A renowned international musician who’s played for royalty has released an album of the world’s first ever adaption of Schubert’s piano compositions for the harp.
Ieuan Jones, a farmer’s son from Powys, began his love affair with the harp at the age of six and seven years later became the youngest member of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales.
While still a student at the famous Royal College of Music in London he was head-hunted to be resident harpist at the House of Commons in London and has gone on to give concerto appearances with some of the world’s finest orchestras.
Fresh out of college he was invited to give a private performance of the harp for the late Queen Mother at her Windsor home earlier this year he was presented with a Fellowship of the Royal College, of which he is Professor of Harp, by the Prince of Wales.
Now based in Battersea, London, he has made half a dozen albums and his latest includes nine tracks of Franz Schubert’s works for the piano which he has personally transcribed for the harp to showcase his instrument’s versatility to a wider audience and is a world first for a solo harpist.
Ieuan’s mission to make beautiful music began when he was at Llanfair Caereinion primary school near his childhood home on a farm at Mathrafal near Meifod and a visiting music teacher invited him to try the harp.
He said: “As part of the county council’s music scheme a number of little instruments were brought into school, which was very good because it was no drain on our parents to have to buy them.
“I tried the piano, the violin, the cornet and the trumpet and then one day a visiting music teacher, Frances Mon Jones, came in and asked me if I wanted to try the harp.
“I was immediately drawn to the instrument and my long association with it began.”
When he was 13 Ieuan joined the National Youth Orchestra of Wales and three years later became a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
Leaving school at the age of 18, he won a scholarship to the renowned Royal College of Music in London where his inspiration was the famous Spanish harpist Marisa Robles who at that time was resident harp professor.
“The college is very difficult to get into but I was lucky enough to do that. It was my introduction to a much higher level of music and opened the door for far greater experiences,” he said.
By the end of his four years at college he had won all the major prizes including the Tagore Gold Medal and the Queen Mother’s Rose Bowl for the most distinguished student of his year.
He was presented with the Rose Bowl by the Queen Mother herself and shortly afterwards had one of his most memorable moments when he was invited to play for the Queen the Mother at her home in Royal Lodge, Windsor.
“I was there with the late actress Dame Peggy Ashcroft and we were presenting a programme called Romance, Reality and Royalty in which my music was linked to poetry which Dame Peggy was reciting,” he recalls.
“I remember that the Queen Mother was absolutely charming, very interested in music and in young people.
“Earlier this year I was honoured to be presented with my Fellowship of the Royal College of Music, where I have been Professor of Harp since 1997, by the Prince of Wales.
“He asked me if it could really be 30 years since his grandmother had been at the college to present me with her Rose Bowl.”
During his illustrious professional career Ieuan has played in over 25 countries, including Argentina, Australia and Hong Kong, and appeared with some of the world’s leading orchestras.
He has also made many home appearances at venues such as the Royal Albert Hall in London, the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and St David’s Hall in Cardiff, with programmes that include works rarely played on the harp and often with other instruments like the flute, violin and as part of harp and string quartets.
He is also a member of the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music’s board of diploma examiners, and regularly appears on international competition panels worldwide.
His audiences have included royalty, ambassadors and prime ministers.
In fact, he became very familiar with playing for politicians during the 13 years he spent as resident harpist to the House of Commons during the 1980s and early 1990s.
He explained: “One evening while I was still in my second year at college I was standing in for a friend of mine who couldn’t make it playing the harp at the Carlton Tower Hotel in London when the late Charles Irving, the MP for Cheltenham, came in and sat there listening to me for hours.
“When I’d finished playing he came over and spoke to me. He told me he was chairman of the Commons catering committee and asked me if I wanted to play my music in the dining room at the House of Commons.
“I was eventually there for 13 years which took me through the Thatcher and Major years and also helped me through the difficult initial years of professionalism. I played at private dinners and saw many of the famous politicians of the era.”
Over the years Ieuan has made half a dozen albums which have not been exclusively classical but have also included works by modern composers like Sir Elton John and Ennio Morricone adapted for the harp.
His latest release, entitled simply Schubert, includes nine tracks by the legendary Austrian composer Franz Schubert which he has painstakingly transcribed for the harp from the original piano format.
Ieuan said: “I have recorded the Schubert album because I like to do something different and I want to show how much the harp has developed since his time in the 1800`s when it would not have been possible to play these complex works on it.
“The harp is a small world and has a limited original repertoire. Since I left college I have been trying to push the boundaries and play the sort of music you wouldn’t expect from a harp.
“It wasn’t easy to do but I’ve transcribed nine pieces by Schubert originally written for the piano and I this is a world first for a solo harpist.
“Generally, I’m trying for a softer approach to bring classical music to a wider audience rather being too high-brow about it.
“After the Schubert album I may do something else with transcribing the works of the great composers and taking their music into other areas. I think that’s what we need more of.”
His new album, Schubert by Ieuan Jones, is on the Claudio label, catalogue number CR60322.
It includes: Franz Schubert: 4 Impromptus, Op. 142, D. 935, No. 3 in B-Flat Major (Arr. I. Jones) Franz Schubert: Variation on a Waltz by Diabelli, D. 718 (Arr. I. Jones), Variation on a Waltz by Diabelli, D. 718 (Arr. I. Jones) Franz Schubert: 6 Moments musicaux, Op. 94, D. 780 No. 6 in A-Flat Major. Allegretto (Arr. I. Jones) Franz Schubert: 4 Impromptus, Op. 90, D. 899 (Arr. I. Jones); No. 2 in E-Flat Major, No. 3 in G-Flat Major; Franz Schubert: Allegretto in C Minor, D. 915 (Arr. I. Jones); Allegretto in C Minor, D. 915 (Arr. I. Jones); 4 Impromptus, Op. 142, D. 935; No. 2 in A-Flat Major (Arr. I. Jones); Franz Schubert: 2 Scherzos, D. 593 (Arr. I. Jones); No. 1 in B-Flat Major and No. 2 in D-Flat Major.