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Johann Karl ESCHMANN (1826-1882)
Caprice-Etude, op. 36 [06:45], Poesie-Blumen, op. 1: 1. Ziemlich langsam [07:41], Frühlingsblüthen, op. 14: 5. Landschaft [06:25], 6. Lustiger [02:28], 7. Nicht schnell [01:41], Was einem so in der Dämmerung einfällt, op. 8: 4. Nachtfalter [01:14], 5. Salon-Etude [03:21], 12. Epilog [04:11], Fortsetzung und Schluss [03:34], 4 lyrische Blätter, op. 15 [23:21], 4 lyrische Blätter, op. 12 [15:50]
Jeremy Filsell (piano)
Recorded 27th April 1999 in St. Silas Church, Chalk Farm and St. Paulís School, Barnes, London
GUILD GMCD 7273 [78:18]


There are times, while you are listening to a piece of unfamiliar music, when a motif turns up that sounds so familiar that you become desperately sidetracked, leaving the music to continue while you search in your memory for the original of that all-too well-known theme. Eschmann has several of these moments and indeed, if he had chosen to call the first of the op. 15 pieces a "Meditation on a Theme from Frauenliebe und Leben", maybe we would be applauding his ingenuity rather than criticising his derivativeness.

But there is another sort of recognition, when a theme turns up that, although you have never actually heard it, you seem to have known it all your life, as though it has been an old friend all the time and you only have to know it to recognize it as such. Rather surprisingly, Eschmann manages one of these, in the contrasting material of the second of the op. 15 pieces. Itís a bold theme, skirting vulgarity, and all the more surprising for its context. Maybe Stephen Hough, who likes to build up anthological programmes, could find a place for this piece.

If Eschmann ever wrote another theme like that, it isnít on this disc, though parts of "Fortsetzung und Schluss" and the first of the op. 12 pieces head that way Ė again, Eschmann is being bolder than usual. For the rest, these are the mild-mannered musings of a man who had studied with Mendelssohn and loved Schumann. He was also friendly with Brahms and Wagner, but for his own creations he drew on themes of a Schumannesque cut; not, mostly, themes that Schumann would have felt strong enough to use as basic material but ones which he might, on an off-day, have deigned to use to pad out a transitional moment. Frankly, one wearies in the attempt to engage with stuff that sounds like music but mostly isnít. Several of the pieces are far from short, too.

The disc is part of a series sponsored by the Zentralbibliothek of Zürich, aimed at making known the manuscript or rare scores it holds. A thoroughly laudable initiative, and I only wish I could feel theyíd found something more worthwhile. As a lifelong exponent of rare music myself, Iím never very happy about dismissing music that might mean a lot to the composerís happy band of admirers, but I can only report what I hear. As far as I can tell without scores or comparative performances, Jeremy Filsell does all he can, the recording is rich and warm and the case for the defence is pleaded authoritatively by Robert Matthew-Walker.

Christopher Howell

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