Elizabeth Hainen has earned an international reputation as one of classical music’s great harp ambassadors. Hailed by the Washington Post for her “unusual presence with silky transparency” and by the New York Times for her “earthy solidarity,” she has thrilled audiences throughout the world with programs showcasing the diversity—and virtuosity—of her modern-day instrument. As principal harp with The Philadelphia Orchestra for over 20 years, she has presented numerous featured performances to captivated audiences and has been praised by the Philadelphia Inquirer for “her ability to blend and color the musical line” and “to find transparency in an almost timeless atmosphere.” In high demand as a guest artist, Ms. Hainen has collaborated with such eminent conductors as Charles Dutoit, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Michael Tilson Thomas, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and Wolfgang Sawallisch. In addition to The Philadelphia Orchestra, she has appeared as a featured soloist with the Adelaide Symphony, the Anchorage Symphony, the Bulgarian National Radio Orchestra, the Camerata Ducale in Italy, the Chicago Civic Orchestra, the City of London Sinfonia, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Iris Orchestra, the Kennedy Center Orchestra, the Mexico State Symphony, the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Colombia, the Vancouver Symphony, and in numerous recitals at Carnegie Hall. “She is a complete harpist who knows and uses her instrument’s strength and brilliance and strikes its fire,” says the Miami Herald’s James Roos. “You miss nothing she wants you to hear.”
As a contemporary and chamber music enthusiast, Ms. Hainen has launched major commissioning projects, including works by Pulitzer Prize-winners Bernard Rands and Melinda Wagner, the latter being a world premiere of Pan Journal with the Juilliard String Quartet for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. During the 2013–14 season Ms. Hainen treated audiences to the United States premiere of Nu Shu: Secret Songs of Women, commissioned for her by The Philadelphia Orchestra and written for her by acclaimed Beijing Olympics composer Tan Dun. The collaboration between composer and artist is a groundbreaking work for the harp community and classical fans. In 2014, Nézet-Séguin championed Tan’s masterpiece with Hainen and The Philadelphia Orchestra throughout China. She has performed at the festivals of Cartagena, Grand Tetons, Kingston, Marlboro, Sächsisch Böhmisches, and at the World Harp Congress, and she has appeared on concert series by Lyon & Healy, the French Embassy in Washington D.C., the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Shanghai Arts Festival, and the Oz Asia Festival in Australia, among others. “The guest appearance by Elizabeth Hainen could certainly be counted among the high points of this year,” said the Saxon Times of her appearance at the Saxon-Bohemia Music Festival in Meissen, Germany.
The 2019–20 season finds Ms. Hainen with Music at Bunker Hill, NJ, and the Amigos del Arpa in Argentina, where she will perform and teach at the First International Academy of Harp in Santa Fe. Last season she appeared in Alberto Ginastera’s Harp Concerto with conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya and The Philadelphia Orchestra in subscription performances in Verizon Hall as well as at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. In April 2017, Hainen video recorded Tan Dun’s Nu Shu with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra, to be released in the near future as the first video recording of its kind.
Ms. Hainen’s discography continues with her fifth solo recording, Home, including works by Bach, Debussy, and Glass, on the heels of her Kickstarter-winning Les Amis with Michael Stern and the IRIS Orchestra for the Avie label. Her discography also includes the lushly romantic Music for Solo Harp on the Naxos label and a recording series for Lyon & Healy harps on the Egan label. “Elizabeth Hainen is a wonderful embodiment of the ‘new’ Philadelphia Sound and a perfect example of how the best musicians can make their instruments become a symphony orchestra, even on their own,” said the Harp Column on Music for Solo Harp. Her recently released Harp Concertos on the Avie label with Rossen Milanov and the Bulgarian National Radio Orchestra was given a four-star review by the Telegraph (London): “The tonal range of Hainen’s playing, coupled with her technical finesse and sense of style, bring allure to the entire disc.”
A highly sought-after harp pedagogue, Ms. Hainen serves on the faculties of the world-renowned Curtis Institute of Music and the Boyer School of Music at Temple University, and she has been invited to adjudicate major international harp competitions in the U.S., Europe, South America, and Asia. In 2004 she founded the Saratoga Harp Colony, in Saratoga, New York, and this legacy continues in Philadelphia as the Elizabeth Hainen Harp Colony, presented by Curtis’ Summerfest. Through her nonprofit foundation, the Lyra Society, she has provided educational outreach to hundreds of school children in urban Philadelphia and the surrounding area.
Born in Toledo, Ohio, Ms. Hainen began harp lessons at age 10. Her extraordinary progress took her to her mentor and teacher, Susann McDonald, at Indiana University School of Music, where she was awarded a Performance Certificate and two degrees in performance. Ms. Hainen has been the recipient of numerous awards, including winner of the American String Teachers Association and the Chicago Symphony Civic Orchestra competitions, and Silver Medalist at the First USA International Harp Competition.
Photo by Jessica Griffin