The New York Philharmonic

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Nancy Allen

Hailed by The New York Times as “a major artist” following her New York recital debut in 1975, Nancy Allen joined the New York Philharmonic in June of 1999 as Principal Harp. She maintains a busy international concert schedule as well as heading the harp departments of The Juilliard School and the Aspen Music Festival and School, and teaching at Stony Brook University. In addition, Allen appears regularly with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. In May 2000 Allen was featured in the Philharmonic’s US Premiere of Siegfried Matthus’s Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra, with Music Director Emeritus Kurt Masur and Principal Flute Robert Langevin.

Allen’s busy performing schedule includes solo appearances at major international festivals, and has featured collaborations with soprano Kathleen Battle, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, and guitarist Manuel Barrueco, and with flutist Carol Wincenc and Philharmonic Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps in their trio, Les Amies. She has appeared on PBS’s Live From Lincoln Center with The Chamber Music Society, as well as with Battle, and has performed as a recitalist for “Music at the Supreme Court” in Washington, D.C. Allen’s recording of Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro with the Tokyo Quartet, flutist Ransom Wilson, and clarinetist David Shifrin received a Grammy Award nomination; she can also be heard on Sony Classical, Deutsche Grammophon, and CRI.

Allen is a native of New York, where she studied with Pearl Chertok and undertook private lessons in piano and oboe. The summer of 1972 took her to Paris, where she studied with Lily Laskine. During that same year, she entered The Juilliard School to study with Marcel Grandjany. In 1973, Allen won the Fifth International Harp Competition, in Israel, and was later awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Solo Recitalist Award.

Allen’s students hold positions in prominent orchestras around the world. She currently resides in New York with her daughter, Claire, who studies piano and cello.

“My earliest musical memory is a New York Philharmonic concert on Long Island in the 1960s, and my mother, a public school music teacher, playing the piano. My father, a medical photographer, played drum set every weekend of my childhood.”

Q&A with Nancy Allen

THE FACTS: Born in Garden City, New York. Attended The Juilliard School. Prior to the Philharmonic: soloist and recording artist. At the Philharmonic: Joined in 1999. Solo debut with the Orchestra: Siegfried Matthus’s Concerto for Flute and Harp in 2001; most recently, the New York Premiere of Tan Dun’s Nu Shu: The Secret Songs of Women in 2016. Most recent recording: 2015 reissue of Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp (Deutsche Grammophon). Teaches at Stony Brook University and is head of harp departments at Juilliard and the Aspen Music Festival and School.

EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORIES: A New York Philharmonic concert on Long Island in the 1960s, and my mother, a public school music teacher, playing the piano. My father, a medical photographer, played drum set every weekend. In elementary and high school I played the oboe in the band and orchestra, and accompanied the chorus on piano. My mother was the inspiration for my starting harp: while studying at Columbia she lived next door to the harpist in Phil Spitalny’s Hour of Charm All-Girl Orchestra.

FIRST PIECES YOU FELL IN LOVE WITH: Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony and Fauré’s Requiem

WHO WERE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MUSICAL INFLUENCES? My teachers, Marcel Grandjany, Susann McDonald, Pearl Chertok, and Lily Laskine; conductors Claude Monteux and Sixten Ehrling; and my colleagues along the way — New York in the 1970s was overflowing with great musical inspirations and influences.

WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT ASPECT OF THE HARP? Intonation, and coordination of mind, hands, and feet. There are 21 slots at the bottom of the harp — three slots for each note of the scale.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT WITH THE ORCHESTRA: Our musical journey to, and concert in, Pyongyang, North Korea

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS SEASON? Mahler’s Fifth Symphony with Music Director Designate Jaap van Zweden this month. The Adagietto movement blends the harp and strings in one of the greatest movements ever written. And in February, Wagner’s Die Walküre Act I will have a six-harp section, which is always a highlight in terms of sonority and visual presence!

ARE THERE OTHER MUSICIANS IN YOUR FAMILY? My daughter, Claire Solomon, who graduated from Yale in 2014, just won the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music concerto competition playing Saint-Saëns’s Cello Concerto. She never wanted to play the harp!

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF WORK? I love all animals. I have a deaf Turkish Angora cat who “listens” to me practice endlessly, and a Senegal parrot who sings and whistles along.

As of September 2017

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