Joseph Martin Kraus – Arias and Overtures

Joseph Martin Kraus spent most of his professional career in the service of King Gustav III of Sweden. A contemporary of Mozart, there are many parallels between the two composers’ styles. This new release brings together arias and overtures from Kraus’ secular cantatas and other vocal works.

Kraus’ gift for melody rivaled Mozart’s, and the arias reflect it. The melodies develop in a natural and logical fashion, yet never sound trite nor contrived. They just seem to flow.

Mezzo-soprano Monica Groop has a warm clear, voice and her delivery is well-suited the material. Groop sings quite expressive when the text demands it, but always with a little bit of restraint appropriate for classical era material. “Du i hvars oskuldsfulla blick” is absolutely charming, sung sweetly by Groop.

Kraus’ overtures are on par with similar works from Mozart’s middle period. The ensemble sound is transparent, the music elegantly constructed to deliver dramatic contrasts and pleasing proportions.

The most powerful work on the album is the overture for King Gustav III Begrafnings-kantat — a work written in response to Gustav’s assassination. Kraus was a proponent of Sturm und Drang, and in this overture that style, fueled by his own emotional reaction to the tragedy, give the music a roiling emotional depth that borders on Beethoven’s.

Joseph Martin Kraus: Arias and Overtures
Monica Groop, mezzo-soprano; Helsinki Baroque Orchestra; Aapo Hakkinen, conductor

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