Anna Astesano

Harp Performer and Teacher

Anna’s Music Story

You might wonder why a girl from a non-musical family started playing the harp at age 5! Well Anna was not really interested in playing any musical instrument, until she discovered the harp. Growing up in Italy, Anna happened to live near the biggest harp factory in the world, the Salvi Harp factory. A family trip out one day inspired her to ask her parents for lessons as she was fascinated by what she had seen and tried several out at the factory. It was the beginning of a great career.

After having harp lessons in music schools locally, Anna decided to move to Conservatoire at age 13. She then applied to music colleges and went to the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et Danse de Lyon (CNSMD), where she did her undergraduate and postgraduate studies. From there she went to London to study at the Trinity and Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in the Postgraduate Advanced Diploma course in London.

In June 2015 she won the audition as first harp at “Luigi Cherubini” Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Riccardo Muti. Since 2017 she has been awarded scholarships offered by the Turin CRT Foundation, “De Sono” Association and Turin “Lions Club”. In 2018 she was awarded the “John Marson Prize for best performer” and the “Featured Young Performer” Prize by the London Ear Festival, having soloist and chamber music concerts with the Uroboros Ensemble.

She has performed as soloist or as part of a chamber music ensemble in some of London’s most famous institutions, such as the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, Wigmore Hall, St Martin’s In-the-Fields and the British Museum.

"My passion and determination hopefully come through in my encouragement and support for those learning the harp"

What was the Trinity and Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance like?

Trinity Laban has been a great trampoline into the London Music World. I have learnt very much from my teachers, Gabriella Dall’Olio and Frances Kelly! They have prepared me for auditions and orchestra jobs in the UK, helping me very much with the development of my career (both performance and teaching!)

Where would you suggest people buy a harp from?

Harps for beginners can have less strings, 32 and 34 string harps are a good size for children. Each string represents a white note, or tone on the piano and this can be a good option to start playing. I would also suggest renting for 3-6 months before buying.

A concert harp will have 47 strings, 6 octaves. Levers on the harp can adjust the strings by a semi-tone and you can set the key at the beginning of the piece by using the pedals.
My recommendations would be to go to Clive Morley Harps, London, Salvi Music London or BK Instrument (second-hand rent and buy) if you are purchasing a harp.

What age do you recommend starting to play the harp?

Playing the harp has the same sort of musical development potential as the piano as you are using two hands; it is just that they are turned 180 degrees (they work in the same direction and not opposite as it happens on the piano) .
There are smaller, lighter versions of the harp so you can start playing as early as age 5, although this is slightly dependent on your size and your coordination of both hands. At this age teaching is more about exploring music than learning technicalities.

Starting the harp can be extremely rewarding as you can create a beautiful sound from day one. It is stimulating to learn and great to play in chamber groups with cello, voice, or other strings!

So, what are you like as a teacher?

Friends would describe me as calm, patient but also stubborn and this probably comes through in my teaching as well. Once I am convinced of doing something I am fairly determined. My passion and determination hopefully come through in my encouragement and support for those learning the harp. I always try to uncover my students’ potentials, which might be quite different, and help them find a regular practice routine enjoying learning how to play the harp!

What has been your career highlight to date?

Playing in the 2019 BBC Proms, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra was amazing. It was an all-Russian programme with the principal, Vladimir Jurowski.

What harp pieces would you recommend people listen to, to inspire them to play?

Music by Debussy and Ravel, during the French impressionist period, has some fantastic excerpts dedicated to the harp. This was when the double pedal had been invented so the harp could be set to all key signatures and the composition for the harp could then be expanded. The harp has also some fantastic folk tunes and Irish/ Scottish tunes to inspire you to play.

Find out more Anna Astesano

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