Thursday, March 15, 2007

Alas Poor Adalbert, We Hardly Knew Ya

One of the biggest challenges with classical music recordings I've found is that the field is dominated by a small handful of composers. I realize this has a lot to do with name recognition and marketing. Mozart is undoubtedly familiar to most. He is probably one of, if not the most recorded, of the classical composers though I can't say I've been impressed with every recording I've heard. Of course, this probably has more to do with the orchestral group performing than anything else. But here I am getting off topic already.

Who the heck is Adalbert? Adalbert Gyrowetz was a Czech composer and had the misfortune of being a Mozart contemporary. I had ordered a CD of 3 of his symphonies and took an instant liking to them. They were all premiere recordings, making them a particularly rare find. Interestingly for me Adalbert was born in Ceske Budejovice in today's Czech Republic, which just happens to be on my list of places to visit while there this summer. (So far so good on the trip plans).

Adalbert is not well known but his life did touch on the lives of other, more well-known composers. Not only was held in high esteem by Mozart, but he spent time with Haydn in London, helping him to become better known in London musical circles, and served as a pall-bearer at Beethoven's funeral. He spent much of his long life in Vienna as a composer, conductor and teacher, writing around 30 operas and 40 symphonies, an impressive output by any stretch of the imagination.

He once remarked that "only a genius lives beyond the grave," however even JS Bach had fallen out of favour until performances of his works were revived in the 19th century by Felix Mendelssohn. So who knows? In the meantime, I peel back the shadow of Mozart and enjoy these recordings of fine classical symphonies.