Baroque Bohemia and Beyond VI
Christoph SCHIMPKE (1725-1789) Sinfonia in F [21:54]
Leopold Florian GASSMANN (1729-1774) Symphony in C minor [23:33]
Vojtech JÍROVEC (1763-1850) Symphony in F major [26:22]
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra/Petr Chromcák
rec. June 2012, St. Francis Church, Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia
ALTO ALC 1201 [72:03]
This is part of a now long-running series devoted, as the title indicates, to the music of Baroque Bohemia and indeed ‘beyond’. It has reached volume six with this latest release. Whether Baroque or, as here, pre- or indeed solidly Classical, this series is revealing just how full of depth is the wellspring of the Bohemian musical diaspora. If the names Schimpke, Gassmann and Jírovec mean little or nothing to you, then you are certainly not alone. But each composer offers a revealing sidelight on both his heritage and his milieu, as reflected in these three works. All are orchestral.
Christoph Schimpke, for example, offers a Symphony in F major (or, more properly, Sinfonia). Not much appears to be known about the composer, who died in 1789. He was born in Tetschen (modern day Decín) on the Elbe, near Dresden. His early years seems shrouded in mystery, but for the last two decades of his life he was employed by the Prince Bishop of Breslau, primarily a bassoonist in the elite band that Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf had built up.
The Sinfonia is a spacious, well laid out work, full of maestoso energy and control. The Czech Chamber Philharmonic under their director Petr Chromcák take the slow movement at a good walking pace, vesting it with genial charm and a strongly etched bass line. It’s a modern instrument band, and very responsive to the prevailing musical ethos of Schimpke’s time. The bassoon, the composer’s own instrument, wiggles away delightfully in the third movement enjoying piquant little concertante moments. In the finale general high spirits are unleashed, though the level of invention is not wholly distinctive. Nevertheless, it’s an engaging, thoroughly proficient work made droller by virtue of that semi-independent, concertante bassoon line.
Leopold Florian Gassmann was born in 1729 in Most, not far from Decín. A singer, fiddle player and harpist he gravitated to Venice, and then to Vienna where he succeeded Gluck as ballet composer in the city.  A famous pupil of his in Vienna was Salieri. Gassmann was renowned as an opera composer but he was also a prolific symphonist. His four-movement Symphony in C minor reveals a consistently elevated musical mind at work. Thematic material is varied, lyricism is refined, and each movement serves its schematic function with great assurance. Orchestration is deft and the Poco andante, which is played as such as well, is enlivening. This is all-round a most effective work.
The last of the trio is Vojtech Jírovec, also known as Adalbert Gyrowetz. Born in the town of Ceské Budejovice - where Budvar beer comes from – he was a notable linguist who worked in Prague for a number of years before moving, like Gassmann, to Vienna. There one of his symphonies was performed in a series arranged by Mozart. He met Haydn in London, before returning to Vienna where he befriended Beethoven – indeed he was one of the pallbearers at Beethoven’s funeral. His Symphony has a concertante role for the oboe. The galant and fluent music is nevertheless full of unexpected harmonic twists and turns. It also reveals the influence of Haydn. The droll bird calls, chirping high and repeated low down, are a delicious touch in the third movement Minuet and the Adagio is no less pleasing in its lilting lyricism.
These three works, all by lesser known émigré composers, all offer up delightful surprises and noteworthy features. They’re played with grace and warmth. And whether Baroque or, indeed, Beyond they are well worth a listen.
Jonathan Woolf 
Pleasingly lilting lyricism … well worth a listen.