Home page
Composer | Editor | Group | Instrumentation | Series |

The Consort

Jeremy Barlow

Summer 2023

Philip Peter Eiffert:
Six Sonatas op. 2 (1769) Vol 1: Sonatas 1-3
for flute and basso continuo

HH558.FSP Edition HH, 2022
ISMN 979 0 708185 72 7


I hadn’t heard of Philip Peter Eiffert (?1711- 1793) until I received this edition for review. A portrait of the composer on the cover immediately provoked my curiosity: it shows a rather unprepossessing individual wearing a turban, with no hint that he is a musician. Yet the same artist - Johann Ludwig Tietz - portrayed the composer Carl Friedrich Abel sitting at a table, with quill pen, inkwells and musical manuscript paper to hand. Thanks to editor Michael Talbot’s extensive research, we now know not only the reason for Eiffert’s strange garb, but also his dates and his place in the English musical scene. He probably came to England from Germany in the mid-1740s; his activities before then remain obscure, but the headgear suggests that he played in one of the military ‘oboe bands’ that proliferated during the eighteenth century. It became fashionable to dress bandsmen in a Turkish manner, to the extent that the costume achieved the status of a professional uniform. Many concert advertisements during the 1750s, 60s and 70s corroborate Eiffert’s occupation, and reveal that he established himself as a leading oboist in London and Oxford (the unusual portrait is owned by Oxford University’s Faculty of Music). He even participated, well into his seventies, in the 1784 Handel Commemoration performances of Messiah at Westminster Abbey. Eiffert’s milieu centered around the German-speaking musical community in London; colleagues included the flautist and oboist Charles Frederick Weideman, the bassoonist Samuel Baumgarten - and Carl Friedrich Abel, who composed a concerto for him. Leopold Mozart mentioned Eiffert briefly in his journal when he visited England with his precocious son and daughter in 1764. Eiffert’s only surviving compositions are six cello sonatas, Op. 1 (1761) and six flute sonatas, Op. 2 (1769). One cannot know for certain why he chose to compose and publish the works; there is no evidence that he played or taught either instrument. However, both were popular with gentleman amateurs and they seem to be his intended market, since the music does not make excessive technical demands. Another possible reason for publication may be that Eiffert had reached his fifties and felt that the time had come to raise his status from a turban-wearing bandsman by promoting himself as a composer. As such, he displays undoubted talent; his writing is sure-footed harmonically, attractive melodically and it transcends the ever-present mannerisms of the galant/early classical period. Opening movements are structured in highly compressed sonata form: the first subject of Sonata 1 for example consists of just two four-bar phrases, the second of which ends in the dominant for an eight-bar transition to the second subject; this lasts another eight bars and includes neat imitative to-and-fro between flute and bass. An extended development section holds the musical ‘meat’ of the movement, with irregular phrase lengths, suspensions and modulations that lead to a shortened recapitulation. A fine, expressive adagio follows and the sonata concludes with a rondo reminiscent of early Haydn.

The first two sonatas, in C and D, provide satisfying material for flautists at an intermediate level, whether on baroque or modern instruments; the third, in E minor, is more demanding technically and covers a wider expressive range. The edition includes a separate cello part, although the sonatas work satisfactorily with keyboard accompaniment alone. Talbot’s extensive notes on editorial method and performance practice complement his informative Introduction; the latter derives from a comprehensive article on Eiffert in The Musical Times (Spring 2023, pp. 3-21). At the time of writing, Edition HH is in the process of publishing the composer’s complete flute and cello sonatas, in four volumes.

We are grateful to the The Consort for permission to reproduce this review.
Add to shopping basketSix flute sonatas, Op. 2, volume 1Add to shopping basketFull score and parts

Add to shopping basketSix flute sonatas, Op. 2, volume 2Add to shopping basketFull score and parts

Return to home page