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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 19 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, and Wolfgang Sawallisch. In addition to The Philadelphia Orchestra, she has appeared as a featured soloist with the City of London Sinfonia, the Iris Orchestra, the Kennedy Center Orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Colombia, the Bulgaria National Radio Orchestra, the Camerata Ducale in Italy, the Chicago Civic Orchestra, the Mexico State Symphony, the Vienna Boys Choir, 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. In 2013 Ms. Hainen gives the United States premiere of a new concerto commissioned for her by The Philadelphia Orchestra, written for her by acclaimed Beijing Olympics composer Tan Dun. 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 Korean Embassy in Costa Rica, the French Embassy in Washington D.C., the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival, 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.
Ms. Hainen’s fourth solo recording, Les Amis, original works by Debussy and Caplet, will be released in 2013 on the Avie label. Her discography 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 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 Temple University, and she has been invited to adjudicate major international harp competitions in the United States and Europe. In 2004 she founded the Saratoga Harp Colony, in Saratoga, New York, which welcomes approximately 20 of the most promising young harpists for two weeks of intensive study each summer. 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 the harp 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: Jessica Griffin