Adalbert Gyrowetz



Adalbert Gyrowetz was born on 20 February 1763 in Böhmisch Budweis (now České Budějovice), some sixty-five miles due south of Prague and then, as now, more famous for producing beer than musicians. In the Czech Republic he is nowadays known, for good patriotic reasons, as Vojtěch Jírovec, but he himself always used the German form of his name rather than the Bohemian one (his mother may have been German) even though he was fluent in French, Italian, English, Latin and – exceptionally for a Bohemian émigré – Czech. In his (German) Biographie, published in Vienna in 1848, he wrote that he began his musical studies with his father, who was choirmaster of the cathedral in Budweis, and continued them while he was reading Law at the University in Prague. He then worked in Brünn (now Brno) as secretary to Count Franz von Fünfkirchen, all of whose employees had to be musicians so that they could form an orchestra and give concerts in addition to their other duties. At this time he composed, among other things, twelve symphonies and six pieces for wind ensemble which he offered to an anonymous publisher, certain that they were written exactly ‘for today’s taste’. In 1785 he went, like so many Bohemian musicians of his time, to Vienna. There he met Mozart, who befriended him and performed one of Gyrowetz’s symphonies at a subscription concert in the Mehlgrube; and when, a year later, Gyrowetz decided to chance his arm in Italy, Mozart, who had been to Italy three times and knew the country well, said to him: ‘You lucky man! O, if only I could go with you, how happy I should be!’.

He spent three years in Italy, first as secretary and music master to the family of Prince Ruspoli, with whom he travelled to Florence (where he met Pietro Nardini), Rome (where he spent some time with Goethe and composed his first six string quartets), Bologna and Venice, after which he spent two years in Naples studying with Nicola Sala. In 1789 he went to Revolutionary Paris, where he discovered that one of his symphonies was being played but attributed to Haydn, and made a deal with the violinist and publisher Jean-Jérôme Imbault. In October that year he travelled to London, where he was commissioned by the violinist and impresario Johann Peter Salomon to write symphonies for his concerts in the Hanover Square Rooms. In 1791 he welcomed his idol Haydn on the first of his two visits to England (arranged by Salomon), and with his command of English and familiarity with ‘polite society’ was in a position to be of considerable practical help to the great man during their time together in London. Gyrowetz was commissioned to write an opera, Semiramis, for the Pantheon in Oxford Street, but the building was destroyed by fire on 14 January 1792, the night before the first performance, and all the music except the overture was lost. Later that year he set out on his homeward journey, reaching Bohemia in 1793 by way of Brussels, Berlin and Dresden, and then returned to Vienna, where he was to spend the rest of his long life, except for a brief period in Munich and Schwetzingen in the service of Count von Sickingen towards the end of the century. In 1804 he was appointed Vize-Kapellmeister of the Court Theatre in Vienna, for which he was expected to write at least one opera and one ballet every year. As a composer, conductor and teacher he played an important role in Viennese musical society into the 1820s and was one of the pallbearers at the funeral of his friend and close contemporary, Beethoven. He retired in 1831, but lived on until 1850. As he remarked, modestly, in an article published in the Ostdeutsche Post in 1850: ‘I was only a talented man who can be happy if he conquers the present; only a genius lives beyond the grave’.

Gyrowetz’s compositions include some thirty operas (most, but not all, written for Vienna); ballets and incidental music; over forty symphonies; a huge body of chamber music; many songs and various sacred works, including eleven Masses. A thematic catalogue was compiled in 1982 by John A. Rice, in conjunction with The Symphony, 1720–1840 (Editor-in-Chief Barry S. Brook, Garland Publishing Inc., New York and London, 1986), which lists twenty-nine authentic surviving symphonies and one of doubtful authenticity, two serenades, two symphonies concertantes and one divertimento concertante. The symphonies, which are preserved in manuscript orchestral parts belonging to Haydn’s employer Prince Nicolaus I Esterházy and to Prince Joseph Maria Benedikt von Fürstenberg, and in early printed editions published by Imbault, André (under various opus numbers) and Sieber, date mainly from the early 1780s to the early 1790s, only a handful being believed to date from the early years of the nineteenth century. Rice’s catalogue lists them under key (A–B flat) in alphabetical order, and within these groups in chronological sequence so far as this is possible. The three symphonies recorded here are all believed to have been written in about 1790 or earlier.

Symphony in E flat major, Op. 6 No. 2

1. Allegro
2. Andante
3. Minuetto: Allegretto
4. Finale: Presto

The Symphony in E flat, Op. 6 No. 2 (Rice’s E flat 1) is modestly scored for strings, two oboes, bassoon and two horns. Its first movement is a busy Allegro. There are very similar second and third subjects, both in B flat and both featuring the bassoon, and a particularly long and elaborate development section, followed by a varied recapitulation. Next comes an Andante in B flat and in ternary form, the ‘A’ section being scored for the full orchestra, and the ‘B’ section for the winds alone and in E flat. The third movement is a sturdy Minuet, which encloses a cheery trio featuring the horns, above a chugging accompaniment. The finale is a breezy and colourful rondo, notable for its widelymodulating central episode.

Symphony in F major, Op. 6 No. 3

1. Allegro
2. Andante
3. Minuetto: Allegretto
4. Finale (Rondo): Allegro vivace

The Symphony in F, Op. 6 No. 3 (Rice’s F1) is also scored for strings, two oboes, bassoon and two horns. It begins with an attractive, waltz-like Allegro, with a smiling second subject in two distinct halves, and a taut, interesting development. The slow movement, in D minor and in compact sonata form, is weighty and dramatic, but some relief is offered by the lyrical second subject, in F major and on the first oboe (but in D minor in the recapitulation, and on the first violins). Next comes a jolly Minuet, with syncopations in its second section, framing a melodious trio, also featuring the first oboe, and, to end with, a brisk Rondo with some nice touches for the wind section.

Symphony in D major, Op. 12 No. 1

1. Adagio – Allegro
2. Andante poco adagio
3. Minuetto: Allegro
4. Presto

The Symphony in D, Op. 12 No. 1 (Rice’s D6) is scored for strings, two flutes, two oboes, two horns, two trumpets and timpani. A short but eloquent slow introduction prefaces a busy, festive Allegro, with a gentle second subject (in A but with minor-key inflections) shared by the strings and the first oboe – and even a minute third subject (also in A) for the strings, just before the double bar; there is a surprisingly fierce development, based on the first bar of the Allegro, and a subtly varied recapitulation. Trumpets and drums are silent in the slow movement, a gentle Andante poco adagio in G and in 6/8 metre, with effective alternation of pizzicato and arco on the strings. The third movement is a strapping Minuet, with a wistful trio featuring the oboe, and the brisk finale is a witty, distinctly Haydnish rondo.

Robin Golding (2000)