il divino Boemo (the title seems to have been a fictional
exaggeration) was particularly associated with opera. But his
instrumental works outnumber the operatic by some margin and
some of his best-known works, to us at least, are his concertos.
The years of his greatest triumphs were between about 1767 and
1777, a decade that saw foreign successes, meetings with Mozart
and considerable operatic esteem. His Six Symphonies of 1772
are indebted to the Italianate three-movement form, which they
have absorbed with considerable vivacity, and they show individual
touches – modulations, wind solos and the like – that give them
an individual stamp.
helps that they are played by L’Orfeo Barockorchester with a
sense of uplifting incisiveness; try the powerful and buoyant
horns in the finale of No. 3 in F major, full of strong accents
and alive. Or the graceful cantabile of the slow movement of
No. 5 in B flat major with its well-balanced flute writing.
Certainly the Bohemian knew how to compress melodic strands
in these works as in the Siciliano of No.6 which is free flowing
and Elysian. He exploited other, earthier sonorities as well
and was not averse to embodying hurdy gurdy frolics in the Allegro
assai of No.4. What remains paramount however even in these
small scale works – only one lasts above ten minutes in these
performances – is the exemplary string writing and the way his
five part textures embolden the gallant cast of, most remarkably,
the Andante of the Second Symphony, in A major.
with these Symphonies are the Opera Overtures written on the
same three movement basis and sharing something of the Symphonies’
qualities. Here though Mysliveček can ingratiate a contemporary
fad or two – such as the trumpet overture of Il Demetrio
with its crisp and warlike finale or the affecting slow
movement of Romolo ed Ersilia. One feels the greatest
weight of concision, of operatic compression, in the tremendous
Andante from – ironically – the Symphony Op.1 No.5, which is
contained in the second disc otherwise given over completely
to the opera overtures.
round off this sensitive and invaluable disc, played with care
and imagination by this original instrument group we have some
helpful notes and a crisp acoustic – not too chill, not too
reverberant. Mysliveček was certainly no trailblazer with
these works but they are nevertheless excellently crafted examples
of the genre.