- Amphitryton, incidental music
Among the most popular works of Joseph Martin Kraus during his lifetime was the incidental music he composed in 1787 for a production of Molière's play "Amphitryon" held in the theater belonging to King Gustav III of Sweden. It was published in a piano reduction and later, after Kraus' death in 1792, in this transcription for "Harmonie" (i.e., a wind band) made in the late 1780s by another expert German-born Swedish composer, Johan Fredrik Grenser. The transcription itself was written for King Gustav's band, and Grenser himself did not outlast Kraus or his King very long; he died in his thirties in 1795. "Amphitryon" has been recorded before in its original garb for voices and orchestra, but this wind band transcription is excellent and the Amphion Wind Octet maintains a lovely, warm, and dry sound throughout with no signs of dicey intonation or the lazy tempi sometimes encountered in recordings of Mozart's wind serenades; it's fabulous. Moreover, one can easily understand why this music was so popular when it was first heard; "Amphitryon" is by turns witty, gentle, evocative, and quirky, though one only encounters Kraus' heralded minor key aggression in the cue marked Allegro furioso, though the syncopations in his "Danse Persian" is far jazzier than anything in Mozart. If one has the taste for cusp of the eighteenth to nineteenth century era Harmoniemusik -- pardon the pun -- then there is every reason you should want to "try on" Accent's "Amphitryon."