May 6, 1998, marks the 50th anniversary of Alfred Holý's death. For those who may be only vaguely familiar with this phenomenon of the harp world, the following may help to place him in a proper historical perspective.
He was four years younger than Debussy, three years younger than Mascagni, eight months younger than Sibelius, three months younger than Satie, eight months older than Toscanini, one year older than Granados, four years older than Lehár. He was a generation younger than Aptommas, Zabel, Cheshire and Hasselmans; of the same generation as Slepushkin, Kastner, Renié and Tournier; a generation older than Salzedo, Sassoli, Grandjany, Laskine, Goossens and Korchinska.
At the turn of the century, Holý, Poenitz and Posse were the "royal trio" of the harp world, not only because they were members of the Royal Orchestra in Berlin, but also because they were generally viewed as the top virtuosi of their profession. Although sixteen years younger than his two illustrious colleagues, Holý was the most famous of the three. In 1903 he became the highest paid harpist in Europe when Mahler, who considered Holý to be the best orchestral harpist of his day, engaged him as solo harpist with the Vienna Philharmonic. In 1913 he accepted the position of first harpist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and became a member of the faculty at the New England Conservatory. Feeling that he could no longer fill an orchestral position to his own satisfaction, Holý retired in 1928. Unable to bring his sons and their families to the United States, Holý and his wife decided to return to Austria to be with them.
Touched by the same Prague tradition that helped produce Dussek, Smetana, Dvorák and Lehár, Holý left an important legacy to the harp world his compositions. Among them 58 pieces for harp solo contained in 23 works.
With the purpose of expressing to you the total pleasure of having played and having my students play your beautiful compositions, so musical and so artistic May I be so bold as to dedicate to you my last composition "Gnomes" as proof of my spirited support and my most sincere admiration. Alphonse Hasselmans
This from a man who reportedly was not lavish with his praise to a man more than 21 years his junior, about a subject dear to both their hearts.
Thrown into obscurity by the vagaries of history, the destructive war years, misrepresentation of style and the fickleness of musical fashion, Holý's finely crafted works of art deserve to be reinstated in current harp repertory. To this end, we are publishing and republishing all of Alfred Holý's works in first and new editions with accompanying recordings.