By all accounts, Ernst Eichner was a distinguished if somewhat disreputable musician in his day. His life and catalogue of employers is given in some detail in Johannes Sturm’s booklet notes for this release. A possible indicator of this renown is the appropriation of the two Harp Concerti Op. 5 as being by Ernst by Amsterdam publisher Johann Julius Hummel, when in fact they are by the ‘otherwise unknown’ Jean Théophile Eichner. This may or may not have been the result of inefficient confusion rather than intentional forgery, but in any case Ernst was the default Eichner as far as the publisher of these works was concerned, and publishers are keen to turn a profit if nothing else.
The music of Ernst Eichner’s harp concertos has plenty of the classical magic you might hope for if already acquainted with Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp K 299. No claims can be made for these pieces being at the same level of melodic invention, but the sonorities conjure pastoral imagery or the sparkling of fountains in formal gardens, and a pleasant time is had by all. Typical string and flute accompaniments entertain in the opening Allegro tempo giusto of the Concerto Op. 6,1, and the interplay of pizzicato strings and harp in the central Andantino is delightful. These performances have a light touch and an aura of authentic performance in their sonorities, and while the harp has a timeless sound of itself the orchestra slots itself into the idiom of these works perfectly. The Harp Concerto Op. 9 is a tad beefier, with horns, trumpets and timpani added to the mix, giving the work quite a symphonic feel at times, though the full orchestra is of course used relatively sparingly against the gentler sound of the harp.
The Harp Concerti Opp. 5,1 and 5,2 are smaller in scale, but by no means negligible pieces, with plenty of vibrant and virtuoso writing for the harp. These were published as for the “Clavecin”, and the rate of notes sometimes stretches the soloist Silke Aichhorn to what sounds like micro-reductions in tempo. The playing barely betrays much in the way of strain however, and any blemishes are negligible. I particularly like the baroque character in the central Andante poco Adagio central movement of Op. 5,1, and while there are few interesting harmonic twists or moments of really inspired creative genius on which to remark there is also much to raise a smile and a thankful lack of time-filling in any of these pieces. The CPO label is once again deserving of our gratitude in bringing some neglected music to our attention, and this is a release very much worth acquiring.