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COMPOSERS: Myslivecek
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony F26; Symphony F27; Symphony F28; Symphony F29; Symphony F30; Symphony F31
PERFORMER: London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert
Josef Myslivecek was born in Prague in 1737, but spent the last 18 years of his life in Italy, where his tongue-twisting name caused him to be known simply as ‘Il boemo’ (The Bohemian). Mozart admired him enough to play some of his keyboard sonatas, and to advise his sister to perform them with plenty of expression, vigour and fire. There’s a good deal of fire in Myslivecek’s symphonies, too, if the half-dozen recorded here are anything to go by. They’re written with consummate skill and admirable inventiveness, and the lyricism of their opening movements doesn’t preclude some quite startling harmonic surprises. (The recapitulation in the G major last work of the set, for instance, plunges unceremoniously into E minor.) Their propensity for including passages for divided solo violas attests to the warmth of Myslivecek’s scoring. It’s refreshing these days to hear music of this kind stylishly and enthusiastically played by a modern-instrument orchestra, and Matthias Bamert and the London Mozart Players do it proud. Chandos’s recording is exemplary. These are real discoveries – not earth-shattering music, perhaps, but generally less conventional than the early symphonies of Mozart. Anyone interested in exploring the byways of 18th-century music should try this. Misha Donat