David J. Golby
Volume 75, Summer 2019
Sonata in B flat major op. 35, for violin and piano
ed. Martin Harlow
Edition HH, HH424.FSP, Launton, 2018 (pbk, £18.50)
ISMN 979 0 708146 25 4
Like Hummel, another ‘transitional’ figure with close personal ties to Mozart and Beethoven was Anton Eberl (1765-1807), whose Sonata op. 35 is the third in a sequence of violin and piano sonatas composed by the prodigious Austrian pianist and composer and published by Edition HH as part of their ‘@Beethoven’ series. I had the pleasure of reviewing op. 20 last year (The Consort, vol. 74, 2018, pp. 145-6), and so I was delighted to receive this latest publication; op. 14 is also available from Edition HH. I need not repeat what was said with respect to Sonata op. 20 which was published three years earlier, except to re-emphasise the fresh, vital invention to be found throughout. It is with good reason that Eberl’s works were often misattributed to Mozart.
Like Beethoven’s sonatas, those of Eberl differ from the many ‘accompanied keyboard sonatas’ of this period, in that the material is distributed far more democratically between the two instruments. Perhaps reflecting the accomplishments of the Viennese amateur, the technical demands are largely contained in the piano part, with its numerous running semiquaver or triplet passages and octaves (there are just occasional forays into fifth position for the violin). But it is all very playable for reasonably accomplished amateurs and students, and the quality of the material would certainly repay the investment.
Op. 35 was published in Vienna in 1806, the year before Eberl’s death. It is dedicated to Maria Walburga, who married into the family of Elector Karl Theodor of Bavaria (whose Mannheim court became famous for its musical accomplishments and association with Mozart) before settling in Vienna. The editor, Martin Harlow, includes extracts from the Allgemeine musikalische Zeiting review of op. 35, dating from the year after Eberl’s death, which is effusive in its praise of the piece’s vigour, brilliance, freshness, and originality.
This music is immediately appealing in its use of melody and accompaniment, and, as with Eberl’s sonata op. 20, there are numerous delightful touches. These include the pizzicato accompaniment when the piano enters with the second subject in the first movement Allegro con fuoco; a sudden switch to the tonic minor at the start of the development section; numerous antiphonal exchanges; and the occasional chromatic surprise. There is also frequent use of calando, sometimes to aid transition between sections, such as into the second subject of the first movement.
Eberl’s writing is unfailingly charming and inventive, as we find in the introduction of triplet quavers at the end of the first movement. In fact, rhythmic invention is a common feature of this music. It is used to vary the accompaniment, especially in the second movement, and much of the quirkiness of the Rondo is derived from rhythmic devices and the highly effective use of silence.
Harlow’s Introduction and ‘Editorial Method & Notes on Performance’ are very helpful and the Textual Notes at the end of the piano part offer further detailed insights. This is an excellent edition of a fascinating and important work of the period by a composer whose revival on a large scale is overdue. This current edition will surely encourage performances full of vitality, colour and contrast, conveying both the classic stylistic traits and the idiosyncrasies of Eberl’s writing. David J Golby
We are grateful to theThe Consort for permission to reproduce this review.