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Kraus: La Primavera, La Gelosia / Kermes, Ehrhardt, L'arte Del Mondo


Release Date: 07/29/2008 
Label:  Phoenix Edition   Catalog #: 101   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Joseph Martin Kraus
Performer:  Simone Kermes
Conductor:  Werner Ehrhardt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  L'Arte del Mondo
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

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KRAUS La gelosia. La primavera. La scusa. La pesca. Olympie: Incidental music Simone Kermes (sop); Werner Ehrhardt, cond; l’arte del mondo (period instruments) PHOENIX 101 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 76:37 Text, no Translation)


Joseph Read more Martin Kraus (1756–92) is often referred to as the “Swedish Mozart.” Aside from the remarkably close parallel to the Master’s own lifespan, there are other reasons to consider this appellation as somewhat apropos. He has a tremendously fluid dramatic sensibility that Mozart would certainly have appreciated, able to shift moods and tempos at the drop of a dime, and is especially proficient with his skillful maneuvering of the melodic line to suit not only the text at hand but also the very peculiar and personal idiosyncrasies of the singers he was writing for.


In Kraus’s case, the singer most often referred to was Lovisa Augusti (1756–90), principal singer and actress at the Royal Theatre of Stockholm. She became a member of the Royal Music Academy before her death, and was revered because of her exceptional talents. Exceptional is perhaps too weak a word if we are to judge by these four secular cantatas composed for her by Kraus; this is the very first recording of these jewels, and they prove Kraus every bit the competitor to Mozart in many ways.


Each of these pieces, aside from their phenomenal ability to convey the essence of the texts (all, by the way, penned by Pietro Metastasio, his anacreontic cantata poems—I had to search for translations, and it wasn’t easy), very nearly cross the line in defining coloratura singing; these vocal gymnastics not only exceed anything I have ever heard by Mozart in terms of sheer technique, but they remain within the boundaries of solid and dramatic taste, never veering into simple show-off gestures or foundational exercises for high-soprano training. Just listen to the first cantata here, Jealousy , and feel the ravages of passion flowing through the incredibly florid phrasing and sudden change of emotions, just as one might in real life. Kraus captures it all perfectly, and to grand effect.


Kraus was appointed Vice-Kapellmeister of the Royal Swedish Opera and director of the Royal Academy of Music at the young age of only 25, a major accomplishment and an indication of his phenomenal abilities. Gustav III sent him abroad in order to learn the most current musical trends and styles. During this time he met Gluck and Haydn among others, wrote a piece for Haydn to play at Esterháza, and even joined the same Masonic lodge as Mozart. This led to further appointments, but after the death of Gustav by assassination in 1792, Kraus was to follow him, fighting tuberculosis all the way.


He was exceptionally regarded by all who knew him, and left a substantial catalog of religious and vocal works, and many symphonies, though only about 12 of these can be positively identified as his today. Interspersed with these wonderful cantatas are pieces of incidental music from Voltaire’s five-act tragedy Olympie , performed to great acclaim in January of the year of the composer’s death. It makes a fine supplement to these supercharged vocal works. I cannot say that everything the fine soprano Simone Kermes does pleases me. Most significantly is her tendency towards nasality when she finds herself in the midst of some tough and fast high passagework; however, I am not convinced that many other sopranos could negotiate these any better, so it is what it is. Generally speaking, she has a slick and obviously sharpened technique with fine tonal qualities, and I am sure that a lot of work went into the preparation of this disc. Coupled with excellently balanced SACD sound (4.0 for those in the know, two primary front channels with ambient sound coming from the rear two, providing a fine sense of space) and sparking contributions by Werner Ehrhardt’s l’arte del mondo, this premiere recording is almost self-recommending, and certainly one of the finest discs I have heard this year.

FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter


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Works on This Recording

1.
Olympie, VB29: Overture by Joseph Martin Kraus
Conductor:  Werner Ehrhardt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  L'Arte del Mondo
Written: c1785 
2.
La gelosia by Joseph Martin Kraus
Performer:  Simone Kermes (Soprano)
Conductor:  Werner Ehrhardt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  L'Arte del Mondo
Period: Classical 
3.
La scusa by Joseph Martin Kraus
Performer:  Simone Kermes (Soprano)
Conductor:  Werner Ehrhardt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  L'Arte del Mondo
Period: Classical 
4.
La pesca by Joseph Martin Kraus
Performer:  Simone Kermes (Soprano)
Conductor:  Werner Ehrhardt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  L'Arte del Mondo
Period: Classical 
5.
Olympie, VB 33 by Joseph Martin Kraus
Conductor:  Werner Ehrhardt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  L'Arte del Mondo
Period: Classical 
Written: circa 1785; Sweden 

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