Bertil van Boer on Kraus’s Overtures

By Emilia Campagna

August 12, 2019

Theresia’s summer project is mainly focused on Joseph Martin Kraus, and his Ouvertures: the orchestra is already at work under the baton of Claudio Astronio and will perform on 15th August in Milan and 22nd August in Bolzano. For a deeper understanding of the style and work of Joseph Martin Kraus, we have asked to Bertil van Boer, an active musicologist who has focused on Kraus and is author of several books and numerous musical editions.

Bertil van Boer, Theresia is going to perform all Kraus’s Overtures: what do you think of such a project? Is it relevant in the actual discographical scene?

“I think this is a great project, since his Overtures and Introductions are so varied according to the occasions for which he wrote. I think from a recording standpoint, these are all pieces that people want, or at least Klaus Heymann of Naxos has frequently told me. I do trust his judgment on the public wishes aspect. Moreover, there are some of the best orchestrations he did, not to mention the incredible stylistic variety, so it should be a wonderfully kaleidoscopic disc.”

When we say Overture we think of melodrama, but only two of them were written for the opera: which is the role and the importance of this musical genre in Kraus’s production?

“Actually, as my lecture will show, overtures were done for all sorts of things, not just opera or melodrama. For Kraus, these were important pieces in that they not only stood on their own, they also led to some exciting and dramatic music, mostly of a vocal nature (but not always). Moreover, they show him to have been extremely versatile, doing his “craft” as he often put it, not just for serious drama, but for comedy as well.”

In Kraus’s Ouvertures, do we find influences of his contemporaries?

“There is some, but by and large his music is quite unique in style, often foreshadowing the romantic period. There is often a bit of French style of Gluck that appears now and again, but he is more refined and certainly much more dramatic. Of course, everyone will speak of the influences of Mozart and Haydn, of which there is very little here if one examines the works.”

You have been studying Kraus for a long time, completing the catalogue and writing important books on this life and production: do you think there is still more to find?

“Oh yes. As you know, l rediscovered at least three concertos that were hidden in plain sight attributed to a friend of Kraus’s called Roman Hoffstetter. I’m in the process (long overdue) of presenting my discovery in print. Also, you might want to stay tuned to the lecture; I’ve one suggestion that could be rather interesting on that line. No spilling the surprise here!”

When and how did you decide to devote so much to Kraus?

“This has been a life-long pursuit, though as you will perhaps know, I do much on other composers as well, including Mozart and Haydn. Still, when there is someone of his caliber, Kraus is always worth devoting considerable time to!”

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About Emilia Campagna

Journalist and musician, Emilia is a blogger for Theresia