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ClassicsOnline Home » KRAUS, J.M.: Symphonies, VB 138-140, 142-144, 146, 148 (Concerto Koln, Ehrhardt)
Sturm und Drang in Sweden
Joseph Martin Kraus was one of a handful of talented immigrant composers who came to King Gustavus III’s court and made a great contribution to Swedish musical life in the late 18th century. Kraus was a true polymath who, in addition to being a top-notch composer, wrote a book of poetry, a tragedy, voluminous correspondence and a musical treatise that was closely associated with the Sturm und Drang movement in literature. His musical training began at the age of 12 when received training from members of the Mannheim court orchestra.
The Mannheim school and the music of Gluck and Haydn (both of whom Kraus met during travels to Vienna) influenced the composer and his symphonies certainly bear the mark of their influence. Kraus wrote fifteen symphonies and twelve of them are extant. This 2-CD recording by Concerto Köln features eight of the symphonies in performances that are nearly seventeen years old (they were originally issued on Capriccio) but still glow with energy and vigor. Haydn considered Kraus “one of the greatest geniuses I have ever met” and these excellent symphonies certainly merit such praise.
Kraus was a man of the theater and the pained opening movement of the Symphony in C sharp minor certainly sings like a gorgeous operatic lament. But there’s more than breast-beating here, shades of Haydn hover about the work’s two genial Minuets before a quintessentially Sturm und Drang drenched Allegro closes the work. The masterpiece of the set is the Symphonie funèbre. The work was written in 1792 after the assassination of Gustav III and it’s a heart-wrenching and noble memorial to the murdered King. Darkly toned brass and strings dominate the work which is the model of restrained, elegiac writing. It’s hard to believe this piece was written before the height of the Romantic movement.
The period instrument ensemble Concerto Köln delivers outstanding performances. As I said earlier, it’s hard to believe these recordings are close to twenty years old. more....
By Raymond J Walker
By Uncle Dave Lewis
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KRAUS, J.M.: Symphonies, VB 138-140, 142-144, 146,...