Myslivecek: Symphonies & Overtures (CD review)

Michi Gaigg, L’Orfeo Barockorchester. CPO 777 050-2 (2-disc set).

What do you mean you’ve never heard of Josef Myslivecek? He was a contemporary (1737-1781) of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a composer who came from Prague to Italy to Vienna to make his fortune, who wrote more symphonies and operas that practically anyone at the time, who engaged in business dealings with Mozart’s father, who people say had an influence on the younger Mozart, and who, like W.A. Mozart, died at a relatively young age, forty-three.

If you’ve never heard of him, well, neither have many people today. One listen to the first of seven symphonies on this two-disc set and you say to yourself, “Sounds a lot like Mozart or Haydn.” Then by the time you get to his third or fourth symphonies, you’re saying “Sounds a lot like Myslivecek’s first few symphonies.” The problem with the symphonies, which occupy the first disc, is that they show too little invention and seem all to sound alike.

The second disc tends to rectify this situation considerably, however, as the five overtures contained there are far more interesting, more original, more lively, more sparkling, and more glowing than the symphonies. I quite enjoyed them but couldn’t understand why CPI hadn’t put them on the first disc to get our attention. Likewise, I couldn’t understand why CPO arranged the symphonies in such an odd fashion, starting with No. 3, going to Nos. 5 and 6, then back to No. 4, 2, and finally No. 1. I thought the booklet would explain something about the arrangement being the actual sequence of their composition, but it mentioned nothing of the matter. Maybe the record producers arranged them in some kind of order of popularity. I dunno.

The most outstanding aspects of this album are the exuberant playing of L’Orfeo Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Michi Gaigg, and the equally vivacious sound produced by the CPO engineers. The two dozen or so players in the ensemble ring out clearly and distinctly, with never an overly bright or unduly dull moment. The stereo spread is wide, the tonal balance is near perfect, and the stage dimensions show more than adequate depth. Disc two, especially, is a joy to listen to, although, as I say, the symphonies on disc one are a bit of a chore.


1 comment:

  1. I couldn't disagree more with this 'critic'. For me the first disc of the Myslivecek Symphonies is much more interesting than the Overtures on the second disc. I've been listening to classical music for over 50 years and find that I almost always tend to like what the critics don't. That's probably because I have always preferred music that was tuneful rather than difficult and 'profound'. I have always enjoyed all of Mozart's music and was very pleasantly surprised when I discovered Myslivecek. I find his melodies and harmonies just refreshing and altogether wonderful.


Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

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When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa