Though he wrote a great deal of church music, and also composed for the theatre, Justin Heinrich Knecht is best remembered for his Grande Simphonie ‘Le Portrait musical de la Nature’. Elegantly scored and completed in 1785, this eventful five-movement symphonic work of nature-depiction predates Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony by almost a quarter of a century. Knecht’s older French contemporary Philidor was the leading chess player of his time in addition to being a popular stage composer, whose overtures reveal the influence of the Italian school in their sparkling drama.
"...The symphony opens with bucolic music suggesting a peaceful countryside, complete with fluttering bird trills. III is a storm filled with furious string, wind, and timpani passages. Italy’s Turin Philharmonic turns in a delightfully colorful and energetic performance."
"...The performances by two orchestras from Prague and Turin respectively sound so well integrated…Christian Benda keeps his people moving right along…where the energy he brings is palpable…the Knecht is done with considerable sensitivity to all of the textured nuances inherent within the music. Each instrument…is clear and audible. This is one disc I would recommend without qualms. It presents some lively and rare music that deserves much further publicity."
"...In its combination of German and French compositions from the mid-eighteenth century, this CD would delight any listener. Knecht’s skill in depicting a pastoral vision and Philidor’s uncanny gift for conveying gesture and anticipation are memorable. With such a high quality recording and two renowned orchestras, these two worlds come alive, imbued with esprit and resilience."