Joseph Martin Kraus Viola Concertos No Joke

David Aaron Carpenter presents three standout viola concertos on his new Ondine release. These concertos by Joseph Martin Kraus, dating from the 1790s, were thought to be lost until fairly recently. Kraus, who spent most of his professional life in the Swedish court, was well-regarded by many musicians of his day, including Haydn (for whom Kraus wrote a symphony).

Kraus was also an outstanding violist, which makes these works doubly appealing. First, they’re in the clear, classical style of Mozart and Haydn. Second, they really test the limits of the instrument. Kraus knew what a viola was capable of, and he wrote his solo parts accordingly.

Kraus has been called the “Swedish Mozart,” and with good reason. He had the same ability to spin out perfectly balanced melodic phrases that sound simultaneously simple and original. Like Mozart and Haydn, Kraus kept with the standard orchestra of the time – a large string ensemble with flutes and clarinets for coloration.

Violist David Carpenter keeps things moving along, which is good. This is music that benefits for a lightness of touch, and the sprightly playing of the Tapiola Sinfonietta hits just the right emotional tone.

The most interesting work is the Concerto in G major for Viola, Cello, and Orchestra. Although it seems to be a double concerto, the soloists aren’t quite equal partners. The orchestra supports the cello which in turn supports the viola. Still, it’s an engaging work and definitely one worth hearing.

Joseph Martin Kraus is lamentably under-represented in classical recordings. This release should go a long way towards redressing that situation. Highly recommended.

Joseph Martin Kraus: Viola Concertos
David Aaron Carpenter, viola; Tapiola Sinfonietta

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