International Harp Society
Maria Luisa Rayan-Forero is making her Salt Lake debut Friday.

Maria Luisa Rayan-Forero isn't your typical harpist. The young Argentinean likes to think outside the box, especially with regard to harp music.

Passing up on the large volume of works written by the late 19th and early 20th century harpist/composers, such as Carlos Salzedo and Marcel Grandjany, Rayan-Forero actually enjoys playing new works and transcriptions of pieces that you wouldn't associate with the harp.

Local audiences will get a chance to experience Rayan-Forero's eclectic array of works when she makes her Salt Lake debut on Friday.

She'll be joined by flutist Thomas Robertello, and Rayan-Forero promises the recital will be memorable. "It's going to be a diverse combination of works," she said by phone from her home in Chicago. "Except for J.S. Bach's Sonata in G minor for Flute and Continuo, none of the pieces are what you would expect."

With the possible exception of Astor Piazzolla's Tangos, which were originally written for flute and guitar, Rayan-Forero and Robertello will be playing an exceptional program that includes Alan Hovhaness' original work "Garden of Adonis," op. 245, and a transcription of a raga by Ravi Shankar titled "L'Aube Enchantee."

"The Hovhaness piece is based on a poem by Edmund Spencer from the 1500s, which is about souls being reincarnated as flowers," Rayan-Forero said. "There are seven numbers, and each has its own character. They're very colorful and very Hovhaness."

Shankar's "L'Aube Enchantee," on the other hand, is a virtuosic piece for the flute. "The flutist is very busy. It's different for me. There are no pedal changes, and my part is more like a drone."

Rayan-Forero and Robertello have known each other for several years. They met at Indiana University. "He is a professor there and we got to know each other while I was a student," Rayan-Forero said. They met again four years ago at the Brevard Music Festival in North Carolina and have been performing regularly together for the past three years.

Besides pursuing an active solo career, Rayan-Forero frequently performs with orchestras in North and South America, and has also played at a number of festivals including the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico.

Rayan-Forero began playing the harp in her native Argentina as a 6-year-old. When she was 17, she came to the United States to study with Susann McDonald at Indiana University. Because of her previous studies, Rayan-Forero was able to skip the undergraduate program and go directly into graduate school. Her doctoral dissertation was on the music of Piazzolla.

Along with playing original works for the harp and transcriptions, Rayan-Forero has also commissioned composers to write pieces for her. "As a harpist, you play a lot of transcriptions. Much of the music, especially by Bach, adapts very well for the harp, and it's very satisfying to play these pieces. But it's also fun to work with composers as they're writing a piece for you."

If you go . . .

What: Maria Luisa Rayan-Forero, harp; Thomas Robertello, flute

Where: Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

How much: $15 general admission, $10 students

Phone: 581-7100 or 355-2686