Joseph Leopold Eybler (1765-1846)
The Chamber Music
Quintet in D major for 2 Violins, Viola, Cello and Double Bass [42:37]
Trio in C major for Violin, Viola and Cello [28:47]
Quintett Momento Musicale
Recorded Markkleeberg, Saxonia, August 2004
MDG 603 1321-2 [71:39]
You have to sympathize with a composer who is best known for not completing
the work of a fellow composer. Such is the fate of Joseph Eybler. Upon
Mozart's death, his wife Constanze asked Eybler to complete the famous
Requiem. Eybler eventually decided to hand the assignment back to
Constanze, and Franz Sussmayer then completed the work.
As for Eybler's own musical artistry, his works represent the highest
level of 2nd tier Classical era composers. Put another way, only Haydn
and Mozart outshine this Viennese composer who was born into a musical
family. Eybler's father was a choir director who gave the lad his
entry-level musical training that was followed up with lessons at St.
Stephen's Boys' College in Vienna. At the age of twelve, Eybler began
studying under Georg Albrechtsberger who declared his pupil the greatest
musical genius in Vienna excepting for Mozart. Additional admiration
came from Franz Haydn who praised Eybler's outstanding talents and
knowledge of music theory.
Eybler's first professional appointment came in 1792 as the choir director
at the Karmeliterkirche in Vienna where he also performed his own masses.
Two years later, he took the same position at the Schottenkloster and
remained there for the next thirty years. Eybler became closely connected
to the Empress Maria Theresa who commissioned numerous works and appointed
him music teacher to the imperial family. Also helpful in Eybler's
career was his working relationship with Mozart who had Eybler in charge
of rehearsals of his opera Cosi fan tutte. Eybler's musical career came
to an abrupt halt in 1833 as the result of a stroke, and he died thirteen
years later at the age of eighty-one.
Obviously, having Albrechtsberger, Haydn, Mozart and the Empress in
his corner was a major career enhancement for Eybler. Judging from the
two works on the MDG disc, he fully deserved the praise and patronage.
Although Eybler's sacred choral music is his main calling card, the
chamber works reveal a master of musical form who wrote delightful music
with fetching melodies and a sense of natural progression.
The Quintet in D major is rather unusual in that a double bass is employed
instead of a 2nd viola, and there are two Minuets. Essentially in five
movements, the work begins with a dignified and sweet introductory Adagio
followed by a rousing Allegro in sonata form. The first Menuetto has
three trio sections; although the construction is simple, Eybler presents
toe-tapping music that charms throughout. The ensuing Andante has lovely
melodic lines, and the 2nd Menuetto offers two trio sections as enticing
as the 1st Menuetto. Eybler wraps things up with an Adagio-Allegro
vivace of great exuberance. An excellent work, the Quintet does present
evidence that Eybler was not quite a musical genius. This is most
apparent in the 1st Movement Allegro where the development section is
a pedestrian and tedious re-shaping of the thematic material in the
My warmest affection goes to the Trio in C major which has four movements
with just one Menuetto. Its construction displays an expertise similar
to the Quintet, but the melodies are more compelling, development sections
possess greater inspiration, harmonic invention is stronger, and the
work is generally less indebted to the music of Haydn and Mozart. This
is delectable music representing Eybler at the height of his powers. I
should report that neither the Quintet nor the Trio plumbs any emotional
depths, but its upbeat nature and comely melodic lines are irresistible.
As fine as Eybler's music may be, the real stars of the production are
the performers and sonics. Quintett Momento Musicale was formed in 1992
by young musicians from Leipzig and Halle/Saale. Currently, each member
has teaching positions in chamber music at the Martin Luther University
in Halle-Wittenberg, and the group often performs in concert in the major
music centers in Germany. A modern instrument quintet, it offers
historically informed, stylish, and perfectly balanced performances
having minimum vibrato and a stately/graceful demeanor ideal for Eybler's
chamber works. Usually I feel that period instrument groups present
a more idiomatic picture of Classical era music, but I doubt that the
interpretations of Quintett Momento Musicale can be improved upon. I
will surely be following the future paths of this exceptional instrumental
group and intend on snapping up any future recordings. As for the sonics,
they are fabulous and feature a wonderful depth and clarity along with
separate sound corridors for each instrument that allows listeners to
savor every musical line of Eybler's music.
Don's Conclusions: This new MDG recording is exemplary in all respects.
Anyone who loves the chamber music of Mozart and Haydn will likely derive
great satisfaction from the music and performances, even those who favor
period instruments in this type of repertoire. Quintett Momento Musicale
also has an MDG disc on the market of Georges Onslow string quintets
that I urge readers to investigate. This is a marvelous chamber music
group, and the Eybler disc is undoubtedly one of my best discoveries of
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