BEECKE: Piano Concerto in F Major; Piano Concerto in D Major; Andante – Natasa Veljkovic, piano/ Bavarian Chamber Orchestra of Bad Brueckenau/ Johannes Moesus – CPO

by | May 8, 2017 | Classical CD Reviews

A rare journey into a gifted, neglected talent, a contemporary of Mozart with his own power of expression.

BEECKE: Piano Concertos = Piano Concerto in F Major BEEV 108; Piano Concerto in D Major, BEEV 100; Concerto in D Major, BEEV 102: Andante – Natasa Veljkovic, piano/ Bavarian Chamber Orchestra of Bad Brueckenau/ Johannes Moesus – CPO 777 827-2, 62:13 (9/23/16) [Distr. by Naxos] ****: 

The name of Ignaz von Beecke (1733-1803), largely forgotten and ignored, now finds resurrection in this 13-15 February 2013 recording of two of his surviving fifteen piano concertos, which rather shine in their galant splendor. Beecke had reknown at the time chiefly for his great skill – a nobile dilettante – in playing the harpsichord, although he composed a wide range of music as well, having studied with Christoph Willibald Gluck. In 1775, Beecke, moreover, met the 19-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Munich and the two engaged in a piano playing competition. The poet and composer Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart, who was in the audience, wrote in his Teutsche Chronik (27 April 1775) that in his opinion, von Beecke played far better than Mozart: “In Munich last winter I heard two of the greatest clavier players, Mr. Mozart and Captain von Beecke. Mozart’s playing had great weight, and he read at sight everything that we put before him. But no more than that; Beecke surpasses him by a long way. . .having demonstrated winged agility, grace and melting sweetness.” It was in the service at the court of Oettingen-Wallerstein that Beecke received and nurtured his aristocratic patronage, those nobles who appreciated his manifold gifts as double bass player, court composer, and maestro di cappella.

The first of the concerto offerings, that in F Major (c. 1785), seems typical of Beecke’s style, which, while exploiting sonata-form, eschews dramatic contrast between solo and tutti so as to revel in the joint sonority from the full ensemble. The opening Allegro proffers a long instrumental recitative and the keyboard, from its entry, sports a continuous chain or ornamentation and cascading roulades, quite rounded in this realization by Vienna-trained pianist Veljkovic, herself a pupil of Paul Badura-Skoda, Nikita Magaloff, and Rudolf Firkusny. As the first movement proceeds, the piano and orchestra alternate the fioritura, with woodwinds and strings interpolating rich flashes of instrumental color. The melodic content from Beecke, not particularly memorable, enjoys a pleasant restraint, in a style that crosses the Bach sons with anticipations of early, minor-key Romanticism.

The second movement, marked Andante piu tosto adagio, assigns the flute and oboe solo passages in concert with the keyboard. The quality of an enhanced wind-serenade suffuses this charming movement, which often gurgles in 6/8. Three recitative passages feature the violins rather than the solo’s right hand as instrumental harmonization. The silken cooperation of piano and winds exhibits all the skill we associate with Haydn in this kind of flourished writing. The cadenza asks for staccato patterns and quick runs and roulades that often glow a la musette. Following a half-cadence, the Rondo: Allegro introduces the ritornello theme which Ms. Veljkovic commands only once. Instead, the solo confines itself to five distinct episodes, two of which modulate into the minor mode. The flute and bassoon add colors of their own to the piano’s hues. In the manner of Haydn, the music’s latter pages break off into some new and brightly lit figures, with conductor Moesus’ exulting in the crisp accents.

The Piano Concerto in D Major (c. 1780) immediately asserts, in its Tempo giusto, a theatrical canvas in the manner of Spohr’s scenic music. The solo piano has been present at the opening, but the orchestra continues with her, and then allows the solo to add ariosos and recitatives. The operatic continuity of the brief movement – highly colored by the woodwinds – rather subordinates the solo role to that of a lyrical commentator. The Arioso second movement, then, has the real interest for the composer, since it complements the opening scena as its fulfillment. The piano textures fill out, and the runs become ever more elongated. There are sectional tempo changes in the course of this elastic music, and the oboe and flute contribute their fair share to the development of a wind cassation. The keyboard once more functions as a soprano in an accompanied recitative, the melodic line rife with turns, runs, and melismas. Some tricky motions for the hands provide passing interest, with a turn to the minor for the cadenza. Beecke marks his finale Allegro: allegretto grazioso, and here in the cheerful, orchestral 6/8 the piano plays alone in four episodes, two of which move into the minor mode, unlike Mozart, who tends to favor one pass into the minore.  The music, sweetly innocuous, has a Haydnesque lilt, once more favoring the wind serenade with a cushion of strings under the solo piano. The last page resorts to a full hunt-sequence, lively and charming.

The Concerto in D Major: Andante (BBEV, 102), set in another 6/8, means to demonstrate more of Beecke’s gifted arioso style, complemented by a significant oboe part. Pastoral and pleasantly decorative, the music proceeds in ornamental gentility and includes an unaccompanied cadenza. As per expectation, the moment has been a light, enchanted excursion into a creative musical mind whose one object has been to please and delight.

—Gary Lemco

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