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Josef MYSLIVEČEK (1737-81)
Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in B flat major (?1776-78) [9:55]
Six East Divertimenti (1777) [16:01]
Keyboard Concerto No. 2 in F major (?1776-78) [13:54]
Six Easy Lessons (1780) [35:44]
Clare Hammond (piano)
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan
rec. 2018, Öbrero Concert Hall, Sweden
Reviewed in SACD stereo
BIS BIS-2393 SACD [76:38]

Josef Mysliveček is one of those figures collectors of a certain age may have come across digging around in the bargain sections of record shops, with labels such as Supraphon putting out some titles including orchestral and chamber works. Recent decades have raised the veil on his Symphonies and choral works such as La Passione, but as the premiere recorded status of the Concerto No. 2 in F major found on this BIS release might suggest, there are likely to be further scores still to be unearthed and shown the light of day.

Mysliveček was himself more of a violinist than a keyboard specialist, so these works aren’t particularly virtuoso in character. The concertos have plenty of character in the piano parts in keeping with their more public character, and they are both models of the form popular in Germany – probably Munich in this case – at the time. Mozart was certainly enamoured of Mysliveček both as a man and a musician, and as Clare Hammond’s booklet notes point out, the influence of the elder figure on the teenage Mozart should not be underestimated. These are cheerful works with nicely lyrical centres and lively outer movements, by no means plumbing emotional depths, but as beautifully crafted and entertaining as anything you could desire.

The Six Easy Divertimenti have a clear pedagogical value, and were seen as such by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in their publication of the pieces in 1983. These performances return to more contemporary editions both here and in the more substantial Six Easy Lessons. The Divertimenti have a largely two-part dialogue between the hands, exploring different left-hand accompaniment techniques and requiring a delicate expressive touch to make the right hand’s lines sing. The Six Easy Lessons take the form of two-movement sonata-like works, with greater demands made on playing technique, richer textures emerging from the piano, and with some nice byways in terms of tonality and dynamics.

As you might expect, Clare Hammond’s impeccable musicianship and BIS’s refined engineering make for a compelling team in this attractive production. The Swedish Chamber Orchestra has a rich sound and Nicholas McGegan is a sensitive collaborator in the concertos. Turn up the volume and revel in some very fine and freshly minted 18th century time travel.

Dominy Clements
Previous review: Colin Clarke


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