With apologies to those who may have seen my review of the first
volume in this series, Adolf Mišek was a Bohemian double bass
virtuoso whose career was centred in Vienna, where he studied
with Franz Simandl. He became a member of the Dual Monarchy’s
Vienna Opera orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic. When the
Empire fell Mišek travelled back to the land of his birth and
spent the remainder of his life in Prague. At first this was
as principal bassist in the Orchestra of the National theatre.
Latterly he worked as a freelance musician and composer. I’m
indebted to Szymon Marciniak’s booklet notes for these details.
The second volume in this series presents the third and final
Double Bass sonata written by Mišek. It was published posthumously
in 1955 and may well have been his last composition. Once again
two words spring to mind when discussing his music: lyricism
and dance. This ebullience is deeply rooted in nineteenth century
procedure. We saw in the earlier volume how he took inspiration
from Schubert (in his First Sonata) and Brahms in his Second.
He has a grace about him that remains very attractive, a generosity
of phraseology, and a practitioner’s knack of knowing how things
will ‘sound’ – how lyrical lines for the bass need somewhat
longer to breathe. He also mines his own soil, casting a Dumka
in this sonata as he had earlier employed a Furiant in the Second.
His Scherzino is earthy and resinous, the finale a fantasia,
and by some distance the longest movement. Here the sonata will
either strike one as memorably introspective, or strangely unfocused,
according to one’s taste. It’s certainly very elastic, with
fragments quoted, almost absent-mindedly. The piano takes a
quasi-cadential passage, and there’s a pert close. In this last
movement Mišek seems almost to become wrapped up in recollection
and discursive thought.
One work that has never before been recorded is the Fantasy
on opera themes by Bedrich Smetana, a delicious though
none-too-serious pot-pourri throwback to the days of nineteenth
century operatic paraphrases. Glissandi are delightfully audible
as the fulsome arias are declaimed, songfully, and as ever well
contrasted with more intimate effusions. Lastly there’s the
rich yearning of the Op.3 Legende.
As in the previous volume, performances and recording are excellent.
Another worthy revival.