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Anton Eberl

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Anton Franz Josef Eberl {pronounced AY-BERL} (13 June 1765 – 11 March 1807) was an Austrian composer, teacher and pianist of the Classical period.
Eberl was born in Vienna in 1765, the son of a wealthy imperial official. He was a gifted pianist who gave recitals in Vienna from the age of eight. The family eventually fell into financial difficulties, so Eberl was unable to continue courses and training as a lawyer. Instead, he was then free to pursue his studies in music. Eberl may have been taught by Mozart starting around 1781, when the famous composer arrived in Vienna. Stylistic similarities with Mozart led to several of Eberl's works being mistakenly published under Mozart's name. Eberl's cantata "Bei Mozarts Grabe", completed just six days after Mozart died in December of 1791, may well represent the homage of a student to his teacher and mentor. Eberl maintained strong connections to the Mozart family, performing a Mozart piano concerto promoted by Mozart's wife Constanze in 1794, and accompanying her and her sister Aloysia Lange on a tour of Germany in the winter of 1795-96. One of Mozart's students, Josepha Auernhammer, had dedicated to her Eberl's Op. 16 Piano Sonata in C Major. On 25 March 1803 she performed one of Eberl's piano concertos, perhaps his Op. 32 in C Major, and on 2 March 1804 she performed Eberl's Piano Concerto in E flat, Op. 40. Clarinettist Anton Stadler, Mozart's friend for whom the composer wrote his clarinet quintet K. 581 and clarinet concerto K. 622, was one of the performers there for that same concert, playing on an Op. 43 Trio by Adalbert Gyrowetz. It is apparent that Eberl moved around freely within the Mozart circle.
Eberl married Maria Anna Sheffler in the spring of 1796 after returning from his tour with Constanze Mozart and Aloysia Lange. The Eberls then travelled to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where the composer worked as kapellmeister, pianist and teacher. He remained there until 1799 and established a fine reputation. The list of Saint Petersburg subscribers includes princes, princesses, counts and other important nobles. Back in Vienna, one of Eberl's subscribers was one of the most important composers at that time, Antonio Salieri, who was kapellmeister to the imperial court. About two-fifths of the Vienna subscribers were from the nobility, mostly music lovers, amateur performers, and patrons of the arts, including many writers and poets. Eberl left Russia late in 1799, and by 1800 was back in Vienna. He tried his hand composing two stage works, "Erwine von Steinheim" and "Konigen der schwarzen Inseln". Both of these, however, did not prove to be very successful. By 1802, Eberl devoted himself to composing symphonies, concertos, and chamber music. In this five year period he enjoyed particular critical acclaim. A major concert tour of Germany in the first half of 1806, was to be Eberl's last, however. Commencing in Prague, he traveled to Dresden, Berlin, Leipzig, Weimar, Gotha, Frankfurt and Mannheim. He returned to Vienna, but in early 1807 Eberl contracted scarlet fever, and he died on 11 March 1807. A lengthy obituary that appeared on the front page of the Wiener Zeitung on 18 March 1807 stated: "What he was as an artist, what richness, depth and abundance characterized his compositions - all that has been determined by the critics. But how excellent his heart, how clear his mind, how unpretentiously cultured his works were - all that can only be known by those who knew him well and who loved the person in him as they respected the artist." Another publication, the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung of 1 April 1807 said the following: "Though not tall, Eberl was a well-built, handsome man... he was exceptionally good-natured and sincere and of noble morality; his manners were polished, but not affected. If he had a fault worthy of censure, then it was his excess of goodness and guilelessness, which led him always to think the best of people... He was an exemplary husband, an unshakable friend and a generally popular addition to any gathering; seldom has the early death of an artist been so generally deplored."
Early in his career, there was no composer whose works were more frequently passed off as Mozart's than Eberl. Even more surprising was the documented fact that there was no protest from Mozart against the use of his name on Eberl's compositions. Eberl, a friend and student of the great man, did mind, but was too timid to take action until after Mozart had died. Finally, he published the following notice in a widely read German newspaper, "However flattering it may be that even connoisseurs were capable of judging these works to be the products of Mozart, I can in no way allow the musical public to be left under this delusion." In spite of this, Eberl developed his own personal musical language. His charming and elegant music deserves to be remembered in its own right: it engages in remarkably imaginative and experimental formal innovations, developing the Viennese Classical style beyond the point at which Mozart had left it, picking up where he had left off. Eberl's works in the last ten or twelve years of his life reveal striking traits that might be better termed Beethovenian than Mozartean. It is striking to us today, in reading reviews from contemporary Viennese journals and correspondents, that Eberl's name appears alongside those of Joseph Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. In fact, concerning Eberl’s Symphony in E-flat major (Opus 33), which was premiered at the same concert as Beethoven's Eroica Symphony in the same key on 7 April 1805, evidently Eberl's Symphony was lauded unconditionally, whereas Beethoven's appeared not to be quite as much. Eberl's "was extraordinarily pleasing, and really it has so much that is beautiful and powerful, handled with such genius and art, that its effect could hardly be lacking in any performance in which it were well rehearsed". Likely, Beethoven's monumental Eroica Symphony could not be fully grasped by the Viennese audience, but the work now is considered undoubtedly a masterpiece as it became understood and appreciated later. But, up until 1807, Eberl's influence and status was clearly significant. And yet, although he was extolled in his own time both for his virtuosic performing and for his imaginative compositional output, he was relegated to obscurity for approximately 160 years following his death. One main reason was that he became greatly overshadowed by Beethoven, who out-lived Eberl by twenty years. But lately Eberl has been making a posthumous comeback. Alton Duane’s 1971 book, detailing Eberl’s piano works, seems to have been a starting signal for this, with a number of his works now being performed and recorded. In the last decade in particular, there has been a sharp increase in the available recordings of Eberl’s music. Many of his 200 compositions are lost, and only his chamber music has continued to receive contemporary performance except for three symphonies recorded by Concerto Köln in 1999. Two of his piano concertos, op 32 & 40, were recorded in 2011 for CPO by Die Kölner Akademie under Michael Alexander Willens with Paolo Giacometti and Riko Fukuda as soloists. His concerto for two pianos op. 45 was recorded by the same team and was released in 2018. His trio for piano, clarinet and cello, Op. 36, has been described by Professor Maurice Hinson as "one of the most valuable trios written for this combination during the classical period."
Eberl was a very close friend of Ludwig van Beethoven, whose symphonies show traces of Eberl's influence. For example, the coda of the finale of Eberl's E-flat symphony performed at the same concert in between Beethoven's First and newly composed Third ("Eroica," in the same key of E-flat; see below) that drew high praise from a reviewer who (reflecting typical contemporary conservative criticism) thought much less of the "Eroica" (for its radical length and otherwise advanced style) ends with a descending bugle-call theme in dotted rhythm in E-flat that is more or less identical to the closing theme of the first movement of Beethoven's monumental Ninth (stated in B-flat at the end of the exposition leading into the development, and in D minor at the end of the recapitulation leading into the coda).