Istv‡nffy, Kraus

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COMPOSERS: Istvánffy,Kraus
LABELS: Hungaroton
WORKS: Messa dedicata al patriarcha Santo Benedetto
PERFORMER: Szilvia Hamvasi, Noémi Kiss (soprano), Judit Németh (alto), Péter Drucker (tenor), István Kovács, Pál Benko´´ (bass); Purcell Choir, Orfeo Orchestra/György Vashegyi
First, some basic information: Benedek Istvánffy (1733-78), born in what is now Panninhalma, Hungary, worked in various towns to the north of Vienna but never, apparently, set foot in that city. The climax of his career came when in 1766 he was appointed music director at the cathedral of Györ, whose musical life he enriched on the lines of Vienna. Joseph Martin Kraus (1756-92), was born in Miltenberg am Main, studied in Göttingen, and worked at the Swedish Court of Gustavus III. Historically minor figures both, but on the evidence of this disc composers of far above average abilities. Istvánffy’s Messa dedicata al patriarcha Santo Benedetto sometimes approaches the grandness and, in the extended duet ‘Et incarnatus’ in the Credo, the tenderness of Haydn, though there is also an endearing economy and warmth. Listen also for the wonderfully decorative organ obbligato. The Kraus Requiem, written when the composer was just 19, is a more expansive work. It has incidental awkwardnesses – a rather stiff fugue for a Kyrie, an abrupt ending – but also contains some bold and imaginative strokes, such as the unison opening of the ‘Dies illa’ and the deeply touching ‘Lacrimosa’ (with Judit Németh a ravishing alto soloist). In both works the performances of the period-instrument Orfeo Orchestra and the 25 voices of the Purcell Choir under György Vashegyi are vivid and crisp, the recording bright and forward. Stephen Pettitt