Joseph Martin Kraus may be little known today, but Haydn was sufficiently impressed by his music to name him alongside Mozart as one of the only two musical geniuses that he knew. Surprisingly, he has yet to figure in the excellent Chandos ‘Contemporaries of Mozart’ series. His music has appeared fitfully on record from time to time – I recall an attractive Nonesuch recording of one of his symphonies from the 1970s – but it has been left to Naxos, as so often is the case, to do him justice. Almost half of the currently available recordings of his music come from Naxos, including four volumes of his symphonies, performed by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Petter Sundkvist: see Kevin Sutton’s highly appreciative review
of Volume 4 on 8.555305.
More recently, Naxos have issued recordings of Kraus’s ballet music: The Fishermen
and other music on 8.557498 and Olympie
, with the Violin Concerto on 8.570334 – see review
of these by Tim Perry, with links to earlier reviews by Jonathan Woolf.
Æneas in Carthage
was a work of considerable magnitude – an opera in a prologue and five acts, ten years in the making. What we have on this new recording is just the ballet music and marches which he interspersed throughout the work. Though some of the music clearly relates to familiar aspects of the story of Dido and Æneas, as told by Virgil in Æneid
IV and featured by Purcell and Berlioz in opera, such as the hunting music (trs.7 and 8) and the storm in which the lovers, forced to hide in a cave, consummate their love (tr.11), most of it is not particularly illustrative of the story. It has to be admitted that the storm pales into insignificance by comparison with Berlioz’s famous Royal Hunt and Storm
. Just enjoy the music for what it is, without regretting what it might have been.
Perhaps one day we may be given the complete opera to judge how well that relates the story – Kraus seems to take several liberties with Vergil’s narrative. It’s probably too much to hope for, unless Naxos can find a live performance of the whole work to record. Perhaps Virgin Classics would consider reissuing their 1992 recording of Kraus’s Soliman II
(formerly VC7 91496-2). There also used to be a Musica Sveciæ recording of his Funeral Music for Gustav III (MSCD416), which I don’t think is available in the UK, though I believe that it may be distributed elsewhere by Naxos. Meanwhile, these orchestral excerpts from his Æneas
were well worth rescuing.
If the storm seems rather underpowered, the Introduction to the final act (tr.17) is anything but; this is dramatic music, evocative of the tragedy which is about to unfold. The ensuing ballet and minuets (trs.18-19) may seem a rather frivolous touch to accompany Dido’s sighting of the Roman fleet setting sail and her madness and self-immolation, but the grand chaconne
which concludes the work (tr.20) more than compensates. This is the longest movement on the recording; though it’s not especially tragic, it is grandiose and the end here truly crowns the work: finis coronat opus
If you’re looking for attractive music, well performed and recorded, you’ve come to the right place. This is as good a performance as I have heard from Patrick Gallois and the Sinfonia Finlandia. I was marginally disappointed by their recording of Haydn Symphonies Nos. 9-12, preferring Doráti and Goodman (8.557771 – see review
) but Göran Forsling was much more satisfied with that CD (Bargain of the Month – see review
) and their other joint recordings have mostly received favourable reviews on MusicWeb International and elsewhere. I’m happy to report that this new recording can only add to their reputation.
The recording is good, the notes by Bertil van Boer excellent and the presentation, with another of Naxos’s endless supply of appropriate 18th
-century paintings on the cover, first-class rather than bargain basement; it’s almost in the same category as Hyperion’s budget Helios reissues or, indeed, their full-price recordings. The rather tranquil departure of Æneas in this painting reflects the order with which Vergil describes that departure – vidit et æquatis classem procedere velis
: [Dido] saw the fleet set forth in ordered array – despite his haste to be away, and it perfectly matches the refusal of Kraus to get agitated by the storm or overwhelmed by the suicide of Dido.
Once again Naxos put to shame some of the inadequately presented offerings which the major record companies see fit to issue in this price range and even more expensively, often devoid of notes and with unimaginative artwork. More importantly still, Naxos continue to fill gaps in the catalogue with performances seldom less than accomplished and well recorded. Not all these gaps are neglected masterpieces or vitally important but, like the present recording, well worth filling. Long may they continue the good work which this new recording exemplifies.