements and original compositions of its creator, Aristid von Würtzler.

In 1969, Aristid von Würtzler organized the first international harp competition in the United States, at the Hartford College of music. Harpists from twenty-two different countries came to participate. The event was so well received that Aristid wanted it to continue, and in 1970, he created the New York Harp Ensemble (NYHE). For a period of twenty-seven years, the NYHE played together and traveled throughout the world. They played concerts in every state, with the exception of Alaska, and visited fifty-three different countries. They had the privilege to play for dignitaries and royalty, including four different U.S. presidents (Carter, Regan/Bush, and twice for Clinton). The Ensemble also made over twenty recordings. Throughout the twenty-seven years of the Ensemble, only Barbara and Aristid were regular members. There were usually four members at a time, adding up to a total of fourteen different harpists throughout the years. But because they were only paid for the concerts, the members had to find other things to do for a living. And with the rigorous travel schedules, it was hard for some of the members to commit because of their families and children. Because of this, Aristid took on many roles, whether it was as conductor, arranger, or soloist. The Ensemble usually played from Aristid's original harp transcriptions and had daily three-hour rehearsals. All of the music was copyrighted by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), but nothing was ever published because Aristid wanted the music to be exclusive to the Ensemble and wanted to ensure that his music was only played at a professional level. One hundred seventy-six different composers are represented in the music Aristid created and most are arranged for four harps. With Aristid von Würtzler's death in 1997, the New York Harp Ensemble also died. The Ensemble played a few memorial concerts, but that was the end. Aristid's influence and vision of the ensemble was what had held it together throughout the years.

American Harp Journal, Summer 2002, Vol. 18, p. 31-38.

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