Kraus: Viola Concertos
David Aaron Carpenter, viola
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
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
Joseph Martin Kraus is lamentably under-represented in classical
recordings. This release should go a long way towards redressing that
situation. Highly recommended.