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]
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Uwe Grodd
rec. Town Hall, Wellington, September 2006 NAXOS 8.570334 [58:36]
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.
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