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 bring the famous Requiem to completion.
Eybler eventually decided to hand the assignment back to
Constanze, and Franz Sussmayer then finished the work.
for Eybler's own musical artistry, his works represent the
highest level of second 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.
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 Cosí 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.
having Albrechtsberger, Haydn, Mozart and the Empress in
his corner was a major career enhancement for Eybler. Judging
from the two works on the MD&G 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.
Quintet in D major is rather unusual in that a double bass
is employed instead of a second 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 second
Menuetto offers two trio sections as enticing as the first
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 first Movement Allegro
where the development section is a pedestrian and tedious
re-shaping of the thematic material in the exposition.
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 the upbeat
nature of the music and comely melodic lines are irresistible.
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.
conclusion, this new MD&G 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 will receive strong
consideration as one of my MusicWeb Discs of the Year 2005.