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Joseph Martin KRAUS (1756-1792)
Violin Concerto in C major VB 151 (1783) [30:11]
Olympie - incidental music VB 33 (1791) [20:58]
Azire - ballet music VB 18 (1779) [7:27]
Takako Nishizaki (violin)
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Uwe Grodd
rec. Town Hall, Wellington, September 2006
NAXOS 8.570334 [58:36]
Experience Classicsonline

Naxos has been doing some extensive, exploratory and pioneering work on behalf of Joseph Martin Kraus, Mozart’s exact contemporary. Kraus also shared Mozart’s early demise, outliving him by only a year.  He was born in Miltenburg am Main, educated in Mannheim and later Mainz and Göttingen. He moved to Sweden in 1778 where he became a Kapellmeister and was a greatly admired figure in Stockholm musical and literary circles.
The three works presented here are, it seems, receiving their first complete performances on disc. The Violin Concerto dates from 1783 and is discreetly and conventionally orchestrated for strings, two flutes and two horns. Nevertheless it’s a big work with a first movement lasting a full quarter of an hour, which includes a cadenza written by the author of the sleeve notes, Bertil van Boer. The demands on the soloist are clearly extensive but Kraus avoids the kind of showy virtuosity that excited, say, Viotti, and the result is a discreet kind of high-powered soloistic challenge allied to genial and enjoyable thematic material. The slow movement perhaps better shows what Kraus was made of – the rather lovely lyrical material moves into gravity once or twice, a smile alternating with a grimace and there’s a fine rondo finale with a delightful pay off ending; as nonchalant an envoi as anything by Mozart.
The incidental music to Olympie consists of the overture, a march, four entr’actes and a postlude. The overture is dramatically weighted and rich in Sturm und Drang – powerful contrasts course through its seven-minute length. The March is by direct contrast for a stately wind band alternating with – predominately – string textures. The entr’actes are elegant and well crafted; that between the fourth and fifth acts is especially strong and dramatic. And the postlude ends purposefully. The music is attractive, well crafted and enjoyable.
The ballet music from Azure (1779) is much briefer – seven and a half minutes in length. This is, as one might anticipate, much lighter in tone than the more obviously dynamic and dramatic Olympie. Kraus writes extremely well and evocatively for flutes [No.23 – track 12].
Naxos has here left the Swedish Chamber Orchestra for the heftier New Zealand Symphony. Soloist Takako Nishizaki plays with sensitive control though occasionally her intonation slips. Together they restore some worthwhile and valuable music to public audition.
Jonathan Woolf
Reviews of other Kraus recordings by Naxos
8.555305 Symphonies vol. 4 - review review
8.555771 Piano music - review
8.557452 German songs - review review review


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