Beck: Symphony in G minor, Op. 3/3; Symphony in E flat, Op. 3/4; Symphony in D minor, Op. 3/5

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COMPOSERS: Beck
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Symphony in G minor, Op. 3/3; Symphony in E flat, Op. 3/4; Symphony in D minor, Op. 3/5
PERFORMER: La Stagione Frankfurt/Michael Schneider
CATALOGUE NO: 999 390-2
The cover painting is Füssli’s Der Nachtmahr, but don’t let that put you off. This is bold, compelling music, vivid with surprise and passion. Though one of the 18th century’s lesser-known composers, Franz Ignaz Beck is, on the evidence of this CD, a strikingly original talent. How has so exciting a composer been neglected on disc for so long?

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In his time, Beck was celebrated, at least in France, where he lived from c1760 until his death in 1809. Born in 1734 in Mannheim, he spent time in Italy before moving to Marseilles, then Bordeaux, where he wrote mainly theatre and vocal music. His six . 3 symphonies date from 1762 and sound like precursors of Haydn’s Sturm und Drang style, though Beck is perhaps more Donner und Blitzen at times: the outer movements of Nos 4 and 5 here fairly crackle with energy. Other movements too display formidable power and charm, and his idiosyncratic use of paired horns in the above two symphonies is brilliantly effective.

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Encore, Mr Schneider! (And a more generous playing time for the next disc, please.) Graham Lock