Franz Ignaz Beck Symphonies Anticipate Mozart

Franz Ignaz Beck was part of the Mannheim School of the mid-1700’s. It was there that Johann Stamitz and his colleagues and students developed the language of the modern symphony, particularly with their use of dramatic contrasts and crescendoes (the famed “Mannheim Rocket”).

Beck was a student of Stamitz, and fully embraced the new innovations. He spent most of his professional life in France, where (until the Revolution), he enjoyed great success.

This new release form Naxos presents four symphonies that provide a good representation of the composer’s style. All four works use winds and brass to great effect, although a little restrained. These are expressive works with plenty of energy.

Compared to Mozart and Haydn’s mature efforts, Beck’s symphonies don’t seem to completely jell. But they’re still enjoyable. I found them both engaging and enlightening. It’s easy to assume that Mozart’s musical genius sprang out of nowhere, but recordings like this remind us that a good deal of the foundation for his music had already been laid.

Overall, the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice under Marke Stilec perform well. I did hear occasional intonation problems in some of the more exposed string passages, though.

Anyone who likes early Haydn and Mozart should find much to enjoy in the music of Beck.

Franz Ignaz Beck: Symphonies
Sinfonia in D major, Op. 4, No. 4; Sinfonia in G major, Op. 4 No. 5; Sinfonia in B-flat major, Op. 4, No. 6; Sinfonia in D minor, Op. 3, No. 5
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice; Marek Stilec, conductor
Naxos 8.573249

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