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Ignaz von BEECKE (1733-1803)
Piano Concerto in F major, BEEV 108 [31:22]
Piano Concerto in D major, BEEV 100 [22:19]
Andante in D major, BEEV 102 [8:33]
Nataša Veljković (piano)
Bayerisches Kammerorchester Bad Brückenau/Johannes Moesus
rec. 2013, Neumarkt/Oberpfalz, Festsaal des Reitstadels
Reviewed as 16-bit lossless download from eClassical
CPO 777827-2 [62:13]

If you hadn’t heard of this German contemporary of Haydn, then don’t feel too bad. It seems this is only the third recording to include his music; the only other releases I can find are of string quartets, on CPO and SWR Music. Therefore, some biographical information is appropriate.

Beecke studied at Bamberg University, though the notes don’t specify which course, and joined the military in the Bavarian Dragoon Regiment, taking part in a number of battles in the Seven Years War against the Prussians. His commanding officer was Joseph Friedrich, Prince of Saxe-Hildburghausen, a great lover of music. Beecke was brought into the Prince’s inner circle, where he would have been acquainted with Ditters and possibly Gluck. He rose through the ranks and then became adjutant to the heir apparent to the court of Oettingen-Wallerstein, Kraft Ernst. When he became Count, he put Beecke in charge of the court’s music, in particular the task of rebuilding the orchestra. Beecke was a fine pianist and was sponsored on numerous European tours; these included performances in Paris, Berlin and Vienna. During a long stay in the latter, he made the acquaintance of Haydn and Mozart. The former praised two of Beecke’s symphonies after a concert performance, and Beecke played piano four-hands with the latter.

As with so many composers of the era, he was very prolific: 332 works were listed in a catalogue, including 27 symphonies, 15 piano concertos and 14 string quartets. Some of these are held in the Augsburg University Library, though two of the works presented here – the F major and the Andante - come from the Staatsbibliothek Berlin.

Beecke was known to have admired Haydn more than Mozart – one might conjecture this was more based on their respective personalities than music – but despite his age similarity to the former, his concertos, or at least the two and a bit presented here owe more to Mozart. They are unfailingly melodic, and have a singing quality that one finds in Mozart’s concertos. While they are, of course, a few levels of inspiration down from Mozart’s (as are Haydn’s and everyone else from that era), they do have significant qualities which make them very listenable, and not just pretty. The orchestral parts are not mere bland accompaniment: the writing for the winds in the slow movements is particularly fine. I would pick out the oboe solos from the F major concerto Andante as being quite special. The first movement of BEEV100 is surprisingly short at just over two minutes, and really serves as an introduction to the long Arioso. Why we only have the middle movement from BEEV102 is not made clear in the notes; one would presume that it is the only surviving fragment.

The performances using modern instruments are very good. I had no previous knowledge of the Serbian soloist, but two of her previous releases for CPO have been reviewed favourably on these pages (HerzogenbergPejačević) and I have no reason to differ from those views. Johannes Moesus is something of an expert in this era, and with the twenty-two players of the orchestra, provides excellent support. The sound quality is very natural, and I should mention that the biographical notes are quite exceptional for such an obscure figure.

For me, many, even most, works from the lesser composers of the Classical era are best described as enjoyable but not memorable. I would place the two complete concertos above that, and commend them to you.

David Barker



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