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Ignaz von BEECKE (1733-1803)
Piano Quintet in A minor (ca. 1770) [25:55]
String Quartet in G major [14:58]
String Quartet in C major (ca. 1780) [22:19]
Diogenes Quartett
Andreas Kirpal (piano)
rec. 2008, Walldorfschule Gröbenzell
CPO 777 682-2 [63:46]

Ignaz von Beecke has popped up on the CPO label before with some Piano Concertos (review), but he remains something of an obscure figure. Little is known about his childhood and education, though an enrolment to Bamberg University in 1750 is registered, and he eventually became director of music at the court of Count Philipp Karl of Oettingen-Wallerstein via his position as adjutant to the heir-apparent Count Kraft Ernst – this after involvement in the Seven Years’ War as an officer in a Bavarian Dragoon Regiment.

Beecke’s renown as a pianist and composer is also to be found in contemporary records, though this reputation has long been forgotten. He travelled widely and met Mozart several times, Günther Grünsteudel’s booklet notes recalling their participation in a clavier competition in 1775 and Mozart’s father Leopold’s complaint “that Beecke wanted to harm his son and plotted against him – an insinuation entirely lacking in proof.”

The Piano Quintet in A minor can lay claim to being one of the earliest examples of its genre, though its appearance as a kind of reduced-forces piano concerto is also pointed out in the booklet. The alternating solo/ripieno character of the writing in the first movement would seem to bear this out, but the piano part is not particularly virtuoso and it all works well as even-handed and nicely finished chamber music. There is a thematic element in the opening few bars that seems to look forward to Schubert, but the style in general is closer to Mozart, with a poignantly lyrical Andante piů tasto larghetto central movement and a final Allegretto that teases us with inventive tonal ambiguities, playful variations and a very soft ending indeed.

The String Quartet in G major may not actually be by Beecke, but is an attractively light work with two of its five brief movements being Minuet and Trio almost has the feel of an old-fashioned suite. The Quartet in C major is more substantial by contrast, giving more or less equal weight to all of the parts and breaking with the convention of the day which tended to favour the lead violin. The first movement has a distinctive and quite lengthy slow introduction which explores some interesting harmonic tensions. The following Allegro maestoso is certainly not something you would mistake for anything by Mozart, though it’s hard to pin down quite why. The central Siciliana. Un poco adagio is a lovely movement with plenty of melancholy in its mood, also being unusual of its kind for being in rondo form. The final movement is marked Allegro. Tempi di giaconne, which we’re told is an indication to moderation in terms of speed. This has a dance character in its triple metre, but has intriguing inner voices and the working out of some fine ideas.

This is not a disc that’s likely to shake your world to its foundations, but both the Piano Quintet and String Quartet in C major are certainly worth your time. The recording is set in a suitable acoustic and is nicely transparent, and the performances are impeccable.

Dominy Clements

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