Kraus: Symphonies, Vol. 2

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COMPOSERS: Kraus
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphonies, Vol. 2
PERFORMER: Swedish CO/Petter Sundkvist
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554472
Our high regard for Mozart and Haydn obscures a host of their contemporaries. Kraus was highly inventive, absorbing and fusing Italian lyricism, German contrapuntal ingenuity, and the dramatic orchestral devices – long-spun crescendos, rocketing themes, shimmering textures – of composers in Mannheim where he studied.

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Kraus wrote two of these symphonies in his mid-teens – he shared with Mozart both youthful genius and a sadly brief 36-year life span. The Symphony in A has powerful opening unisons, stark contrasts between themes and a dramatic working out of ideas; there’s a strangely bucolic minuet and a hunting finale with braying horns – worthy of Stamitz, and played here with the polish and verve for which his Mannheim orchestra was famed throughout Europe.

If the earlier music overflows with brief, exuberant ideas, a Symphony in F from a little later is markedly tauter. But outstanding is the mature Symphony in C from Kraus’ period as Kapellmästare in the Swedish Court. It includes obbligato violin, almost a concerto at times, and is deeply expressive as it explores mysteriously distant keys at the start.

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This disc, part of a complete cycle of Kraus symphonies planned by Naxos, is a most welcome revelation of hitherto unknown repertoire. Warmly recommended. George Pratt