MYSLIVECEK Sinfonias: in F; in C; in C; in G; in E-flat. Overture in A. Concertino in E-flat • Werner Ehrhardt, cond; Concerto Köln • ARCHIV 477 6418 (67:17)
I find myself in general agreement with Brian Robins (Fanfare 29:1), who enjoys these “symphonies” of Myslivecek—actually overtures to his operas and presumably the operas of others as well, was the practice at the time. This blurring of distinction between the Italian overture and sinfonia was common in the lateRead more Baroque. Nor was Myslivecek behind the times when he did this in the 1760s and 1770s, for other composers of his period, influenced by Italian opera (as opposed to those who picked up on Austrian four-movement symphonic developments), mined the orchestral portions of their own vocal works for symphonies. It was a natural course of action for Myslivecek, who wrote at least 27 operas and understandably sought to profit from them outside the theater.
They are engaging works, transparent in texture, filled with rhythmic drive, simple but attractive tunes, and the odd harmonic turn or rhythmic byplay (as in the Presto of the Sinfonia in E-flat that recalls C. P. E. Bach). I find myself most pleased with their serene, lightly scored central movements, whose calm still conceals surprises: the mini-oboe concerto of the Sinfonia in G Major, the uneasy Andantino in 6/8 of the Sinfonia in E-flat, or the dramatic Largo of the Concertino in E-flat, with its colorful way of setting off the wind choir from the strings, and both from the pair of horns. That Concertino—perhaps so named after its emphasis on a group of soloists in what amounts to a latter-day concerto grosso format—is almost twice as long as the rest of the selections on this release, yet it dates from sometime between 1775 and 1777, or just before four of the much simpler sinfonias on this album (1778–1780). This makes me think the composer was capable of writing with different levels of sophistication at roughly the same time, for different audiences. Regardless, Myslivecek manages the added length of the Concertino without padding, and shows considerable skill in the deployment of the additional colors at his disposal. The other curiosity on this disc is a Sinfonia in C, published as one of a set of six “sinfonia concertanti o sei quintetti” in Paris in 1767/68. The opening movement is the slow one, here, the most complex of the three; and it leads directly into a sparkling Allegro that recalls J. C. Bach. The finale is in a skipping 3/4 tempo, with no more substance than a breeze, and with enough charm to bring an evening concert to its perfect conclusion.
The performances are alert, clean, and technically proficient. The absence of string vibrato doesn’t aggressively draw attention to itself. To the contrary, the Concerto Köln is capable of playing with a subtler blend of textures than many other equally “historically informed” ensembles I’ve heard.
The liner notes are far too generalized in content. (Does anyone else remember when in antediluvian LP days, the Archiv label was synonymous with extensive, scholarly liner note essays?) But the sound quality balances the ensemble well, with great presence to the sections and individual instruments. In short, truly a great pleasure to hear.
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