Mysliveček: Violin Concertos in D, E & A; Symphony in E flat; Overture No. 2 in A

Leila Schayegh; Collegium 1704/Václav Luks (Accent)

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Mysliveček Violin Concertos in D, E & A; Symphony in E flat; Overture No. 2 in A
Leila Schayegh (violin); Collegium 1704/Václav Luks
Accent ACC 24336 73:35 mins

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Josef Mysliveček, Prague-born (in 1737) and later Italy-based, a composer of notable versatility in many musical forms, is now remembered, if at all, through his Mozart connections. After their Bologna meeting in 1774 the younger composer came to admire the older, currently in vogue, and to learn much from him. But Mysliveček’s subsequent early death – in Rome in 1781, in poverty, from venereal disease – may help explain his disappearance into music history’s shadows; also, the operatic form he particularly mastered, the Italian opera seria, was already becoming outmoded, and the era’s truly revolutionary composers, Gluck and (of course) Mozart, ended up eclipsing the innovations for which his operas gained renown. It’s easy to remark that Mysliveček was no Mozart. Yet, with the experience of this delightful programme of violin concertos interspersed with orchestral pieces, it becomes still easier to appreciate the strong personality that swiftly becomes apparent in each work. Mysliveček was himself a violinist of (clearly) great skill; the soloist’s pyrotechnics are expertly placed, never as mechanical show-off. What stands out more is the composer’s Haydn-like gift of the unexpected in slow movements (for instance, the D major concerto’s poignant minor- key Larghetto), and the boisterous folk-like jollity of several finales.

In each work the effect is of musical vitality bursting through precisely shaped traditional forms. Nothing here is new on disc: in past decades the Czech Supraphon label recorded much Mysliveček. What makes this CD so admirable a Mysliveček display-case is the near-ideal stylistic balance achieved by the expert Czech period band, on its own and accompanying the fine-grained (if perhaps small-scale) virtuosity of the Swiss baroque violinist Leila Schayegh.

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Max Loppert