Joseph Martin Kraus was born and educated in Germany
but was to find his fame in Sweden at the court of Gustav III, who financed
the bulk of his professional career. An advocate of the Sturm und
Drang literary movement, Kraus authored one of the only theoretical
treatises on the adaptation of the philosophy to music. Fourteen symphonies
survive from what available evidence indicates was a much larger body
of work. He also composed several concertos, dramatic works, chamber
music as well as a book of poetry and a tragedy.
Naxos, in their series of recordings of symphonies
from the eighteenth century now offer volume four in their coverage
of Kraus’s oeuvre. These discs are welcome additions to the catalog.
Through their exploration of the works of the younger Bachs, Stamitz,
Dittersdorf, Kraus and others, Naxos have treated us to a delicious
menu of fine music that was, thankfully, not composed by Haydn or Mozart.
For years I imagined that there were splendid classical symphonies out
there by other composers, and now we have them served up on little silver
platters for the price of a burger and fries.
There is little need to give a blow-by-blow description
of these works. They are charming and elegant and utilize the typical
classical period orchestration of a string compliment with flute, oboe,
bassoon, with horns added for a very nice flavor indeed. One could call
their melodic structure "typical of the time." Nothing jumps
out as being particularly revolutionary or ground breaking, but what
is here is some lively, pleasant music, and a great alternative to the
tried and true.
Petter Sundkvist leads well-paced performances, and
the Swedish Chamber Orchestra plays with panache. One could wish for
somewhat better intonation from the winds once in a while, particularly
from the horns. This is a minor quibble, though as on the whole, this
is playing of the first order.
Excellent sound and a first-rate set of notes, Naxos
continues to prove itself as a leader in the production of serious music.
Highly recommended to lovers of classical period music.