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Josef Myslivecek Violin Concertos, Sinfonia & Overture.

Josef Myslivecek Violin Concertos, Sinfonia & Overture Leila Schayegh--violin, Collegium 1704, Vaclav Luks--conductor. Text: English, French, German, Czech. Recorded: July 2017, St. Anne Church, Prague Crossroads. Released: 2018. DDD. 1 CD, ACCENT ACC 24336.

The new recording made by Vaclav Luks and his Collegium 1704 orchestra could--if seen through the prism of their long-term focus on the Baroque--may come as a surprise. When you, however, bear in mind the amount of Classicist works they have performed, you could have expected that Vaclav Luks's enthusiasm for Josef Myslivecek's music would evince itself in a well-considered and rehearsed programme (the documentary about the artist Confession of the Forgotten, the opera L'Olimpiade). I must admit that I was rather surprised by the album's foregrounding the violin, yet that is logical too, since precious few are aware of the high quality of Myslivecek's violin concertos. What is more, Lux has known Leila Schayegh (b. 1975), a renowned Swiss violinist and specialist in historically informed performance, for years, having worked together on a number of projects (including the 2011 recording of Franz Benda's sonatas for Glossa, which has received a Diapason d'Or). The present album is the sixth Collegium 1704 have made for Accent, while being the first featuring music of the second half of the 18th century. By engaging an international group of musicians (including the violinist Ivan Iliev, the double-bass player Miriam Shalinsky, the oboist Katharina Andres, the horn player Erwin Wieringa and the harpsichordist Emmanuel Frankenberg). And the fruit of their joint efforts is astonishing indeed. But I will start my review from the end. Worthy of praise are the excellent recording director Jiri Gemrot and the likewise outstanding sound engineer Ales Dvorak. The pleasant, atmospheric layout was the work of Joachim Berenbold, while the compelling sleeve notes were penned by Leila Schayegh. The text is accompanied by photos taken at the recording sessions, as well as pictures of the artists, made by Ondrej Bouska. Yet the main thing is the music itself, and its performance, which is splendid indeed. For that which he has done to promote Josef Myslivecek's mastery, Vaclav Luks should receive a medal or, at least, special thanks from the Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic. One way or another, the programme should be presented within Collegium 1704's subscription cycle concerts in Prague, at festivals like the Prague Spring and Concentus Moraviae! All the compositions featured on the album bear witness to Myslivecek's music being diverse, harbouring ample, breath-taking melodies (reminiscent of those of Antonin Dvorak's), grandiosity and melancholia. In the sleeve notes, Leila Schayegh pointed out: "From this music, one can hear that the author was also a superb opera composer: the quickly alternating themes are well defined in character, whether sounding serious or boisterous, pleading or alluring, questioning or majestic, friendly or imperious. Figuratively, we find ourselves on the opera stage." And she is absolutely right--both in terms of their macro and micro dimensions, the compositions are so contrastive and striking that the listener would by no means get bored. Anchored in its era, containing archaisms even, Myslivecek's music is not as timeless as that of Mozart, but when it comes to his concertos, which surpass the common period creations, they are very close to the point. I was particularly taken by the Concerto in E major, and impressed to an even greater degree by the 1772 Symphony (Overture) in A major and the 1777 Symphony in E flat major, which have been recorded for the very first time. Both of them teem with emotion and spirit. When I listened to the album, I immediately praised Vaclav Luks's abandoning the current fashionable trend of effectively fast tempos, and admired the musicians' perfect interplay, focus on detail and, in the case of Leila Schayegh, the faculty of rendering melodic embellishments in an authentic manner, the transparent playing, the brilliant right hand and virtuosity. (The concertos are quite challenging in technical terms.) Initially, I had the feeling that I would give preference to a more succulent tone, played on an even better violin (the Russian-British violinist Alina Ibragimova crossed my mind as a suitable performer of Myslivecek's works), yet when listening to the concertos over and over again I realised that the homogeneity of Collegium 1704 and Leila Schayegh was entirely satisfactory. Even though I would perhaps like the arduous melodies to be played by some of the famed virtuosos, I have arrived at the conclusion that the "non-stellar" Swiss violinist agreed with my taste better. Schayegh wrote in the booklet notes: "Our major aim was to present Myslivecek's music precisely as what it is: not clenched by the strict Classical form, yet spirited at every single moment." And in this respect, the musicians have utterly succeeded.

Lubos Stehlik
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Author:Stehlik, Lubas
Publication:Czech Music
Article Type:Sound recording review
Date:Apr 1, 2018
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