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CD Review

Joseph Leopold Eybler

Chamber Works

  • Quintetto in D Major
  • String Trio Op. 2
Quintetto Momento Musicale
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6031321-2
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Joseph Leopold Eybler, born near Vienna in 1765 is a totally new name to me but from the evidence of this disc, he must have been a very accomplished musician. He received his first musical instruction from his father, who was a good friend of the Haydn family, after which Albrechtsberger accepted him in his composition class at the age of 12. The latter spoke very highly of the young boy, even going as far in stating that he was the greatest musical genius after Mozart in Vienna of course.

In 1782, Eybler began studying law, but soon abandoned this profession to dedicate himself wholly to music. It was round about this time that Haydn was able to see some of his works which he praised highly, citing the young composer as an 'outstanding talent'. Eybler's star rose quickly after his first appointment in 1792, even earning the affection of the Empress Maria Therese. He was a close friend of Mozart, and the Salzburg genius paid close attention to his junior partner's budding career. In fact the two studied Handel's works together.

In 1804, Eybler was appointed assistant court music director under Salieri, succeeding the latter as court music director in 1824. Eybler's career was suddenly halted in 1833 when he suffered a stroke. He died in Vienna in 1846, but not before he was elevated to the nobility eleven years earlier.

The two works on this disc are absolute joys, particularly the Quintetto in D which is full of original strokes that delight the listener with their colour and lacy weavings. This work is very characteristic of Eybler's style in not allowing any of the instruments to dominate, thus giving the composition a great sense of balance and 'concertante' flavour. The other work on this recording is the String Trio in C Major, thought to be Eybler's only work in the genre. Full of harmonic surprises and melodic dialogue, it is no less fascinatingly bouncy and luminous than the Quintetto. Although the music falls gently on the ear, close scrutiny reveals the highest technical demands on the ensemble's talents and capabilities.

It is truly mystifying how Eybler's stock fell into oblivion after his death, as his music is a wonderful example of fine craftsmanship and fastidious dedication. I certainly did not find it much inferior to either Haydn's or Mozart's and certainly more rewarding than many of his contemporaries. However, luck is not everyone's book of fate, I suppose so this recording is worth its weight in gold in helping to revive the name of this Viennese composer whose large output has still to see the light of day. Maybe MD&G might contemplate in giving us one of his sublime masses some day. The Quintetto Momento Musicale, a young ensemble from Germany [formed in 1992] deliver these happy pieces with a youthful zest that is both engaging and infectious, and all credit to them for their strong advocacy of this neglected but captivating composer.

Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech