The unpublished choral music of Ernst Immanuel Erbe (1854-1927)
Aipperspach, Ian B.
Ernst Immanuel Erbe (1854-1927) was a Moravian composer whose works reflect a conservative style of composition in a modernist twentieth century era. Adhering to Moravian compositional principles, where the text is the most important element, his writings are also experiments in different styles, English anthems, German motets, and other liturgical settings, reflective of a neo-classical style, similar to Haydn and even Mendelssohn. Each piece is a careful working out of formal principles. Erbe served as organist to Moravian churches in Germany. In 1889, he immigrated to the United States and settled in St. Louis, Missouri. As there was no Moravian Church in the vicinity, he served as an organist for various churches in the German Evangelical Synod of North America. He continued composing and also taught private piano and string lessons as well as serving as a bookkeeper for Eden Publishing House. His music is neither trite nor difficult but accessible to amateurs and professionals alike. He accomplishes variety through the use of chord inversions and modulations to closely related keys. His music was a direct message of the text that was not obfuscated by musical complexity, homophonic settings or works with limited use of imitation, and a simplicity and directness of expression. In an era, where the giants of music (Dudley Buck and Amy Beach) overshadowed people like Erbe, his compositional practice perhaps represents what the rest of America may have been singing.