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Raymond Tuttle
Fanfare, July 2010

The overture to the prologue (there also is an overture to act I) is dark and harmonically daring, and one immediately understands why parallels between Kraus and Mozart have been drawn. The bulk of the music, however, is not overtly dramatic. It has a strong profile, though, and is mostly of a very high quality, except for when Kraus becomes too reliant on melodic sequences…Nevertheless, if you enjoy Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus music, you might find Aeneas in Carthage to be an enjoyable anticipation of that ballet.

Ballet Review, June 2010

An almost exact contemporary of Mozart, as a student in Germany Kraus was caught up in the Sturm und Drang movement, adapting it to music before settling in Gustav III’s Sweden. There Kraus wrote music for plays, two ballets (notablyFiskarena), and two large-scale operas. Aeneas, in a prologue and five acts and produced only in 1799, after his death, requires large forces, as it is filled with dances and scenic effects. His idiom is closer to Gluck’s than to those of his friend Haydn or Mozart, with extended orchestral numbers and graceful dances, closing with a grand Chaconne. If the rest of the score is this good, can we hope for a full-scale recording, one as well played as this, which joins several other recordings of Kraus’s orchestral music on Naxos?

David Hurwitz
Listen: Life with Classical Music, June 2010

This is a wonderful recording of some amazing eighteenth-century incidental music. Joseph Martin Kraus’s Aeneas in Carthage, which he worked on for about ten years (due to production delays), must be a massive piece. Containing a prologue and five acts, the orchestral music alone (included here) contains two large overtures, several marches (including a nifty March of the Numidians with “Turkish” percussion) and a magnificent concluding Chaconne. There’s more than seventy minutes of music here, and we’re not even talking about the singing; God knows how long the whole work is. But the music is top quality. There’s also an Archery Contest, a Storm and a whole host of dances, all beautifully scored and tuneful in the best eighteenth-century Classical manner. The performance is as lively and vibrant as the music. Patrick Gallois has the Sinfonia Finlandia playing as an excellent ensemble and with plenty of character.

Glyn Pursglove
MusicWeb International, April 2010

As a number of recent recordings—quite a few of them on Naxos—have evidenced, Kraus was a considerable composer, a man of real talent, perhaps even of genius. Haydn’s observation that Kraus was the first man of genius that he met has often been quoted. Nor was he the only one of Kraus’s contemporaries to recognise his abilities—Gluck praised him highly too. Frederik Samuel Silverstolpe, Swedish chargé d’affaires in Vienna and no mean judge in musical matters observed of the work extracted on this CD (in a letter of 1799) that “if it were translated and played in other countries, it would make époque in the musical world”. The late H.C. Robbins Landon wrote in his magisterial Haydn: Chronicle and Works that “like everything else of Kraus, this opera is of a very high standard”.

Aeneas in Carthage was first commissioned in 1781, to mark the opening of the new Royal Opera House in Stockholm. Repeated delays, for reasons beyond the composer’s control, prevented that and some other planned performances. Kraus returned to work on the opera more than once during the 1780s and the last revision appears to have been completed in 1791, the year before his sadly early death. The composer never saw this magnum opus on the stage—it was finally premiered on 18 November 1799 at the Royal Opera in Stockholm. Aeneas in Carthage is a huge work—in a Prologue and Five Acts—which received eight performances during the two years after its premiere, but never established itself as part of the operatic canon, more, one suspects, for the demands it makes on resources than for any intrinsic musical weaknesses.

This valuable CD from Naxos presents the extensive instrumental music which the work contains. Naturally there is some loss involved in this exercise—Kraus’s instrumental music is an integral part of a considerably larger work and all of it takes some of its meaning, at least, from its context(s) in that work. Excellent booklet notes by Bertil van Boer go a good way—but necessarily cannot go all the way—towards repairing the inevitable loss.

An English listener encountering an opera devoted to this subject will perhaps think first of Purcell; he or she would do better, in this case, to think of Berlioz. It is clear, even from hearing only the instrumental episodes from the work—and from reading plot summaries of it—that Kraus’s Aeneas in Carthage is characterised more by the kind of epic scale one associates with Les Troyens than the relative intimacy of Dido and Aeneas. The grandness of the whole is evident in much of what can be heard on this disc—though, there are also some relatively slight pieces which no doubt perform useful theatrical functions in context. The more than ten minutes of the finale, a remarkable Chaconne, are a prime instance. This is beautifully constructed, richly and subtly orchestrated, a powerfully expressive piece and thoroughly individual. Though one can imagine something of its effect when heard at the end of so huge an opera, it packs a considerable musical punch even when heard divorced from its dramatic role—it would make a fine concert piece. Much the same might be said of the work’s two overtures—one for the Prologue, one for Act I and the opera proper—full as they are of vividly dramatic, and eminently theatrical, music, but also rewarding when listened to on their own.

A few of the pieces, such as the March and the Gavotte from Act I, are pretty insubstantial, when heard as ‘absolute’ music. But such items are much outweighed by the fascinating and satisfying music to be heard in, say, the Storm music from Act II—which invites comparison with other more famous representations of the same episode—or the intriguing tripartite Dance of the Carthaginian Maidens in Act III. Most of the slighter pieces are not without their attractions, either; there is much pleasure to be had, for example, from the contrast between Act III’s March of the Carthaginians, composed of dignified and solemn string writing, and the March of the Numidians which follows it, full of cymbals and assorted percussion, trumpets, piccolos and a general air of the quasi-‘Turkish’ exotic.

Inevitably this is in some ways a frustrating disc—one longs to hear (see?) the whole work. But there is plenty here to be going on with. The Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä, conducted by Patrick Gallois play with vivacity and discipline and Kraus’s wide palette of orchestral sound and effect is captured in a first class recording. A joy from beginning to end—several times over!

Robert R. Reilly, March 2010

A new Naxos release (8.570585) provides the extensive incidental music from Kraus’s opera based on Virgil’s Aeneid, titled Aeneas in Carthage. One can imagine how monumental this six-act opera is, as this music by itself comprises 70 minutes of overtures, ballets, and marches, with marvelous depictions of an archery contest, hunting calls, a chase, and a storm. There are some good, solid chunks of music here, like the eight-minute Prologue and the ten-minute Chaconne from Act V, so things do not seem too episodic. In all, this is another excellent demonstration of Kraus’s lively imagination, and the performance by the Sinfonia Finlandia Jyvaskkyla, under Patrick Gallois, brings it vividly to life.

Uncle Dave Lewis, March 2010

Joseph Martin Kraus' opera Aeneas in Carthage ignited interest and curiosity even in a time when Kraus' name was not particularly well known. Its libretto was written by Swedish King Gustav III, and the original version of the opera - never staged - was six hours long, the longest opera written to that time. In order to defray the rather expensive undertaking of a production, Kraus was permitted to withdraw it and take some time off to polish the work, a process that took a full 10 years. It was finally finished in 1791, but not heard until 1799 and by that time both the King and Kraus were dead. Act V's aria "O Gudar! Styrken mig" (Oh Gods! Strengthen Me) was a rare survivor among Kraus' output, appearing as a recital piece on Swedish concert programs throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Although the title below the name of this Naxos release reads "Aeneas in Carthage - Opera," one should pay strict attention to the subtitle, "Overtures, Ballet Music and Marches," because that's what it is; not the full opera, but the copious amount of instrumental music Kraus composed for it.

Even if it does not satisfy one's curiosity about this opera in a comprehension that one might like, Naxos' Aeneas in Carthage - Opera: Overtures, Ballet Music and Marches as performed by Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä under Patrick Gallois, contains much superb music. The "Prologue: Overture" and the "Introduction to Act V" are among Kraus' darkest, stormiest, and most powerful moments, and if you were blindfolded you would swear that the Overture to Act I was Beethoven, not a composer who died before Beethoven hit his stride. However, the first "March of the Carthaginians" sounds like one of Mozart's Contradanses with a brighter, more amped up orchestration. This demonstrates that within this one work Kraus was both of his time and well ahead of it. The performance is energetic and sparkles with the excitement of discovery…Although "Storm" - which as you can imagine, is an excellent cue - was not meant to lead more or less directly into the second "March of the Carthaginians," it could have… "March of the Numidians" is a definite hit, a fine Turkish-styled march that will have you high kicking around the living room if that's where you happen to be listening. There are all kinds of fine details to be observed in this music; some of them just seep, or explode, out of passages in which one might think Kraus could just take the easy route, but his youthful impetuousness just can't seem to be reined in, not even in dealing with the King's property. All the better for us, and if the opera Aeneas in Carthageis half as good as its orchestral music, then it must be a masterpiece.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2010

It is in five acts, lasts longer than Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, and was intended to open Stockholm’s new Royal Opera House back in 1781, King Gustav having devised its long an complex story. Sadly for Joseph Kraus the leading soprano left Sweden in a hurry, with large outstanding debts, and the premiere of Aeneas in Carthage never took place until after his death. It was a much expanded version of the familiar Dido and Aeneas story, the opera requiring a number of orchestral passages to set the scene for the dramatic stage effects expected on such an auspicious occasion. Add those to the obligatory ballet and you have enough music to fill this lengthy disc. Born and educated in Germany, he had by this time became the most influential Swedish musician of the 18th century, though he lived for only eight years in Stockholm before his death at the age of 36. In that brief period he had taught the next generation of Swedish composers, and had created the Swedish school of opera. Haydn described him as “one of the greatest geniuses I have met”, the other one being Mozart. In its massive scale the opera needed three prologues, and the first, lasting more than eight minutes, would have become part of our standard repertoire had it carried the name of Mozart—Kraus and Mozart having lived at exactly the same time. Ballet music is highly attractive; a vivid royal hunt; a storm scene of impact and four military marches account for the disc’s remaining seventeen tracks. The score could never wish for a more committed or stylish performance, the Finnish orchestra in superb form.

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