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Josef Lipavsky: A forgotten Czech musician in the Viennese musical world and a new edition of his Sonate concertante in G major for flute and piano.

Joseph Lipavsky: Sonate concertante in G major. Edited by Martin Skamletz, Edition HH, Launton 2017, 44 pages. ISMN 979-0-708146-21-6 ISBN 978-1-910359-36-5

At the turn of the 19th century, Vienna was full of musicians from the Czech lands. In this context, we usually hear of so-called Czech musical migration, but this term is considerably imprecise and even less accurate, as the Czech lands had by then spent several centuries as part of the Habsburg multinational monarchy, the capital city of which was Vienna with its seat of the imperial ruling family. While some of the names of these musicians remain relatively well known today--e.g. Leopold Kozeluh, Frantisek Vincenc Kramar (Krommer), or the Vranicky Brothers--many other authors were forgotten, their fates and compositional oeuvres only gradually being rediscovered. Josef Lipavsky is one such hidden figure.

Lipavsky was born on the 22nd of February 1772 in Vysoke Myto in eastern Bohemia. He was educated at first in Litomysl and Hradec Kralove, where he was also a proficient organ student with Ignac Haas. Although he showed a proclivity for music from early childhood, his family opted for a university education. He was thus sent first to Prague, where he studied philosophy, and then to Vienna, where he studied law. However, he also kept applying himself to music, establishing a number of friendships with some of the leading musicians on the Viennese scene. His teachers there were Georg von Pasterwitz, a Benedictine priest, important pedagogue and composer, or Jan Krtitel Vanhal, another important Czech in Viennese musical life. According to tradition, he was also to have studied with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself, though there is no direct proof of this. Thanks to his universal education and excellent piano playing, Lipavsky became a highly sought after teacher in aristocratic homes. After completing his university studies, he embarked on a concert tour through Hungary and Transylvania. Upon his return to Vienna, he accepted a position as an officer of the imperial and royal Privy Chamber Payments Office. However, this certainly did not signify his departure from musical life, in which he remained active. He died young, on the 7th of January 1810.

In the course of his short life, he composed several singspiels and over thirty other pieces, among which we can find piano pieces, songs, and sacred music. His last work, published posthumously, was the Sonate concertante in G major for flute and piano. The Wiener Zeitung reported on its publication on the 12th of September 1810. This chamber work, now published in a new critical edition prepared by Martin Skamletz, provides us with a significant reference point on Lipavsky's compositional ability. The work represents a very mature form of the late Classical three-movement sonata cycle, which Skamletz claims bears the influence of Ludwig van Beethoven in certain aspects. The musical language combines songful melodic themes with virtuosic technique. Lipavsky certainly did not intend this sonata to be played by passionate music-loving amateurs--his technical requirements for both instruments are considerable, which also divulges the composer's intimate knowledge of their possibilities.

The edition itself is very well prepared. The well-prepared notation makes editorial additions clear at first sight. In his introductory text, Skamletz addresses Josef Lipavsky's character, wherein most of this section is taken up by the biographical entry in the Allgemeinen historischen Kunstler-Lexikon fur Bohmen, put out by Gottfried Johann Dlabacz in 1815, after which Skamletz introduces the formal aspects and musical language of the sonata. The third section contains very interesting information on the performance practice of the piece, with Skamletz concerning himself with the musical instruments of Viennese instrument-makers at the time, for which the composer really composed this piece. After the score, the publication is concluded by a two-page editor's note.

This likeable edition of the Sonate concertante in G major by Josef Lipavsky is a welcome addition to the musical literature by Czech composers in the period of late Viennese Classicism, i.e. between the 18th and 19th centuries. It can serve as a presentation of this chapter in the history of Czech music among musicians abroad, but also as a challenge to performers at home to take more interest in this overlooked part of our musical heritage.

by Lukas M. Vytlacil
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Author:Vytlacil, Lukas M.
Publication:Czech Music
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2019
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