Haydn: Symphonies, Vol. 5 – L’Homme de Génie
Haydn: Symphony No. 19 in D, Symphony No. 8 in D minor; Symphony No. 81 in G; Kraus: Symphony in C minor
Basel Chamber Orchestra/Giovanni Antonini
Alpha Classics ALPHA 676
Joseph Martin Kraus was an exact German contemporary of Mozart, whom he outlived by only a year, dying of tuberculosis in 1792. By then he had risen to music director of the court of the culture- loving Swedish King Gustav III – whose murder at that infamous masked ball he commemorated in funeral cantata. But it was upon the basis of his Symphony in C minor of 1783 that Haydn hailed him as ‘a man of genius’. Here the work is recorded together with two of the symphonies that Haydn composed around the same time, making up the fifth release of the Haydn Foundation of Basel and the Alpha label’s project to record all the symphonies plus salient works of other composers by the Haydn tercentenary in 2032.
Although both Kraus’s work and Haydn’s Symphony No. 80 are touched by the turbulent spirit of Sturm und Drang, they could hardly be more different. Where Haydn is economical and unpredictably changeable in mood, Kraus’s three movements are earnest, sustained and fully textured in a style that somehow combines post-Baroque counterpoint with an almost Beethovenian drama. Maybe his themes remain generic, lacking Haydn’s ability to invent an unforgettable idea with a few deft strokes, but the work is well worth getting to know.
A pity, then, what with Giovanni Antonini’s hard-driven approach to these scores, the piercing sound of the Basel Chamber Orchestra’s vibrato-less strings and the bass-light ambience of the recording, that the sound of it all has a bit of an edge which some listeners may find trying.