Austria – One of the largest and heaviest instruments in an orchestra is the harp, which is being presented on this commemorative stamp from the “Musical Instruments ” series. It is included in the string instruments. 

All harps, regardless of the type of construction, share three essential elements: the soundboard, also known as the body, the neck and the strings. The approximately 1.80 metre tall column is, so to speak, the backbone, roughly forming a triangle with the body and the neck. The strings run parallel to the column. The neck is the curved upper portion of the harp – it is reminiscent of an erect snake and is often decorated with mythical figures. The tuning pegs and dials used for tuning the harp are also fitted on the neck. The body links the neck to the foot of the column, and is responsible for producing the sound. The pedals used to raise the pitch when playing are also located in the foot.

The harp is not only one of the largest, but is also one of the oldest musical instruments used by mankind. Illustrations of bow harps from the Ancient Egyptian era around 3,000 years before Christ can be found, primarily on grave paintings. In Europe evidence of harps can be found from around the 8th century A.D. A particularly famous kind is the Celtic harp: some such harps from the15th century

with the characteristic curved column have survived to this day in Great Britain and Ireland. The Celtic harp is the symbol of the Republic of Ireland and is depicted on both its coat of arms and on the Irish Euro coins.

Modern day concert harps are so-called double-action pedal harps, a kind of harp developed by Sébastian Erard in around 1820 in Paris. They have seven pedals which enable the pitch to be adjusted by one or two semitones, depending on whether the pedal is depressed once or twice. Concert harps have 47 strings and a range of six and a half octaves. They can be used as solo or orchestral instruments or as an accompaniment for voice. An example of a famous piece for harp is Mozart’s Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra in C Major (KV 299). Composers such as Mahler, Debussy and Bartók also wrote many pieces for orchestra and harp. Harps have a wide repertoire of sounds. Low tones sound for several seconds and are, therefore, sometimes damped using the hands in order to prevent them merging with the subsequent harmony.

In many countries particular types of harps are played, as in Latin America, for example, where the harp plays an important role in the traditional music. The Tyrolean folk harp, also known as the Liederharfe is a single-action pedal harp which is very popular in alpine folk music.

Technical Details

Issue Date: 10.03.2017
Designer: Maria Schulz
Printer: Österreichische Staatsdruckerei
Process: Kombinationsdruck, Etch-Art By OeSD
Values: €2.10