Kraus seems to be flavour
of the month. His German Songs have
just been issued by Naxos.
I doubt his String
Quartets would lead to riots in the
stalls. He was a contemporary of Mozart,
surviving him by only a year. The influence
on the quartets however is more likely
to have been Haydn and, further back,
C.P.E. Bach. The collection that formed
Op.1 was collected from pre-existing
works. Itís possible that some had been
written by 1777 though the collection
was published in 1784, two years after
the publication of Haydnís Op.33 set.
Of the set of six Ė we have half the
set here Ė only one was written in four
movements, Kraus preferring a compact
three-movement form in the main.
The four-movement quartet
was Op.1 No.6. Itís fluent, elegant
and with the open ended folksiness of
a second movement Scozzese. Kraus
doubles the tempo in the central panel
of the Largo, a well sustained if repetitious
movement, and leads seamlessly to a
whizzingly inconsequential finale. There
are baroque hints, maybe also of C.P.E.
Bach, in the C minor Quartet Ė a slight,
Of more substance and
more individuality is the E major. Material
is well distributed and the fare is
full of strongly contrastive devices.
Though itís not especially distinctive
melodically the Adagio is warm and features
one of Krausís deadpan abrupt closures;
not Mozartian in wit, just rather sudden.
This lack of resolution is an intermittent
feature of his writing.
The G major Quartet
has some fine fugal writing and a certain
angularity of utterance that gives individuality
to the writing, though the law of diminishing
returns applies here with a pleasantly
nondescript Romance and an inappropriately
undeveloped Minuet finale. Of more interest
is the aria-like beauty of the viola
solo in the Largo of the B major, maybe
the single most impressive movement
here, and one that rouses speculation
as to Krausís ability at larger scale
operatic writing. The songs are generally
strophic and, whilst often amusing or
clever, seldom inspired.
The recorded sound
in the Stuttgart studios and the performances
are pretty good; care is taken over
balance and I more than once noted precision
over unison bow weight. That said I
can imagine more characterful performances
with a greater range of tone colours.