Ernst Eichner, Jean Theophile Eichner: Four Harp Concertos

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E. EICHNER Harp Concertos: in C, op. 6/1; in D, op. 9. J. T. EICHNER Harp Concertos: in G, op. 5/1; in D, op. 5/2 Silke Aichhorn (hp); Stefan Fraas, cond; Kurpfälz CO CPO 777 8352 (79:23)

Ernst Eichner (1740–1777) was born 16 years before Mozart and lived just slightly longer than Mozart’s 36 years. His two main posts were at Zweibrücken (near Saarbrücken, on the border with France) and Potsdam. In his time he was highly praised by many of his peers, and his music, the symphonies in particular, was widely performed. In addition to his 31 symphonies (Michael Carter favorably reviewed four of them in Fanfare 33:3), Eichner wrote much chamber musi—yet, surprisingly, nothing it seems for the instrument on which he excelled, the bassoon. Ernst Eichner, while hardly a household name today, is represented in most music dictionaries and encyclopedias. The “other” Eichner here, Jean Théophile, is so obscure that we don’t even know his birth and death dates.

All four concertos on this disc could easily be part of an anthology entitled The Age of Elegance . They are eminently pleasing—balm to harried lifestyles and troubled souls, designed to brighten your day. I don’t mean to sound condescending. The music makes no pretensions to be anything but entertaining or diverting. Harpists will probably send me hate mail for saying this, but these concertos would make the perfect background music for a summer garden party or a formal reception at an embassy. However, they are also worthy enough to stand on their own, especially in the superb performances we find here. German harpist Silke Aichhorn, with 19 other recordings on her own label, has carved a considerable solo career for herself, and deservedly so, for her artistry is both tasteful and commanding. The orchestral playing is immaculate. Stefan Fraas conducts with infectious charm and stylish grace. The acoustic ambiance is extraordinary—beautifully balanced, warm and full yet transparent, intimate yet airy and spacious.

The Kurpfälz Chamber Orchestra of Mannheim looks to consist, from its photo in the inlay booklet, of but a dozen strings, yet its sound suggests a considerably larger ensemble. Supplemented by pairs of flutes and horns, the textures are almost symphonic in the tutti passages. Every one of the 12 movements provides its own pleasures. Fast outer movements are energetic without being forceful, inner slow movements gleam with grace and lyricism. The slow movement of op. 6/1 is for harp alone. The slow movement of op. 5/1, the only one in a minor key, offers a moment of melting beauty. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Markow

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 777835-2

  • UPC: 761203783526

  • Label: CPO

  • Composer: Ernst Eicher, Jean Theophile Eichner

  • Conductor: Stefan Fraas

  • Performer: Silke Aichhorn