Friday, April 5, 2013

The First Lady of the Harp

Mildred Dilling
During her lifetime, Indiana-born Mildred Dilling (1894-1982) was usually billed as the "First Lady of the Harp" - which seems corny nowadays, but I suppose it made sense back then, when the harp soloists most publicly visible were men (Grandjany, Salzedo).  And, if the picture is any indication, she certainly had glamour.  Her greatest claim to fame is that she was Harpo Marx's harp teacher. (Actually, Harpo was self-taught on the instrument, claims his son Bill, also a musician, on this website, but he did receive help from Dilling in breaking bad habits.)  She also owned the world's largest collection of harps - 65 of them, all kept in her Manhattan apartment!  She made, however, pitifully few recordings. Four issued sides for HMV in the late 20s, fourteen more for American Columbia in the 30s, and an LP or two for Urania is all I am aware of.  Here is the only one I have, one of the Columbia issues:

Prokofiev: Prelude in C Major, Op. 12, No. 7 and
Sibelius: Pastorale (from "Pelléas et Mélisande")
Mildred Dilling, harp
Recorded June 8 and 9, 1937
Columbia 17107-D, one 10-inch 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 14.98 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 6.26 MB)

For those who would like to hear more of Mildred Dilling's playing, there is a 1940 short film on Youtube, in which she plays three pieces as well as talks about the harp.


  1. Thanks, Bryan!
    I had no trouble at all downloading the flac files from FileFactory (free user) with Mac OS X using Chrome browser. (See my comments under previous post.)

  2. Wonderful, delicate performances. The only problem is that the pieces are too short, I wanted more of her playing.

    Great transfers. Thanks Bryan.


  3. Fascinating. Many thanks, Bryan.