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Ernst EICHNER (1740 - 1772): Flute Quartets op. 4

Il Gardellino

rec: Oct 2006, Haarlem, Doopsgezinde Kerk
Accent - ACC 24183 (© 2006) (57'02")

Quartetto I in D; Quartetto II in G; Quartetto III in d minor; Quartetto IV in D; Quartetto V in C; Quartetto VI in g minor

(Source: Six Quatuors pour Flute, Violon, Alto et Basse, op. 4, 1772)

Jan De Winne, transverse flute; Ryo Terakado, violin; Mika Akiha, viola; Clare Giardelli, cello

In the middle of the 18th century the transverse flute developed into one of the most beloved instruments. It was popular among the bourgeoisie as well as the aristocracy. The most famous ruler of the 18th century who was an ardent lover of the flute was, of course, Frederick the Great of Prussia. But Prince Elector Carl Theodor of the Palatinate also loved to play the flute. It is possible that Eichner wrote his flute quartets for the Prince, as there were close ties between the Elector's court in Mannheim and Duke Christian IV of Pfalz-Zweibrücken, where Eichner worked from 1762 to 1772, first as violinist, from 1768 on as concertmaster. In that year he disappeared from Zweibrücken for inexplicable reasons, only to appear the next year in London, where he participated in the famous Bach-Abel concerts. Here he played the bassoon, the instrument he had learned in his youth. He earned high praise from Charles Burney who wrote that Eichner "confers on the bassoon the universal respect among the singing instruments, to which it lays claim by its nature". Later that year he returned to Germany and entered the service of the Prussian crown prince, where he stayed until his death. His passing away remained almost unnoticed which is quite tragical as during his career he earned much praise, not only as a player of the bassoon but also as a composer of mainly symphonic works.

With his employer he regularly stayed in Paris. Here he performed as a bassoonist in the Concert Spirituel, and he earned the second prize in a symphonic contest there in 1772, just behind Christian Cannabich. The quartets recorded here were published in 1772 simultaneously in London, Paris and Amsterdam, which shows that he was a man of international reputation.

The quartets are different in style. In his programme notes Bernhard Blattmann makes a distinction between the quartets in regard to the role of the flute in the ensemble. Some quartets belong to the genre called quatuor dialogue, where the transverse flute takes up a dialogue with the violin, with viola and cello supporting the two upper voices. Other quartets have the traits of a solo concerto in which the flute takes the lead and the strings are providing a kind of accompaniment like the orchestra in a real solo concerto. The third category is close to the symphony; it is here that the influence of the Mannheim school is most obvious, for instance in the use of dynamic contrasts. All quartets are in two movements, which puts them into the genre of the divertimento.

The music suggests Eichner was an excellent composer and these quartets make one curious to hear the symphonies which he was most famous for. But we should be grateful for what we are offered here, in particular as these quartets are performed brilliantly by the ensemble Il Gardellino. The ensemble produces a beautiful sound and realises the various features of these quartets quite well. It plays dramatically if it has to, and also is able to relax in the more light-hearted movements. Sometimes they hold back a little between the periods of a movement which creates additional tension and makes the performances even more captivating. The tempi are well-chosen and the dynamics, in particular in the more 'symphonic' pieces, are well realised.

In short, this is not only a very interesting recording of music by an unjustly neglected composer, this disc is very enjoyable and offers musical entertainment of the highest order.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

Relevant links:

Il Gardellino

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