Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A pleasant find from the Wallerstein court


Three things occurred to me as I listened to the first movement of this surprising new disc of piano concertos by the non-household name composer Ignaz von Beecke. First, the piano concerto is such an appealing format, with its Enlightenment-era conversational style and its Romantic-era dramatic thrust, and the potential for erudite cleverness, theatrical episodes and deeply felt emotions. Second, there are still musical gems hidden in libraries that can amaze us in performance and on disc. And third, we are so lucky to have the music of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart during this period, who both elevate the standard, stereotypical forms of the day to the highest level of art.

These two concertos are definitely not at that level, but they are both very pleasant, original in a naive way, though perhaps a little vague and a little long. The D major concerto was written in 1780 (a year or two before Mozart's K. 413-415 set), while the F major one comes from 1785 (the year of the great d minor concerto K. 466). Apparently Beecke was a big fan of Haydn's, but I hear more Mozart here, and perhaps C.P.E. Bach, whose Keyboard Concertos I would place in third place from this period. This music is beautifully and stylishly presented, with beautiful piano technique by Nataša Veljkovic, and robust accompaniment by the Bayerisches Kammerorchester Bad Brückenau under Johannes Moesus. The focus is definitely more on the Romantic side, which might be less than strictly correct music-historically, but which serves this music well. Too precious an interpretation with an underpowered fortepiano would drain much of the charm from  these works. This music is supported by outstanding documentation, which is welcome because there's not a lot of information about this guy out there.

Every time a disc like this shows up I'm optimistic, but usually those hopes are dashed. Looking to find an obscure masterpiece uncovered is a bit like betting on a complete long-shot. This is a substantial payoff, but not to win or place, only to show.

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