Belgian-born Alphonse Hasselmans is generally
considered a minor composer, but he was a key figure in
the genre of harp playing in the late-19th and
early-20th centuries, since he is credited with
establishing the French School of harp playing and with
helping to revive interest in the harp.
Hasselmans was born in Liège on March 5, 1845, the son
of Josef H. Hasselmanns, a prominent conductor, harpist
and violinist. Young Alphonse exhibited talent on the
harp as a child and began study on the instrument at
the Strasbourg Conservatory with his father. He later
took instruction on the harp in Stuttgart from Gottlieb
Krüger, in Brussels from Xavier Desargas, and at the
Paris Conservatory from Ange-Conrad Prumier.
Hasselmans' earliest significant post was harpist for
the orchestra at the Théâtre de la Monnaie (Brussels),
hardly a venue for him to showcase his rare talent.
However, he gave a series of solo appearances in Paris
in 1877 that created a sensation. Thereafter, he was
able to secure a succession of posts with major
ensembles: the Paris Conservatory Orchestra, the Opéra
National de Paris, and the Opéra-Comique Paris.
As a solo performer Hasselmans often played his own
compositions in concert, many of which were very
difficult. Of his fifty-four works all were for solo
harp, none for harp and orchestra. His output includes
a handful of popular pieces, such as Gitana, Op. 21 and
La Source, Op. 44.
In the latter part of his career Hasselmans began to
turn toward teaching and the refining of harp
techniques. In 1884 he was appointed professor of harp
at the Paris Conservatory, a post he held until his
death. Over the coming years his students would include
some of the greatest harpists of the 20th century:
Marcel Grandjany, Marcel Tournier, Pierre Jamet,
Henriette Renié and Carlos Salzedo. By all accounts
Hasselmans was a strict and difficult teacher, often
turning livid at a pupil's inadequacies.
Before his death Hasselmans wrote an important essay,
La harpe et sa technique (published in 1913), outlining
his principles of harp playing. He died in Paris in
"La Source" was written by Hasselmans in 1898 and was
dedicated to élève Hélène Gayat. It is written entirely