Carlos Salzedo

Carlos Salzedo (1885-1961), was a harpist, composer and conductor, born in Arcachon, France, after whom the Salzedo Harp Colony in Camden, Maine is named.



Carlos Salzedo was born Charles Moise Léon Salzedo on April 6, 1885 at 11:30 a.m., two months prematurely. Salzedo's parents, Isaac Gaston Salzedo and Thérèse Judith Anna Silva (both musicians) had been vacationing in Arcachon when Anna Silva fell down a flight of stairs. Salzedo was always considered physically weak, suffering for most of his life from rheumatic fever. His mother died when he was five. The family then moved to Bordeaux and a Basque woman was hired as a housekeeper-nurse-governess. Salzedo became deeply attached to her, sending her checks throughout his life, and liked to think of himself as Basque. His later compositions perhaps reflect that in his habitual use of a five-beat meter, typical of the Basque dance the Zortzico.

Leon (Carlos) began playing piano at the age of three, and wrote his first composition, a polka, at the age of five. At six, he entered the St. Cecilia School of Music, where he won first prize in piano and solfège three years later, after which the family moved to Paris. Carlos entered the Paris Conservatoire at nine years old, where he again won prizes in piano and solfège. Salzedo's father, a voice teacher, decided Carlos should take up a second instrument, and harp was chosen, because he was too weak to play a wind instrument and his older brother Marcel played violin. Beginners were not accepted at the Conservatoire, so Carlos took lessons from Marguerite Achaud. A year later, he had advanced enough that he began studying with Alphonse Hasselmans, professor of harp at the Conservatoire. At sixteen, Salzedo won the premier prix in harp and piano on the same day, and was awarded a Steinway grand piano.

When Salzedo graduated, he was hired as a solo harpist, first harpist, and solo pianist at the New Casino in Biarritz, and made his Paris debut at 18 as a harpist and pianist in 1903, when he changed his name to Carlos (as a child, Salzedo was actually known as Léon-Charles), because he did not like the sonority of the French name followed by the Sephardic surname. Also about this time, a stroke paralysed Gaston Salzedo, who handed over his position as synagogue choirmaster to Carlos. Salzedo also gave solo performances around Europe, receiving glowing praise in the papers.

America, Marriage, and War

In 1909, Arturo Toscanini invited Salzedo to play for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and Carlos left France for America, without knowing any English. Salzedo soon began moving in upper social circles, where he was introduced to Viola Gramm, a pianist and singer. She had studied in Paris, and soon became romantically involved with Salzedo, who gave her the nickname "Mimine," by which she was known. Together they traveled through the château country of France in 1913, and were married on April 30, 1914. Salzedo wrote a wedding cantata for the occasion, which was performed by his friends.

Salzedo had recently formed the "Trio de Lutèce", with Georges Barrère on flute and Paul Kéfer on cello. The trio was scheduled to play in England, so Salzedo and Mimine took the opportunity to honeymoon in Europe; in England, they were introduced to various members of the nobility, and at one point, Salzedo played for the Princess of Battenberg. When World War I began, they moved to Menthon-Saint-Bernard (in the Rhône-Alpes region) hoping to spend time together, but Salzedo was drafted into the French Army.

Salzedo was made head cook for his infantry unit, and happened to be in the same unit as several painters and musicians. He had a sympathetic leader, and was able to organize them into a performing group that sang for soldiers and toured hospitals, for which he composed several songs. He even got an extended leave to see Mimine for his work, but when he returned, a new captain was in charge who did not permit the musical activities. Salzedo also became ill with pneumonia and a form of paralysis, for which he was hospitalized for several months before being discharged from the army. In order to get passports (which had not been necessary in 1914) to leave France, Salzedo and Mimine got married a second time in August 1915.

Return to America

On the Salzedos' return to the US in 1916, Carlos rejoined the Trio de Lutèce, but not the Metropolitan Opera, from which he had resigned in 1913. Salzedo and Mimine began spending summers in Seal Harbor, Maine, where Salzedo became friends with Vaslav Nijinsky, a Russian dancer with whom he developed a theory of esthetic gestures for the harp that later became part of the Salzedo method for the harp. In the Twenties, Salzedo and Mimine grew apart - she was spending more time in Rome, and Carlos was spending more time with the increasing number of students who were coming to him for lessons. They had an amicable divorce in 1926, and in 1928, 42-year-old Salzedo married 21-year-old Lucile Lawrence, who had begun her studies with him ten years earlier. Salzedo had a very extensive performing schedule in this years, with tours by the Trio de Lutece, the Salzedo Harp Ensemble, and solo appearances. She also toured as first harpist of the ensemble, and led her own Lawrence Harp Quintette on engagements too small for the Salzedo Harp Ensemble. He was involved in many arenas, including the burgeoning "new music" circles in New York, where he co-founded the International Composers Guild with Edgard Varese. The Guild was the first group of its kind, and presented the most prominent European composers and others in concert, figures such as Ravel and Casella. This later led to the formation of the rival League of Composers, which was organized to support "American" composers, causing a rift in musical circles not healed for many years. Salzedo was in the forefront of artistic ideas, and social circles. He encountered Martha Graham as the roommate of a pupil, and seeing her genius, he brought all influence to bear on her being given a Rockefeller grant, that was instrumental in the development of her career. He toured with Adolf Bolm, the great dancer and choreographer as a conductor as well as composer. His compositions reflect a searching, creative mind, with much originality and a timeless freshness. His pieces have a great appeal that does not wane, and show off the harp as an imaginative, eloquent instrument of great drama, and poetry, as well as abstract qualities, and virtuoso display. Despite his acquaintance with various Rockefellers and other high-society people, great wealth did not come his way, nor did they marry any of his students.

Salzedo led many fund-raising efforts; one was to buy a pipe organ in Seal Harbor, with a matching donation from J.D. Rockefeller.


He appeared regularly as a soloist with orchestras such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, on tour as a recitalist, harp ensemble leader and flute-harp-cello trio member. His activity in the 1920s alone was astonishing in its energy, and he was a celebrity as well. He was compared to Wanda Landowska by no less a critic than Virgil Thomson, as a pioneer and as a fascinating performer.

He also performed historical music as well as the new, featuring French baroque music extensively on his programs. He was a piano pupil of de Beriot, the pupil of Chopin. He received the Premier Prix in both harp and piano on the same day, a feat never matched, when he graduated from the Paris Conservatoire at the age of sixteen.


Salzedo remains one of the greatest harpists in history, a virtuoso player unparalleled, a virtuoso pianist and conductor, and a primal teacher. He was a progressive spirit, seeking new resources in the harp, inspiring and creating new works and creating new styles of music. His composing progressed from French Romantic to Impressionist to a new style uniquely his own.

Salzedo introduced and popularized Ravel's Introduction and Allegro to the United States in performances with the major symphony orchestras.

His ideas led to the designs of two harps still manufactured by Lyon & Healy, the art-nouveau style 11 and the art deco Salzedo model.

He started the harp program at Curtis Institute, and the Salzedo Harp Colony in Camden, Maine with Lucile Lawrence.

Interesting Facts

Salzedo's pets

  • When Salzedo's cat Bémol died, the skin was tanned and made into a rug.
  • Salzedo also had a bullfinch named Baron Taraky, who had a small car, ate from Salzedo's plate and was known to sip his wine. Taraky's cage was unfortunately left up on a radiator, causing his untimely demise. This led Salzedo to compose what some consider among his most moving compositions, Lamentation, from his Five Preludes for Harp Alone.

Compositions, other than harp

(many early works were published by Costallat, but have apparently vanished)

  • Berceuse for Cello and Piano, opus 72 (1907)
  • Caprice Scherzando for Cello and Piano (1908)
  • Invocation for Cello and Piano (1908)
  • Piece Concertante for Trombone and Piano, opus 27 (1910)
  • Rivalite de Fleurs for Voice and Piano, opus 25 (1911)
  • Four Choruses in Old Sonata Form for 3 mens voices/choir and harp, organ or piano (1914)
  • Prelude to Olaf Bolm for Piano (1926)
  • Breaking in the New Year for Piano (1935)
  • Offrian for Cello (1951)
  • Volute and Rondel for Flute (1951)
  • Marya Freund for Piano (1956)
  • Enigme for Piano (1960)

Original Compositions for Harp

  • Trois Morceaux: Ballade op. 28, Jeux d'Eau, Variations sur un theme dans le style ancien (1910-11) (Leduc)
  • Paraphrase (Cadenza) for Liszt's Second Rhapsody (a solo showpiece or cadenza for orchestral performance) (Schirmer/Lyra)
  • Chanson Chagrine (1914) (Lyra)
  • Five Preludes for Harp Alone (1917) (Carl Fischer) (to be performed in this order)
    • Lamentation
    • Quietude
    • Iridescence
    • Introspection
    • Whirlwind
  • Five Preludes on the name of Olga (Samaroff-Stokowski) (1917)
    • Embryon
    • Eveil
    • Fete au village
    • Hallucinations
    • Fraicheur (Schirmer)
  • The Enchanted Isle, a tone poem for Harp and Orchestra (1918) (Lyra)
  • Bolmimerie, for seven-harp ensemble (1918)
  • Brise Marine, for soprano, oboe, horn, bassoon, six harps (1918)
  • Five Poetical Studies for Harp Alone, published in Modern Study of the Harp (1919) (Schirmer)
    • "(Flight)"
    • "(Mirage)"
    • "(Inquietude)"
    • "(Idyllic Poem)"
    • "(Communion")
  • Poems of Sara Yarrow, for soprano, oboe, horn, bassoon, six harps (1919)
    • Ecstasy
    • Despair
    • Humility
  • Preludes Intimes (1919) (Boosey & Hawkes)
    • tenderly emoted
    • dreamingly
    • profoundly peaceful
    • in self-communion
    • procession-like
  • Burlesque-Sentimental (1920)
  • Five Sketches on Friends of Mine (1920)
    • Kyra Alanova
    • Dane Rudhyar
    • Edith Sullivan
    • Sara Yarrow
    • Edgard Varese
  • Four Preludes to the Afternoon of a Telephone, for harp duo (1921)
    • Audubon 530
    • Plaza 4570
    • Prospect 7272
    • Riverside 4937
  • Poem of the Little Stars (1921) (International Music, Lyra)
  • Recessional (1921) (International Music, Lyra)
  • Sonata for Harp and Piano (1922) (Society for the Publication of American Music, Lyra)
  • Four Pieces for the Modern Irish Harp (1924)
    • Sarabande variee
    • Bi-tonal jig
    • Pavloviana
    • Prelude Nocturne
  • Three Poems of Stephane Mallarme, for soprano, harp, piano (1924)
    • Las de l'amer repos ou ma paresse offense
    • Feuillet d'album (soprano solo)
    • Une dentell s'abolit
  • Nocturne to Ursula, for oboe (1925)
  • Concerto for Harp and Seven Wind Instruments, harp, fl/picc, cl A, ob, hn, bsn, trp C (1926) (Lyra)
    • (three movements)
  • Preludes for Beginners, harp, published in Method for the Harp (1927) (Schirmer)
    • (No titles for I-XI)
    • XII Fanfare
    • XIII Cortege
    • XIV La Desirade
    • XV Chanson dans la nuit (his most famous composition)
  • Pentacle, suite for harp duo (1928) (FC)
    • Steel
    • Serenade
    • Felines
    • Catacombs
    • Pantomime
  • Preambule et Jeux, harp solo, fl,ob,bsn, str quintet (one movement)
  • Prelude Fatidique, harp solo (1930) (Schirmer)
  • Prelude in the Nature of an Octave Study (editor's title) (1930) (Lyra)
  • Untitled work, harp, brasses, strings (1930)
  • Musique des Troubadours, soprano, harp, viola d'amore, viola da gamba (1931)
  • Triptic Dance, harp duo or trio (1931) (Lyra)
  • Short Stories in Music, harp (1934) Series I and II (Elkan-Vogel)
    • The Dwarf and the Giant
    • The Kitten and the Limping Dog
    • Rocking Horse
    • On Donkeyback
    • Raindrops
    • Madonna and Child
    • Memories of a Clock
  • Night Breeze, harp solo or ensemble
    • On Stilts
    • Pirouetting Music Box
  • Behind the Barracks, harp solo or duo
    • At Church
    • Goldfish
    • The Mermaid's Chimes
  • Skipping Rope, harp solo or duo
  • Scintillation (1936) (Elkan-Vogel)
  • Tiny Tales for Harpist Beginners, two series (1936) (Elkan-Vogel)
    • In Hoop-Skirts
    • The Little Princess and the Dancing Master
    • A Little Orphan in the Snow
    • Lullaby for a Doll
    • The Cloister at Twilight
    • A Mysterious Blue Light
    • Funeral Procession of a Tin Soldier
    • The Chimes in the Steeple
    • A Lost Kitten
    • Pagoda of the Dragon
  • Panorama Suite (1937)
    • Noon
    • Moonset
    • Expectation
    • The Birth of the Morning Star
    • Waltz
  • Sketches for Harpist Beginners, two series (1942) (Elkan-Vogel)
    • Rock Me, Mommy
    • Imitation
    • Echo
    • Huntsman's Horn
    • Lost in the Mist
    • Hurdy-Gurdy
    • Poor Doggy
    • Tuneful Snuff-Box
    • Pagan Rite
    • Beethoven at School
    • The Organist's First Steps
    • A Young Violinist
    • Falling Leaves
    • Royal Trumpeters
    • A Lonely Bell
    • Baby on the Swing
    • Mourners
    • On the Tight Rope
    • Pierrot is Sad
    • Choral

Second Harp parts for Short Stories in Music (1942)

  • Behind the Barracks
  • Memories of a Clock
  • On Donkey-Back
  • Rain Drops
  • Night Breeze
  • The Mermaid's Chimes
  • Skipping Rope

Tiny Tales for Harpist Beginners, second series (Elkan-Vogel)

  • Processional
  • The Clock-Maker's Shop
  • Winter Night
  • The Dandy
  • Chimes
  • Little Soldiers
  • Mysterious Forest
  • Little Jacques
  • Grandmother's Memories
  • Frere Jacques

The Art of Modulating (1943)(Schirmer)

  • Lullaby
  • Reverie
  • Carillon
  • Grandmother's Spinning Wheel
  • Florentine Music Box
  • Petite Valse

Suite of Eight Dances (1943) (Schirmer) dedicated to Lucile Lawrence

  • Gavotte
  • Menuet
  • Polka
  • Siciliana
  • Bolero
  • Seguidilla
  • Tango
  • Rumba

Mimi Suite (1946) Wedding Presents (1946-52)

  • Garlanded Chimes
  • Vers l'Inconnu
  • In the Valley
  • In the Month of Maie
  • Shadow of a Shade
  • Idee-fixe
  • Desir
  • Interlude for the Theatre
  • Vision
  • Carol-Paul

Cadenza for the Berezowsky Concerto for Harp (1947) (Elkan-Vogel) Prelude for a Drama (1948) (M. Baron) Diptych, Two Pieces for the Right Hand Alone (1950)

  • Reflection
  • Interference

Conditioning Exercises (1951) (Schirmer) Mardi-Gras Patrol Pathfinder to the Harp (Peer)

  • Conflict

For Elyse (1952) Second Concerto for Harp and Orchestra 1953-1961(Lyra) Chanson dans la Nuit, second harp part (Schirmer) Prelude Fatidique (1954) (Schirmer) Rumba, Tango second harp parts (Schirmer)

Original Paraphrases, Arrangements for the harp

Annie Laurie
Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms
Blink to me only with one eye
Concert Variations on: Adeste Fideles, Deck the Halls, Good King Wenceslaus, O Tannenbaum, Silent Night
Deep River
Diatonic Variations on The Carnival of Venice
Dixie Parade
I Wonder as I Wander
Jingle Bells
Jolly Piper
Londonderry Air
Paraphrases on Christmas Carols: Angels We Have Heard on High, Away in a Manger, Away in a Manger (Flow Gently, Sweet Afton), The First Noel, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, O Little Town of Bethlehem, We Three Kings of Orient Are, What Child is This (Greensleeves)
Short Fantasies on: A Basque Carol, A Catalan Carol, A Neapolitan Carol, A Noel Provencale
Song of the Volga Boatman
The Last Rose of Summer
Traipsin’ thru Arkansaw
Turkey Strut
Two New Wedding Marches

Transcriptions of works by other Composers

Bach, J.S. Bourree (Schirmer)
          Polonaise et Badinerie for flute and harp (Lyra)
          Sixth French Suite for harp ensemble (Lyra)
Beethoven, L. van Adagio from Moonlight Sonata (Schirmer)
Brahms, J. Lullaby (Elkan-Vogel)
          Waltz in A-flat (Carl Fischer)
Corelli Giga (Schirmer)
Dandrieu Play of the Winds (Lyra)
Debussy, C. Children's Corner Suite, for harp, flute, cello (Lyra)
           Clair de Lune

Most of his published works were published by G. Schirmer, Elkan-Vogel, Boosey & Hawkes, Carl Fischer, Lyra, Peer-Southern, and a few smaller houses. A large number of compositions remain as yet unpublished. Some works have been published by more than one company, a confusing situation at best. When they were allowed to go out-of-print, Lyra often gained permission to print their own edition, yet the original publisher has sometimes reprinted the work, so that at present there are at least two editions of his landmark transcription of the Sonata in C Minor by G. B. Pescetti.

Arrangements and Transcriptions

Bouree J. S. Bach / Salzedo
Sixth French Suite J. S. Bach / Salzedo
Children Corner SuiteDebussy / Salzedo
Clair de lune Debussy / Salzedo
Concerto Mozart/Salzedo
Concerto in B-Flat Handel / Salzedo
Harmonious Blacksmith Sheet Music Handel / Salzedo
Jingle Bells ?/Salzedo
I Wonder as I Wander Niles/Carols Salzedo
La Cathedral EngloutieDebussy / Salzedo
La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin/Maid with the Flaxen Hair
Debussy / Salzedo
La Joyeuse Rameau/Salzedo
The Lord's Prayer Malotte / Salzedo
Meditation Massenet/Salzedo
Pavane Anon. / Salzedo
Prelude Ravel/Salzedo
Seven Spanish Songs DeFalla/Salzedo
Sonata in C Minor Pescetti / Salzedo
Spanish Dance No.5 Granados/Salzedo
Triptic Dance Beauchant/Salzedo

Technique books

The Art of Modulating Book Lawrence / Salzedo (Schirmer)
Conditioning Exercises Carlos Salzedo (Schirmer)
Daily Dozen Exercises
Method for the Harp Book Lawrence / Salzedo (Schirmer)
Modern Study of the Harp Carlos Salzedo (Schirmer)
Pathfinder to the Harp Lawrence / Salzedo (Peer-Southern)

Other Information

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