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Pichl: Symphonies / Kevin Mallon, Toronto Chamber Orchestra


Release Date: 01/30/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557761   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Václav Pichl
Conductor:  Kevin Mallon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toronto Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Pichl seems hitherto to have made only the most passing appearances on the pages of MusicWeb International, so some biographical information would appear to be in order.

Czech by origin – originally known as Vaclav Pichl – the composer was born in Bechyne in Bohemia. He received his early musical education there, then studied at the Jesuit College at Breznice where he served as a singer; he was then able to attend university in Prague, where he studied theology, law and philosophy, as well as developing his musical knowledge and ability. It was in the musical world that Pichl set about earning his living; our first certain knowledge of him as a professional musician belongs to 1760 when his he was listed as a member of the
Read more chorus at the Burgtheater in Vienna. In 1762 he was appointed first violinist of the orchestra in the Church of Our Lady in front of Týn, in the Old Town of Prague (where Tycho Brahe is buried). In 1765, he was engaged by Carl Ditters (i.e. Ditters von Dittersdorf) as assistant director (and violinist) of the private orchestra which served Bishop Adam Patachich at Grosswardein (now Oradea, in modern Romania). Pichl and Ditters became good friends and seem to have exerted a mutual influence on one another. When the Bishop’s orchestra was dissolved at the end of the 1760s, Pichl found work back in Prague and then at the Kärntnerthortheater in Vienna. His work gained him influential admirers, including the Empress Maria Theresa herself, and he was appointed music director to Archduke Ferdinando d’Este, the Austrian governor of Lombardy. From 1777 until 1796 Pichl worked in Italy and established many significant musical contacts there, his own work being much admired. Returning to Vienna – after the French invasion of Lombardy – he remained musically active until the time of his death – indeed he died when he suffered a seizure whilst performing as a soloist in the Lobkowitz Palace in Vienna.

Pichl (like his friend von Dittersdorf) was a well-educated man with pronounced interests in the traditions of classical learning. He wrote Latin texts, some of which he set himself, some of which were set by von Dittersdorf. Rather as von Dittersdorf famously composed a series of sinfonias on stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, so Pichl composed a series of sinfonias which take their names from the Nine Muses. There is, though – a striking difference; Dittersdorf’s sinfonias have more or less evident programmes, their connections with their mythological titles are not hard to spot; Pichl’s ‘Muse’ sinfonias, on the other hand, have far less obvious connections with their purported subjects/dedicatees; only with some hesitancy and some guesswork can one suggest why a particular sinfonia is associated with a particular muse. But the music itself is generally impressive and interesting and doesn’t depend upon such extra-musical associations, real or invented.

Of his ‘Muse’ symphonies, seven survive – those dedicated to Euterpe, Urania, Clio, Melpomene, Calliope and Thalia. Those dedicated to Terpsichore and Erato seem now to be lost. Three are recorded on the present CD, along with a sinfonia in honour of Diana, Virgin-huntress and goddess of chastity.

As implied above, these compositions are not heavily characterised or lavishly pictorial in relation to their ostensible subjects. It is presumably not an accident that Calliope, Muse of Epic, is ‘represented’ in the most heavily orchestrated of these sinfonia, with a certain musical grandeur befitting her status (she was, after all, the mother of Orpheus). But beyond this – unless there are some very deeply coded signals going undetected – the compositions would seem largely interchangeable. It is not, then, for what they say about their titular figures that these pieces are likely to be valued, but for the subtle way, for example, in which the counterpoint of the andante in ‘Clio’ is worked out or the lively quasi-dramatic quality of the allegro (very definitely ‘con brio’) which opens ‘Melpomene’ or, indeed, for the melting andante arioso of the ‘Diana’ sinfonia.

In a number of other recordings for Naxos, Kevin Mallon and the Toronto Chamber Orchestra have already demonstrated just how secure both their technical control and their stylistic understanding are in the music of this classical period. They will only enhance their reputation still further with this fine recording.

Allan Badley’s well-informed booklet notes (from which I have learned a good deal) tell us that when Pichl produced a list of his compositions for a reference book (Jan Bohumír Dlabac’s Lexicon of Bohemian Artists) in 1802, it contained some 900 works and observes that “the majority … are still extant but largely unexplored”. I sincerely hope that that exploration will be undertaken and that at least some of the results will be recorded, in performances as good as these.

A familiarity with Pichl’s music is not likely to compel any drastic redrawings of the historical maps of the music of the Eighteenth Century – though a few significant details will certainly become clearer. The Haydns certainly knew some of Pichl’s music and so, one suspects, did Mozart. But leaving aside historical questions this is, quite simply, delightful, intelligent, well-made music which will surely give much pleasure to anyone with a taste for the classical symphony.

-- Glyn Pursglove, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sinfonia in C major, Zakin 11 "Calliope" by Václav Pichl
Conductor:  Kevin Mallon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toronto Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: Romania 
Venue:  St. Anne's Church, Toronto, Ontario, Can 
Length: 14 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Notes: St. Anne's Church, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (01/02/2005 - 01/05/2005)
Composition written: Romania (Circa 1768 - Circa 1769). 
2.
Sinfonia in B flat major, Zakin 14 "Melpomene" by Václav Pichl
Conductor:  Kevin Mallon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toronto Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: Romania 
Venue:  St. Anne's Church, Toronto, Ontario, Can 
Length: 19 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Notes: St. Anne's Church, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (01/02/2005 - 01/05/2005)
Composition written: Romania (Circa 1768 - Circa 1769). 
3.
Sinfonia in E major, Zakin 8 "Clio" by Václav Pichl
Conductor:  Kevin Mallon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toronto Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: Romania 
Venue:  St. Anne's Church, Toronto, Ontario, Can 
Length: 17 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Notes: St. Anne's Church, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (01/02/2005 - 01/05/2005)
Composition written: Romania (Circa 1768 - Circa 1769). 
4.
Sinfonia in D major, Zakin 16 "Diana" by Václav Pichl
Conductor:  Kevin Mallon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toronto Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: Romania 
Venue:  St. Anne's Church, Toronto, Ontario, Can 
Length: 21 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Notes: St. Anne's Church, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (01/02/2005 - 01/05/2005)
Composition written: Romania (Circa 1768 - Circa 1769). 

Sound Samples

Symphony in C major, Z. 11, "Calliope": I. Grave e maestoso
Symphony in C major, Z. 11, "Calliope": II. Andante (sempre piano)
Symphony in C major, Z. 11, "Calliope": III. Minuetto
Symphony in C major, Z. 11, "Calliope": IV. Finale: Allegro assai
Symphony in B flat major, Z. 14, "Melpomene": I. Allegro con brio
Symphony in B flat major, Z. 14, "Melpomene": II. Andante arioso - poco vivace
Symphony in B flat major, Z. 14, "Melpomene": III. Minuetto and Trio
Symphony in B flat major, Z. 14, "Melpomene": IV. Finale: Allegro
Symphony in E major, Z. 8, "Clio": I. Allegro
Symphony in E major, Z. 8, "Clio": II. Andante in canone
Symphony in E major, Z. 8, "Clio": III. Minuetto
Symphony in E major, Z. 8, "Clio": IV. Finale: Allegro
Symphony in D major, Z. 16, "Diana": I. Allegro non troppo
Symphony in D major, Z. 16, "Diana": II. Andante arioso
Symphony in D major, Z. 16, "Diana": III. Minuetto: poco vivace
Symphony in D major, Z. 16, "Diana": IV. Finale: Presto

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Stupendous Discovery June 28, 2013 By Anthony G. (valley stream, NY) See All My Reviews "I had read about Pichl in Grove and had seen his name referenced glowingly many times, but it never occurred to me to seek his music out. When Arkiv proffered the possibility of actually listening to his works, I seized the chance. It some ways, it was instead of a life changer, a music changer for me. I have now sought out anything I can buy of his and would consider my musical life really deficient and deprived, had I not purchased this CD. For me, Pichl is one of the most wonderful composers I have discovered by accident. I can't urge the listener strongly enough to sample this, and his other works. But start with these symphonies. See if you are not captivated and captured by his musical genuis." Report Abuse
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