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William Littler
Toronto Star

"Although he died at Mozartean early age, Joseph Martin Kraus (1756-1792) numbers among the 18th century's most accomplished composers, evolving in approach stylistically from the Italianate Mannheim school to share the dramatizing thrust of CPE Bach and Christoph Willibald fon Gluck. He wrote comparatively little for keyboard, virtually all of it, including two substantial sonatas to be found on this well-annotated survey taped at the University of Alberta's Convocation Hall. The recording venue relates to the fact that the music's performer, the prize-winning young Canadian pianist Jacques Després, happens to be a professor of piano at that university. Would that more of his colleagues helped launch their careers with such a worthy project."

Emili Blasco
La Porta Classica

"Jacques Després's interpretation is essentially evocative and affectionate. Perhaps Kraus's music is not the best example of musical transcendence, but it is true it has sincerity and generosity. The CD is composed of two sonatas, one Rondo, one Scherzo and other shorter works which the interpreter conceives in a transparent manner, exactly like the score requires it. A very interesting CD especially because the works are almost unknown, full of values still to be discovered. Després offers us interpretations that alternate with melancholy and vitality of a crystal-clear pianism. It is a real curiosity worth to be heard and discovered."

Jed Distler

"The birth and death dates for German composer Joseph Martin Kraus (1756-1792) virtually parallel those of his better-known contemporary Mozart. His multi-faceted career, largely based in Stockholm, ranged from conducting and teaching to composing music and writing poetry and theatrical works. His graceful keyboard writing takes Gluck's lyrical style into account, replete with unusual modulatory patterns and sudden bursts of drama that take their cue from C.P.E. Bach. These characteristics manifest themselves in the E-flat major and E major sonatas--two substantial, inventive works that deserve to be rescued from oblivion. Each contains a large-scale variation movement that provides ample opportunity for pianists to show their mettle. The F major Rondo features attractively ornamented passagework, while striking minor-key episodes highlight the Scherzo con variazioni's 12 variations. Lovers of Mozart's Musical Joke certainly will enjoy the Zewi neu kuriose Minuetten, with their deliberately incongruous modulations and rhythmic bumbling. Pianist Jacques Després gives a persuasive, sharply honed account of the aforementioned Scherzo con variationi,[...] the freedom and flexibility he brings to the E major sonata's central Adagio intensifies the music's harmonic disquiet and tragic undertones. All in all, I direct this disc to those who enjoy investigating the piano repertoire's overlooked and underrated byways. I mustn't forget Naxos' crystal-clear engineering and superb booklet notes."

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