What You Should Know about Josef Mysliveček


What You Should Know about Josef Mysliveček

Five Fast Facts about This Important Czech Composer

1 Josef Mysliveček (1737-1781) would have slipped into the shadows of forgotten history except for three intriguing things: Firstly, he was Mozart’s influential teacher; secondly, his own music, now enjoying a revival, stands on its own merits alongside Mozart’s … and thirdly …

2 International-award-winning director / writer Petr Vaclav has created a documentary about Mysliveček, which he intends to develop into a full-length, feature film about Mysliveček’s life in Italy. Zpověd’ Zapomenutého (Confession of the Vanished) is set against the backdrop of rehearsals for a contemporary performance of Mysliveček’s L’Olimpiade, with Collegium 1704 and guest soloists, conducted by Václav Luks. (Mr Vaclav’s The Way Out, 2014, for example, won 7 Czech Lion awards.)

3 At a spring showing of the documentary in Prague, film director Václav described Mysliveček as an exceptional personality, “intuitive” and “sympathetic.” However, the composer is an almost anonymous person historically, and he left very few written records – mainly only short messages (often about his financial stress), “so there is a big space for interpreting” his personality, the film director says.

4 What we know for sure: Mysliveček seemed destined to spend his life running his father’s milling business in small-town Prague. But thanks to Josef’s love of music, he escaped to Italy and became a music teacher, led a shady social life, and finally ended poor and alone … but only after composing Baroque music that is being rediscovered and profoundly admired today.

5 Musicologist Dr Daniel Freeman explains, “Mysliveček has a special character. It’s not ‘normal’ in the 18th century to have your own personal stamp on the music [as much as] Mysliveček did. He’s quite different from even from Mozart and Haydn. However, Mysliveček had such a passion for life … . You can hear the dynamism of Mysliveček’s own life. He was an individualistic and rebellious personality. And that’s the main reason for this quality.”

[box]Watch a short excerpt, with English subtitles, from Zpověd’ Zapomenutého (Confession of the Vanished).

– Mary Matz, Opus Osm guest writer

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