Schubert sonatas

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Elfenreigen – fairy round dance
Robert Nicolas Charles BOCHSA (1789-1856)

Nocturne Concertant in G minor Op.71/3 (c.1818) [10.26]
Marcel TOURNIER (1879-1951)

Deux Preludes Romantiques Op.17 (1909) [3.37]
Willy HESS (1906-1997)

Elfenreigen Op.79 (1972-73) [4.14]
Johann Baptist KRUMPHOLTZ (1747-1790)

Sonata in F major Op.8 No.5 (c.1780) [13.35]
Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937)

Impromptu-Caprice in A flat major Op.9 for harp (1887) [5.25]
Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)

Sonata in C minor WoO23 [16.03]
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)

Hamburg Sonata in G major Wq No.133 [9.47]
Bruno HILSE (19th/20th century)

Suite Op.6 [15.11]
Henner Eppel (flute)
Christian Topp (harp)
Recorded House of Audio Studios, Karlsdorf, October 2003
GUILD GMCD 7294 [79.23]

The violinist Marie Hall was, so it’s said, discovered playing in the street with her harpist father. It’s not too far away from the flute and harp combination, though its incarnation in this disc is altogether more elegant and gratifying than a street corner. Eppel and Topp have constructed a pleasing programme that moves with a certain effortless élan from C.P.E. Bach to the recently deceased Willy Hess (obviously not the Willy Hess, violinist, that Marie Hall would have known). There’s little here that is intellectually taxing but a lot that is dextrous and ear titillating.

Bochsa’s contribution for instance is in effect a mini operatic scena with its rippling harp arpeggios, a slow introduction and a faster recitative section. It makes a suitably bold opener and is followed by Tournier’s 1909 pieces originally written for – yes – violin and harp. The transposition works well and the music is suffused with late Romanticism and generous lyricism. Into this milieu Hess’ 1972 Elfenreigen, the work that gives the disc its title, fits very nicely. Hess, though he died in 1997 at the age of ninety-one, was perfectly happy writing tuneful, unpretentious music. Which is fine by me – this piece reminded me a tiny bit of the music for the television series The Secret Garden (Ronald Binge’s The Watermill) and that’s also fine by me.

Back to 1780 for the Bohemian suicide Krumpholtz whose sonata is rather generic, though not unpleasant, until some perky and melodically captivating writing in the finale. Believing in spanning the centuries and criss-crossing them with abandon we get Pierné’s gorgeous Impromptu-Caprice for solo harp. If you disregard the rather academic title, and it would be better to do so, you’ll hear delicious curlicues, arpeggios – and a bag full of lyrical writing. Only a Frenchman, writing for solo harp, could pack so many changeable moods into so short a space of time. Next to it Spohr sounds rather dutiful, though this was a work he wrote for himself (violin) to play with his wife (harp). It’s very classical but sports a lovely air in the second andante of the second movement. The C.P.E. Bach sonata is melodically attractive and the Hilse Suite is unusual. A sliver of an introduction opens out nicely; this is an appealing work, dating possibly from the earlier part of the twentieth century – not much is known about it or the composer – though one can assume that he didn’t get to too many orgies if his sedate Bacchanale is anything to go by. An appealing work however and a pleasurable rediscovery.

The recorded sound in the House of Studios in Karlsdorf is just – the balance between the instruments is a good one, the acoustic is certainly neither cold nor distant. Eppel contributes the entertaining notes.

Jonathan Woolf




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