Joseph Martin KRAUS (1756-1792)
Viola Concerto in E flat major VB 153c (c.1777-81) [20:25]
Viola Concerto in C major VB 153b (c.1777-81) [17:37]
Concerto in G major for Viola, Cello and Orchestra VB 153a (c.1777-81)[23:26]
David Aaron Carpenter (viola)
Riitta Pesola (cello)
Tapiola Sinfonietta/Janne Nisonen (concertmaster)
rec. November 2011, Tapiola Hall, Espoo
ONDINE ODE 1193-2 [61:51]
You know that a young musician is beginning to make his mark when his name appears in font size twice as big, and differently coloured, from that of the composer whose music he is espousing. So it is with violist David Aaron Carpenter and composer Joseph Martin Kraus.
Kraus was an exact contemporary of Mozart, outliving him by barely a year. He was born in the German town of Miltenburg am Main but his major compositional years were spent in Stockholm, and it was largely due to Kraus that the city became well established as a musical centre. Perhaps some are aware that Haydn pronounced that Mozart and Kraus were the only geniuses he knew. But it’s a salutary thought that many people will not have heard a note of Kraus’s music. I know him mostly from his symphonies and had not heard any of his concertos, and certainly not these ones, performed by Carpenter. But that’s hardly surprising as they were mistakenly ascribed to Romanus Hoffstetter and it was only in 2010 that the new attribution was made by Bertil van Boer. World premiere performances took place in Finland and in New York, by Carpenter, and these are now premiere recordings made with the Tapiola Sinfonietta a year after those public premieres.
After the big build up, what about the music? The E flat major Concerto, written at some time between 1777 and 1781, as it seems were all three works, has good thematic development and crisply delineated passagework. The slow movement, as with all three comparable movements, is vested with the deepest and most individual features. In this case it’s an almost operatic richness of expression. Kraus also insinuates little harmonic feints and detours in his finales; he adds some crunching orchestral unison passages and some wistful slowings, to create a good sense of atmosphere. The C major is rather less immediately distinctive, though the darkening colours in the central movement offer a stately aria-like relief. The finale’s passagework sounds like hard work, but less rewarding.
The last concerto is a putative Double Concerto, though it seems to operate as a Viola Concerto with Cello joint-leading in the finale but used decoratively at best elsewhere. It’s a very well orchestrated work with fully written out cadenzas. Once more the slow movement is strikingly dramatic, indeed arresting. The cello here decorates around the viola. The butterfly element is strong in this work, and it’s quite engagingly done. It’s best not to ponder too much the booklet’s talk of ‘Brahmsian drama’.
The performances and recording are both fine, but in all honesty these concertos don’t sound like major rediscoveries.
Jonathan Woolf
The performances and recording fine but no major rediscoveries.