Silke Aichhorn, harp.
Hörmusik, 2020.

An extraordinarily prolific recording artist, German harpist Silke Aichhorn released her 25th album this year. Like all artists, with dozens of concerts canceled due to Covid, she had time on her hands to “rummage and research through my music dunes,” as she told me by email, to find new and unknown works. And we are the beneficiaries with this CD, her fourth installment in the Miniaturen series, a collection of transcriptions and never-recorded works that provide not only terrific listening, but an opportunity to discover gems in the repertoire that might spice up your own recitals. 

Among her world premieres is a Waltz by harpist Kurt Gillmann, a relic of the golden age who lived into the 1970s. All frothiness and sentiment, Aichhorn adds just the right amount of coquettishness to this piece, one of his massive collection lost in a fire that he later attempted to reconstruct. Charles Oberthür’s arrangement of Beethoven’s Adelaide presents difficulties when attempting to capture the delicate pressure of a piano or the meaning of the text on ringing strings. Aichhorn provides buoyancy and forward motion that gives this song a feeling of being intended for harp. 

Another gem never recorded before is Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel’s “Bist du bei mir” from the opera “Diomedes.” Aichhorn shares a funny story of planning to play this for an open air wedding in South Tyrol when the singer refused to sing, causing her to play it alone and falling in love with it as solo work, as you will too with this lovely rendition. Aichhorn often finds new pieces scrolling through YouTube, where she discovered a Silvius L. Weiss Lautensuite, played these days primarily by guitarists. On harp, it retains its intimate quality with an added operatic aspect. 

Two students alerted her to pieces never recorded: a moody Barcarolle by Félix Godefroid and a stunning fantasy on David of the White Rock by John Thomas, a Welsh melody supposedly from a bard who wished for harp to be played at his death bed. Aichhorn relishes in the moody character, emphasizing the melancholic nature and expansiveness in the variation section. 

Another gorgeous find is the swaying, off-beat Hittite Suite by Turkish harpist Çağatay Akyol, which Aichhorn plays with superb technique. More importantly, with reverence for these ancient Anatolian themes, she accentuates the tentative and halting silences like a folk musician who privileges atmosphere over rhythmic accuracy.One of John Williams’ greatest creations was for the film Schindler’s List. Aichhorn plays her own tasty arrangement, though carefully calls it a “cover” since during Covid she was unable to get any official permission from Williams’ handlers.