Joseph Martin Kraus: Overtures

THERESIA, directed by Claudio Astronio
cpo 555 579-2

Prepare to have your attention seized from the very first bars of this amazing release! There are eleven openings on the programme, from operas (as you would expect) to cantatas for birthdays and funerals. Pretty much an exact contemporary of Mozart, Kraus (who died a year later) was the master of Sturm und Drang, but more than that, he was an excellent orchestrator, searching just the right timbre for his dramatic gestures – I am not exaggerating when I confess to having been tense throughout the equally excellent THERESIA’s rendition of the prologue to the composer’s “Æneas i Cartago”. The overtures to Acts 1 and 5 of that massive work also feature – the exemplary booklet note by Kraus expert Bertil van Boer explains that the programme is essentially a musical palindrome of keys with what he considers to be the epitome of Kraus’s writing in this style, the opening to Act 1. It is unbelievable to think that this outstanding recording on period instruments is the work of a youth orchestra. Of course, the members (whose names cover most European languages except English, of course… another Brexit benefit?!) have studied long and hard and obviously have talent oozing from their pores, yet still it is astounding that they reach such heights. The recording engineers have done well to capture all that youthful energy, which they certainly put to good use!

I am happy to report that the booklet also predicts more recordings on cpo from THERESIA – if they are half as good as this one, I will be more than impressed!

Brian Clark

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