Franz Ignaz Beck — Symphonies Op. 2: Light and delightful

Franz Ignaz Beck is considered an early symphonist. His first set of symphonies was publicized in 1756, the year of Mozart’s birth. The collection featured in this recording, his Opus 2 set of 6 symphonies was published in 1758 — around the same time Haydn composed his first symphonies.

These are relatively simple works; each of the six has a compact three-movement structure, alternating fast-slow-fast. The orchestration, as was common at the time, is primarily for strings. Horns are added at times for effect, but these are basically works for string ensemble.

And that’s not a bad thing. Beck’s music has an elegance to it, which the French found appealing (he was to spend most of his career in France). The melodies are expressive, but restrained. It’s easy to hear the roots of Mozart in this music, which perhaps give these symphonies their appeal to my modern ears.

The Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra directed by Kevin Mallon have a few more players on board for this recording (2 horns and harpsichord). Nevertheless, the ensemble has a light, transparent sound that’s well-suited to this material. The recording is clean with just a hint of ambient sound.

If you like the early works of Mozart and Haydn, or indeed, classical music in general, you should find these symphonies enjoyable light listening. A nice complement to Naxos’ previous release of Beck’s Op. 4 symphonies with the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice.

Franz Iganz Beck: Symphonies, Op. 2
Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra; Kevin Mallon, conductor
Naxos 8.573323

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