J.Eberlin Keyboard Music

Born 1702, died 1762. One or two of his pieces are found in compilations of early German keyboard music. Six preludes and fugues (1745) are included in the "Tresor des Pianistes" volumes brought out from 1861-1872 (Farrenc & Co), and reprinted by Da Capo Press, New York, in 1977 (available from the British Library). The original collection was called "8 Toccatas and Fugues for organ" ( Nuremberg, 1745); it appeared in its second edition as 9 toccatas and fugues in 1747, and these were republished by Coppenraths in about 1958. Novellos issued no. 2 (Gm) from the original collection in their organ series. He wrote some short versets for church use, recently reprinted, which are OK but short; about a page each.

The pieces were written for organ. The following remarks are my comments on how well they work on the piano.

The different editions of the toccatas & fugues
(original) and [Farrenc]
First few melody notes given to identify each toccata, accidentals ignored
dfad(1) [1]
gdgf(2)[4]-also pub by Novello, Gm
gced (5)


Toccata & Fugue 1
Toccata- Good piece but not suitable for piano. Sounds very modern in spite of being 250 years old. Fugue - excellent organ piece; tolerable on piano.

Toccata & Fugue 2, Gm
Toccata- competent two-part writing with an occasional third part. Fairly ordinary; would be OK on organ but not worthwhile on the piano. Fugue- an excellent piece in rather severe style; not too congested; places to breathe, and quite effective on the piano though not worth recording. Fugue-second part- this degenerates into mechanical sequences of the sort I used to write when learning about composition. Not worthwhile on the piano but tolerable on the organ with a light registration.

Toccata & Fugue 3, Am
Toccata-not pianistic; too many held notes, but would be very effective on the organ. Beautiful inner melody on page 2. Fugue- rather chromatic subject, but a highly competent piece of fugal writing. It would not record well on piano; some of the part-writing in the bass is too close and sounds congested. Fine on organ.

Toccata & Fugue 5
Toccata-not suitable for piano. Fugue- tolerable on piano but not enjoyable.

Toccata & Fugue 6
Toccata- not suitable for piano but I think would be OK on organ. Fugue- has a cheerful distinctive subject which sounds reasonable on the piano though would not be worth recording.

Toccata & Fugue 7
Toccata-terrible on piano - sounds like a musical box which hasn't been fully wound. Reminded me of the C major prelude of JSB. Fugue- cheerful piece in D with a distinctive, happy subject; good on piano. The last half of the penultimate bar: double all the note values, otherwise the ending is too abrupt. "Pars Secunda" - avoid - this is less well written.

Toccata & Fugue 8
Least good of the set. I could find no music in either the toccata or the fugue.

Toccata & Fugue 9
Toccata -not suited to piano. Fugue: more mother-in-law music. Chromatic and tuneless.

Book 1: Not many of these sound well on the piano - about one in 4 is tolerable, with the occasional piece being better. They are generally a little more appealing than the toccatas and fugues, mainly because they are shorter; the ideas are not over-worked.

Overall, I am disappointed in Eberlin. I used to enjoy his work, and was impressed by the technical mastery of the writing, but on revisiting these pieces fifteen years later my taste seems to have changed. With only a few exceptions, these pieces do not suit the piano.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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