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Renié, Henriette (Gabrielle Marie Sophie)free

  • Jaymee Haefner

(b Paris, 18 Sept 1875; d Paris, 1 March 1956). French harpist, composer, and teacher. Henriette Renié was the youngest of five children and the only daughter in her family. While riding on a train with her father, the five-year-old Renié pointed to the harpist Alphonse Hasselmans and declared he would be her teacher. After three years of the piano, Renié began harp lessons at the Érard workshop with Hasselmans and later entered the Conservatoire de Paris, winning her premier prix at the age of 11. As a young girl Renié commented upon the difficulty of the harp’s pedals to Gustave Lyon (of Pleyel), inadvertently renewing interest in cross-strung chromatic harps.

Renié toured with the Lamoureux Orchestra under the baton of Camille Chevillard and collaborated with Paul Paray, Ernest Van Dyck, Jacques Thibaud, Jeanne Raunay, Claire Croiza, and Pablo Casals. She gave the première of Gabrielle Pierne’s Concertstück with Edouard Colonne and performed the Introduction et allegro with Maurice Ravel.

In 1910 Renié made the first pedal harp transcription of Claude Debussy’s Danse sacrée et danse profane (originally written for the chromatic harp). The influence of her Conservatoire teachers Charles Lenepveu and Théodore Dubois may be heard in her compositions including Legendé and Piece symphonique, and her Concerto in C Minor. She received a Prix du Disque for recording her composition Danse des lutins. These works elevated the status of the harp, along with her 12-volume collection of transcriptions, Les classiques de la harpe.

Although Renié was not appointed harp professor, many Conservatoire harpists studied privately with her. Her students included Marcel Grandjany, Susann McDonald, Mildred Dilling, Odette Le Dentu, and Solange Jean Renié. Henriette Renié founded the first international harp competition (Prix Renié) in 1914 and wrote her Méthode complete de harpe (‘Complete Method for Harp’) during World War II. In 1935 Renié received the ‘Salon of French Musicians’ gold medal of honour, and she was appointed a Knight in the Légion d’Honneur in 1954.

Bibliography

  • F.D. Varennes: Henriette Renié: Harpe Vivante (Paris, 1983; Eng. trans 2/1990 by S. McDonald)
  • C. Slaughter: Henriette Renié: a Pioneer in the World of the Harp (thesis, Rice U., 1992)
  • O.D. Montesquiou: Henriette Renié et la harpe (Paris, 1998; Eng trans. by R. Kilpatrick, ed. J. Haefner 2006, as The Legend of Henriette Renié)
  • J. Haefner: One Stone to the Building: Henriette Renié’s Life through her Works for Harp (Bloomington, IN, 2017) [with foreword by S. McDonald]