Born: March 27, 1702 - Jettingen, Bavaria, Germany
Died: June 19, 1762 - Salzburg, Austria
Johann Ernst Eberlin was a German composer and organist whose works bridge the Baroque and Classical eras. A near-contemporary and friend of Leopold Mozart, J.E. Eberlin he was a prolific versatile composer, turning out works in various vocal and instrumental genres, but exerting influence on succeeding generations only in his sacred vocal compositions.
Johann Ernst Eberlin's first musical training started in 1712 at the High School of the Jesuiten pc. Salvator in Augsburg. His teachers there were Georg Egger and Balthasar Siberer (who taught him how to play the organ). He started his university education in 1721 at the Salzburg Benedictine University, where he studied law. He dropped out of university in 1723.
Leaving with no degree, J.E. Eberlin must already have become an accomplished keyboardist, for he would be appointed to an alternate organist post at the Salzburg Cathedral in 1726. Moreover, some of his earliest surviving organ compositions date to around this period. His first breakthrough was in 1727 when he became the organist for Count Leopold von Firmian (then Archbishop of Salzburg). He reached the peak of his career when he was the organist for Archbishop Andreas Jakob von Dietrichstein.
While his theater music cannot be traced back that far, his attraction to the genre reaches back to his childhood. Thus, it is little surprise that J.E. Eberlin would soon produce more than ninety works for the stage, many of which were performed at the Salzburg Court Theater. He also produced music for school plays, most of it coming after 1741, however. These school play productions were often staged at St. Peter's Abbey, where Eberlin had strong connections with the clergy, and at the Benedictine University. Among the most successful of these efforts was Sigismundus, rex Burgundiae (1753), a colorful work whose lavish 1761 performance featured the participation of the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who would later express great admiration for J.E. Eberlin's vocal writing.
In 1749, J.E. Eberlin, who had steadily risen in rank at the Cathedral and at the Salzburg Court, was appointed Kapellmeister for both, under the Archbishop of Salzburg. Five years later he was given the title of Princely Steward' in recognition of his high reputation as a composer/musician in Salzburg. Eberlin maintained his renown in the last years of his career and seemed to remain active up to the time of his death in 1762. Though he has been largely forgotten, recent performances and recordings of his church music have convinced some that he may be substantially underrated.
Ironically, though Johann Ernst Eberlin's music was performed often and usually well received, and though he produced over 300 church compositions, including masses, psalm settings and hymns, as well as numerous organ pieces and other works, his only compositions to be published in his lifetime were his keyboard fugues.