Eberlin: Sacred choral music

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COMPOSERS: Eberlin
LABELS: ASV Gaudeamus
WORKS: Sacred choral music
PERFORMER: Rodolfus Choir/Ralph Allwood; Christopher Whitton (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CD GAU 205
Johann Ernst Eberlin crops up in the correspondence between Leopold and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Seventeen years older than Leopold, Eberlin, too, was a Swabian who studied in Augsburg and then went on to the Benedictine Monastery in Salzburg, in which city he remained for the rest of his life. He rose to the rank of court and cathedral Kapellmeister and died in 1762, but not before the local infant genius had taken part in one of his oratorios. There were apparently 21 of these, as well as 61 school plays with music, but here we encounter two of his roughly 70 Masses, five motets and some preludes and fugues.

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The latter, short but severe, are delivered with energy and a sense of colour by Christopher Whitton on the organ of Eton College, whose resonant, spacious acoustic gives life to the singing of the 16-voice Rodolfus Choir. Their polished tone and well-schooled approach more than compensates for an occasional suggestion – no more – of running away with themselves. Ralph Allwood’s direction is fluent.

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Eberlin’s Masses, however, written in the self-consciously archaic stile antico much employed by church composers at this period, are academic and almost entirely devoid of individuality. The motets are rather better, though mainly because they’re so much shorter. George Hall