Ignaz von Beecke
String Quartet in G Major, M.9
Ignaz von Beecke (1733-1803) was born in the German town of Wimpfen, then part of the grand duchy of Baden. He received piano lessons as a boy and though extraordinarily talented on the instrument, entered ducal regiment and initially pursued a career as a soldier, rising to the rank of Major. However, his talent as a pianist, soon caught the eye of the head of the regiment, Count Gottingen-Wallerstein, who appointed Beeke music director of his court. His talent as pianist was much hailed and contemporaries found him to be the equal of Mozart when it came to playing the piano. He is thought to have studied composition with Gluck. Beecke as a composer was largely self taught. He was on friendly terms with most of the important musicians of his day, including Haydn, with whom he was almost an exact contemporary, Dittersdorf and Mozart, with whom he gave dual piano concerts.
Like most composers of this era, he was prolific, leaving hundreds of works, including 33 symphonies and 17 string quartets. His works were only recently catalogued by Friedrich Munter. According to Munter this String Quartet in G Major was Beecke’s nineth composition. It dates from sometime in the 1750’s. As such, the style is early classical, as characterized by the Mannheim School of Johann and Karl Stamitz. However, it is in four movements rather than the three which was typical of the Mannheim composers. The opening Allegro moderato is genial and pleasant. The part-writing is surprisingly even handed for this period. Naturally, the first violin is the leader, but the lower voices are not ignored. The Adagio which follows is particularly fine and has a tinge of the Baroque to it. The Menuetto which is follows is typical for the period, but the trio is original and fresh. An energic Presto completes the work.
This quartet is not only historically important as a representative of the early classical era but is the equal of what Haydn was composing during this time.