Beck: Symphonies, Op. 3; Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 6; La mort d’Orphée Overture

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COMPOSERS: Beck
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Symphonies, Op. 3; Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 6; La mort d’Orphée Overture
PERFORMER: La Stagione Frankfurt/Michael Schneider
CATALOGUE NO: 777 034-2
Franz Ignaz Beck was an exact contemporary of Haydn. He was born in Mannheim, where he became a pupil of Johann Stamitz; but following a court duel in which his adversary feigned death, he was forced into exile. He went first to Venice, and after abducting his employer’s daughter he made his way to France, eventually settling in Bordeaux, where he spent the last four decades of his life. If the four works on this CD are anything to go by, Beck’s fiery temperament rubbed off on his music: this is all high-voltage stuff, and although some of the agitation is a little superficial (there’s an over-reliance on string tremolos, rasping horns and chugging bass-lines), the sheer energy level remains remarkable. Most memorable, perhaps, is the La mort d’Orphée Overture, with its harp-like pizzicato arpeggios, and its sighing phrases that seem to look ahead to the Romantic era; but the symphonies, too, contain some striking dramatic gestures, even if their musical material itself isn’t always on the highest level. Michael Schneider gets the adrenalin flowing in these vivid performances, and the players of La Stagione Frankfurt are clearly deeply engrossed. Anyone interested in the early history of the symphony should investigate this. Misha Donat

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