Close-Up: Catrin Finch

She's got a harp – and she's not afraid to use (and abuse) it
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The Independent Culture

"People enjoy a show," says Catrin Finch, and in party-mode she gives it to them, fitting her electric harp with a whammy-pedal for jazz and Colombian fusions, or playing two harps simultaneously. This month she's taking a more serious show on the road, to launch the CD of her harp arrangement of Bach's majestic Goldberg Variations. "The stamina required for a live performance is huge," she admits. "It's an epic journey."

Finch's own journey has been impressively smooth. Chancing to hear Marisa Robles play the harp in her native Wales when she was five, she decided she would play it too. From private lessons, via the Purcell School, to the Royal Academy - where, at 28, she is now a visiting professor - she's moved straight as an arrow to her goal, and is now the world's leading ambassador for her still underrated instrument. What put her into the limelight was her installation as Royal Harpist to the Prince of Wales.

"In the US, people would want me to play as I was the royal harpist – my special position intrigued them," she says. It also intrigued the Thai royal family, who invited Finch to Bangkok to perform and teach: in 2002 a harp school was opened there, which she now regularly visits.

But this Bach work is the keyboard holy of holies; what made her decide to invade it? "I sensed it would be interesting, though I wasn't sure it would work." Broadly speaking, it's worked brilliantly, though Finch is not satisfied with how she's dealt with the rapidly cascading Variation 11. "It's difficult to make that sound clean, because when you pluck a string on the harp and touch it again so soon, it makes a buzz." A fiver for anyone who notices.

'Catrin Finch: Goldberg Variations' is on Deutsche Grammophon. She tours to 22 February: see www.catrinfinch.com

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