Adolf MIŠEK (1875-1955)
Double Bass Sonatas and Miniatures 2
Double Bass Sonata No.3 in F major Op.7 (pub. 1955) [32:04]
Fantasy on opera themes by Bedrich Smetana [14:45]
Legende Op.3 [6:49]
Szymon Marciniak (double bass)
Joanna Lawrynowicz (piano)
rec. August and December 2011, Polskie Radio, Warsaw, Studio S1
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.
Jonathan Woolf