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The Consort

Penelope Cave

Summer 2009, Vol. 65

Anton Eberl
Grande Sonate Charactéristique in F Minor op.12 for keyboard
Edition HH, HH194.SOL, Bicester, 2008 (pbk £10.95)
ISMN 979 0 708059 72 1

Anton Eberl
Sonata Grande in G minor op.39 for keyboard
Edition HH, HH186.SOL, Bicester, 2008 (pbk £10.95)
ISMN 979 0 708059 57 8

These are two sonatas by an interesting pupil of Mozart. The Viennese composer, Anton Eberl (1765-1807), was just nine years younger than Mozart, and many of his works were said to have been passed off as Mozart's own. I find them very different and wonder if he rather played on this, since he even went so far as to publish a disclaimer in the newspaper to the effect that, despite being flattered, he could 'in no way allow the musical public to remain under this delusion.' Whatever the style of this forgotten composer, Hogwood would appear to be equally dedicated in putting his works before today's public, so that we should be under no delusion as to Eberl's merit in his own right.

Two years before his early death in 1807, the Berlin Musical Journal suggested that Eberl's recent symphony was equal to those of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, and his sonata op.39 has been compared favourably with those of Beethoven. The Grande Sonate Charactéristique op.12 was first published in 1802 and dedicated to Haydn although, again, it has been suggested that the title pays tribute to Beethoven's Grande Sonate Pathétique, which had appeared in 1799, and with its dotted rhythms, the Grave maestoso introduction to Eberl's Allegro agitato does seem to echo that of Beethoven.

Eberl's Sonata Grande in G minor op.39 was his last, and it is a sizeable piece in scope and length (32 pages in this edition compared with the 20 of the op.12 sonata). In the New Grove Dictionary, A Duane White described this sonata as 'his most outstanding work for piano solo', and 'a significant forerunner of the Romantic era', and while I agree with this latter point, playing it on a Viennese fortepiano of the period would keep excessive romanticism in check, perhaps!

Plenty is demanded of the player, with hand-crossing, passages in sixths and octaves, free decorative roulades above a steady accompaniment, tremolando figuration and some large stretches. The slow movement is in the unexpected key of E major and evokes the world of both Field and Chopin as well as that of Beethoven. The motif of a rising sixth followed by a falling second, first heard in the opening bars, satisfyingly unifies all three movements. These two fine works complement those others by Eberl which have already been issued by Edition HH.

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