"perfectly judged tone" — Erica Jeal
However bad things had got for Mozart when he died, at least he still had his nose. We know from a letter Mozart wrote to his father that Josef Mysliveček, the Czech composer two decades his senior who was a friend and something of a mentor, had his burned off in a botched surgical attempt to cure syphilis. Like Mozart, Mysliveček was brilliant, acclaimed where he worked – mostly in Italy – and incurably profligate. Yet the difference in their posthumous success could hardly be more pronounced, and Mysliveček’s music has long been overlooked. Pianist Clare Hammond had to make her own new editions of the two brief piano concertos for this recording, the first to include all of Mysliveček’s definitely attributed keyboard music together.
That much will tell you that the keyboard was not Mysliveček’s favoured medium – he was more prolific writing for orchestra and voices, with 55 symphonies and more than two dozen operas to his name. This disc will tell you that’s a shame. The two compact concertos have a sparky grace that comes across buoyantly in these performances, for which Hammond is joined by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and conductor Nicholas McGegan. A highlight is the middle movement of the Concerto No 2, here in its premiere recording, in which the piano’s melody hangs in the air above gently rippling muted strings.
The other pieces were intended for amateur players – six two-movement Lessons, and, best of all, the Six Easy Divertimenti. Artur Schnabel’s old adage about Mozart’s piano sonatas – “too easy for children, and too difficult for artists” – would come to mind for Mysliveček’s Divertimenti, were it not for the perfectly judged tone that Hammond strikes with them, preserving their seemingly artless charm while finding a striking profundity in their simplicity. Mozart liked them, writing to his father that they would “make their best effect when performed with expression, taste and brio”, and that is exactly what they get from Hammond.