MYSLIVEČEK 3 Violin Concertos. Sinfonia
Josef Mysliveček (1737 81) seems to have been quite a fellow. A close friend of the Mozarts and a major influence on the young Wolfgang, he travelled widely, spending time in Italy, where he became known as ‘Il Boemo’ and even ‘Il divino Boemo’. Mozart also recounts in a letter how an incompetent surgeon had managed to burn off Mysliveček’s nose while treating him; Leopold’s reply insinuated that his illness was the unfortunate result of a promiscuous lifestyle. He was also a spendthrift and died aged only 43, destitute, in Rome.
The music is just as colourful as the life, if not quite so memorable. These three violin concertos (dating from shortly before Mozart’s), a symphony and an overture reveal him to be fond of the dramatic gesture but a little short on melodic invention, often relying on scalic or arpeggiated figures and sequential repetition of phrases. However, he clearly had an imaginative approach to chromatic harmony and there are plenty of chains of suspensions to maintain tension.
He had an ear for scoring, too: the slow central movement of the A major Concerto presents a high-lying cantilena over an accompaniment of just upper strings senza basso, while the Allegro con brio that opens the three-movement A major Overture makes telling use of pairs of middle strings. The D major Concerto and the E flat Sinfonia darken proceedings with minor-key slow movements.
Collegium 1704 exhibit the sensitivity and vivacity that has characterised their Zelenka explorations, while Leila Schayegh’s focused, vibrato-light tone is ideal for these concertos, whose solo line lies mainly in the sweet upper register but on occasion exploits the woodier lower regions of the violin. The music is worthwhile above all for its composer’s craftsmanship and offers a glimpse of what sort of sounds Mozart would have had in his head as he embarked upon his own youthful violin concertos.