Michael Schneider / La Stagione Orchestra

Franz Ignaz Beck: Symphonies Op. 4, Nos. 1-3

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CPO's Franz Ignaz Beck: Symphonies Op. 4 Nos. 1-3 is the third installation in period-instrument group La Stagione Frankfurt's outstanding series of recordings of the symphonies of Beck. Beck's symphonies are strikingly advanced for their time; he was already utilizing four-movement structures by 1760, and his symphonies are rich with the violent contrasts and explosive effects associated with the Stürm und Drang phase found in Haydn's middle symphonies and those of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Although all three of these symphonies are in major keys, they are no less aggressive and intense than the minor key symphonies that have attracted so much attention to Beck's work since late in the twentieth century. As to the virtues of this particular disc, the performance, led by Michael Schneider, is lively and enthusiastically played. The symphonies, which seem not to have been recorded before, are terrific, engaging pieces that well merit revival. One slight drawback is the recording, presented here in an SACD format -- it is a little distant to start with, and the heavy application of gating or compression cuts back on the ambience of the recording a little too much. When the music dies off, it dies off into nothing, not even silence so much as the absence of sound. While those who can't stand the sound of tape hiss or room ambience might be pleased, it sounds at times as though the performance is struggling to be heard through the compression. The filler, an overture to one of Beck's few extant operas L'isle déserte, is an exultant and appropriately mysterious opener to Metastasio's drama, also set by Haydn as L'isola disabitata. Grove's, however, is at odds with the 1799 date provided in the booklet, and lists 1779 for this work.

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