JWR Articles: CD - Joseph Leopold Eybler (Featured performers: Julie Baumgartel, Julia Wedman, Patrick Jordan, Margaret Gay) - January 26, 2007
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Joseph Leopold Eybler

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A welcome addition

Joseph Edler von Eybler’s homage to Joseph Haydn consists of three wide-ranging string quartets that abound in Papa’s footprints and Mozart’s magical understanding of what is the most homogeneous chamber ensemble Western music has produced. Thanks to the dedication and considerable artistry of the Eybler Quartet, these works can be heard, savoured and enjoyed by music lovers everywhere. To be sure, Eybler knows his compositional craft and understands the parameters of the string quartet, but he never demonstrates the incredible genius of his own, yet doesn’t hesitate to beg, borrow and steal from his musical mentors. The ordering of the three works matches both the compositional skill and overall performance. Except for the gritty and beautifully balanced “Menuetto” (kudos to recording engineer Ron Searles for “placing” the musicians so believably—just close enough so that the fingerboards aren’t heard but the voices are), the tempi in No. 2 are a tad careful and stodgy. No. 1 features an ideal pace for the “Allegro moderato,” allowing Julia Wedman’s second subject to lilt along engagingly at every turn. Its operatic “Adagio cantabile”—unabashedly melodic—features a oneness of tone and phrasing that demonstrates conclusively why so many composers poured out some of their strongest feelings and emotions into this resonant ensemble. The bouncy, easy-going theme of the opening “Allegro” of the B-flat Major Quartet draws the listener in from the first bow. There’s a wealth of colour and ornaments as well as a few “Little Sir Echo” comments to fuel the development’s discussion, which never slips into argument. Like a breath of fresh air, some bits of pizzicato punctuate the brooding, dark melodrama of the “Adagio.” The “plagaristic” “Trio” (lifted from, arguably, the most sublime of all Mozart’s quartets) doesn’t offend: no one could confuse it with the master. Likewise Haydn’s penchant for frantic finales permeates the “Vivace,” replete with a near-vulgar pedal that is instantly forgotten with Patrick Jordan’s last hurrah—zestfully full of life, which inspires his colleagues to achieve the same level of intensity, bringing the disc to a resounding finish. JWR

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Repertoire:
String Quartet Op. 1, No. 1
String Quartet Op. 1, No. 2
String Quartet Op. 1, No. 3
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