Josef Myslivecek Biography (BBC)
If, in a parallel universe, we were denied all knowledge of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, who would we talk about as the luminaries of Classical music? Almost certainly a number of Czech composers would feature, since their work comprised such a distinctive part of the musical world surrounding those we now see as the dominant forces. Among them would surely be Josef Myslivecek, for whom Mozart, not known for idle compliments where other composers were concerned, expressed considerable regard.
Myslivecek was something of an exception among 18th-century Czech composers in being a late developer. The son of a well-to-do Prague miller, Myslivecek enjoyed the niceties of music lessons, but was destined for his father’s trade. By the early 1760s, however, it was clear that his heart was not in business and he began studies in composition with the Prague organist Josef Seger. A more than useful violinist, Myslivecek quickly gained a reputation for excellence and decided to pursue opera, with studies in Venice in part funded by Vincenz von Walstein, one of a long line of aristocratic musical patrons. His opera, Semiramide, given in Bergamo in 1765, was the first of some 26 Italian operas, a majority to texts by Metastasio.
The breakthrough work for Myslivecek, however, was his second opera, Il Bellerofonte, premiered in Naples in 1767. This secured his reputation in Italy, where problems with pronouncing his name led to the epithet ‘Il Boemo’ (‘The Bohemian’), and continued success with opera led to commissions abroad, including Salzburg, and performances of his fine oratorio Isacco figura del redentore at the court of the Elector of Bavaria, Maximilian III, in 1778.
He met the Mozarts, Wolfgang and his father Leopold, in Bologna in 1770. Their friendship was warm and relatively long-lasting, although it cooled after Myslivecek failed to make good on securing Mozart a commission for Naples. Along with friendship, Myslivecek offered the young Mozart a suitable model for his early Italian operas. His own style was well founded on Italian idioms and unfailingly won favour with audiences for nearly 15 years.
In later life Myslivecek incorporated Gluckian elements, with more complex formal schemes for arias, while favouring simpler melody. Unfortunately, his handling of operatic idiom failed to move with the times and the end of his life saw two notable failures during the Carnival of 1780 in Milan and Rome. He died in poverty in Rome in 1781; even his funeral had to be paid for by a pupil.
Myslivecek’s unquestionably colourful life – he lost his nose during treatment for venereal disease – and vivid personality doubtless contributed to his years of success. However, the clear appeal of his melodic writing and frequently brilliant handling of musical idiom.
Josef Myslivecek Biography (Wikipedia)
Josef Mysliveček (9 March 1737 – 4 February 1781) was a Czech composer who contributed to the formation of late eighteenth-century classicism in music. Mysliveček provided his younger friend Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with significant compositional models in the genres of symphony, Italian serious opera, and violin concerto; both Wolfgang and his father Leopold Mozart considered him an intimate friend from the time of their first meetings in Bologna in 1770 until he betrayed their trust over the promise of an operatic commission for Wolfgang to be arranged with the management of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. He was close to the Mozart family, and there are frequent references to him in the Mozart correspondence.
Josef Myslivecek Tracks