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Robert Nicolas Charles BOCHSA (1789-1856)
Nocturne Concertant in G minor op.71/3 [10:26]
Marcel TOURNIER (1879-1951)
Deux Préludes Romantiques op.17 [03:37]
Willy HESS (1906-1997)
Elfenreigen op.79 [04:14]
Johann Baptist KRUMPHOLTZ (1747-1790)
Sonata in F op.8/5 [13:35]
Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937)
Impromptu-Caprice in A flat op.9 for solo harp [05:25]
Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)
Sonata in C minor WoO 23 [16:03]
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Hamburg Sonata in G Wq.133 [09:47]
Bruno HILSE (19th/20th century)
Suite op.6 [15:11]
Henner Eppel (flute), Christian Topp (harp)
Recorded at the House of Audio Studios, D-76689 Karlsdorf, Germany, October 2003
GUILD GMCD 7294 [79:23]




Henner Eppel provides the excellent notes for this disc and sensibly discusses the works in chronological order. Was it his own idea to put them on the disc higgledy-piggledy as listed above or did he have a surprise when he saw the finished product? As a matter of fact, the chronological leaps back and forward divide the disc up into three or four mini-programmes and, the combination of flute and harp not being a very varied one, I took the hint and gratefully enjoyed three mini-sessions in alternation with other discs. I recommend that others do likewise.

The lack of variety is no fault of the artists who play well and tastefully in music which hardly gives scope for more. The “Elfenreigen” is a very pleasing little piece, delicately evocative. As it is the first of 3 Tonstücke I wonder if the other two might not have gone on the disc in preference to the longwinded and repetitive Bochsa Nocturne. Since this latter is the weakest item on the CD (admittedly the theme itself is ear-catching), it is rather a pity it is placed first. Sweetly pleasant, too, are the two Tournier pieces while the more classical sonatas are not without charm and the Spohr is actually quite strong. Until the end I was compelled to reflect that, alas for the flautist, the beautiful Pierné Impromptu-Caprice for solo harp was the most memorable item, but the Hilse proved a real find, music with strength, imagination and personality, an essential piece for this rare combination: of the works included here only the Bochsa, Hess and Hilse were originally for flute and harp; the Tournier, Krumpholtz and Spohr were for violin and harp and the C.P.E. Bach was for flute and thorough bass, so the harp was only one of the several acceptable accompaniments. But they all work perfectly well as presented here. The notes tell us a little quaintly that “despite modern research it has not been possible to obtain very much useful information about B Hilse and his life or about any other potential compositions by him”. I’ve been wondering ever since what a “potential composition” might (potentially) sound like; if anybody could find some other actual ones (the composer of an op.6 would logically have written at least five) I should be (potentially) very interested to hear them.

In one sense, the chronological peculiarity of this sequence is less disturbing than it would be with any other combination. Since the harp, unlike the piano, has no dampers, its music tends to be accompanied by an impressionist haze no matter what period it belongs to. Conversely, also unlike the piano, it has no sustaining pedal and its undamped strings sustain much less long than the piano, so it tends to reduce the impressionist haze surrounding music which might be expected to have one. In other words, it tends to make all music sound rather similar. Or so I was thinking until Hilse came along and showed that music for flute and harp can have a distinct profile.

The notes, as I said, are by Eppel himself, and they have been given a very fluent and idiomatic translation by C. Topp and B. Meech, with the one proviso that the pair appear not to familiar with musical terminology. The phrase “general bass accompaniment” will be intelligible only to those English readers who know that the thorough bass or basso continuo is called Generalbass in German. Likewise “sonatas for flute and obligatory harpsichord” sound an unlikely prison recreation until we realize that it must mean “flute and harpsichord obbligato”.

This looked like being a specialist disc, but Hilse, Pierné and perhaps Hess, Tournier and Spohr (in that order) should make it worthwhile to a wider public. But don’t hear it all in one go if you’re not a specialist.

Christopher Howell

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf



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