ALBUM TITLE: Myslive?ek
WORKS: Sinfonie Concertanti, Op. 2Symphonies in F, C, G, E flat and C; Concertino in E flat; Overture in A
PERFORMER: Uralsk PO/Gary BrainConcerto Köln/Werner Ehrhardt
CATALOGUE NO: TOCC 0023¥477 6418
Josef Myslive?ek spent the last two decades of his life in Italy, where his tongue-twisting name caused him to be known simply as Il Boemo – ‘The Bohemian’. Mozart and his father met him on several occasions during their Italian tours in 1770 and 1773; and four years after that Mozart visited him in hospital, where he was recovering from a botched operation that left his face badly disfigured. The misleadingly titled Sinfonie concertanti on the Toccata disc are actually string quintets with two violas – the same ensemble which gave rise to some of Mozart’s greatest chamber works – though it’s hard to detect any musical influence. Like several of his compatriots, Myslive?ek was at his best when scoring for wind instruments, and these purely string pieces are in the main undistinguished fare. Nor, alas, are they well served by the Uralsk Philharmonic Orchestra, whose rather scrawny playing (exacerbated by a boxy acoustic) is seriously lacking in elegance or charm.
The C major last work in the set also appears on Concerto Köln’s disc of Myslive?ek’s music, in a performance of infinitely greater liveliness and polish; and the presence of a harpsichord continuo enhances the stylishness of the interpretation as a whole. The remaining works all have prominent wind parts, with Myslive?ek showing a fondness for second subjects scored for solo oboes or flutes playing in parallel thirds. The most spectacular piece is a Concertino in E flat, complete with virtuoso horn parts, and containing written-out cadenzas in its outer movements.
The A major Overture for oboes, horns and strings is also found on a CD from the ‘Contemporaries of Mozart’ series by the London Mozart Players under Matthias Bamert – another finely-performed selection. If you prefer modern instruments, the Chandos disc is a strong recommendation; but since there’s no other overlap in repertoire between the two, anyone with an interest in 18th-century Bohemian music may want to have both. Misha Donat