The extraordinary harpist Maria Christina Cleary, from Ireland, has been described as “a true virtuoso,” a “brilliant player” and “a pioneer of the period harp practice.” She is noted for her improvisatory skills and ingenious basso continuo playing, combined with a particular care to create a beautiful sound on perilous instruments. Specializing in historical harps, Maria performs on medieval harps, the Baroque chromatic harps including the Italian arpa doppia, the Welsh triple harp, the Spanish arpa de dos ordenes and the eighteenth-century harpe organisée. She promotes a historical pedal technique for harps with a single-action pedal mechanism. She has developed several innovative tuning systems for performing medieval and renaissance music.
Maria has performed as a soloist and basso continuo with several ensembles, and performs regularly with violinist Davide Monti under the name Arparla, specializing in repertoire from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. She has also recorded over forty albums with orchestras and early music ensembles. She has been a prizewinner at many competitions as a soloist. As an orchestral player, she has worked as Principal Harpist in Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and further held the position of harpist of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in Dublin. Maria has worked in the area of contemporary music with MusikFabrik in Köln and Remix Ensemble in Porto, and continues to perform and record new works for the harp. She has premiered over fifty pieces for solo harp and harp in ensemble.
Maria holds Bachelor and Master’s degrees from Dublin, London, The Hague and Brussels, where she studied with Denise Kelly, Mercedes Garvey and Susanna Mildonian. In 2016, she was awarded a Ph.D. from Leiden University on historical pedal techniques. She publishes academic articles and book chapters, and teaches historical styles, improvisation and chamber music to all instrumentalists.