Author Topic: Joachim Raff  (Read 6234 times)

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Offline JoshLilly

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Joachim Raff
« on: August 23, 2007, 08:31:53 AM »
Now now, don't panic! I know someone with a picture of a composer starting a thread on that composer might have gotten a bad name recently, but this isn't the same deal! Indeed, I've been hoping someone else would make a thread on Raff; I'm doing this because a thread on another board is getting somewhat derailed talking about Raff recordings.

And yes, Raff is one of my absolute favourite composers, but I'm not really here to talk about that. I didn't put this in the recording board, though, because hopefully this can be a catch-all. But I did start this to talk about pieces I might recommend for those who aren't familiar with Raff. Let's take a look, and I hope you like catchy tunes!


- Six Morceaux, Op.85, specifically #3 Cavatina. This is maybe Raff's most famous piece today, at least by name. It was played on the HMS Titanic when it went down, one of the last pieces played by the musicians on the sinking ship. This cavatina is often found on CDs that contain a variety of works by different composers. I have no idea how many versions are out there, but it's probably the easiest Raff piece to find.

- Piano Concerto in C minor, Op.185: This is another work where there are multiple recordings available. The first one I got was in the 'Romantic Piano Concerto' series, and I still like this performance.  For personal taste, I wouldn't list this among my 5 most recommended Raff works, though I do love it; I name it because of its wide availability, and because even Raff naysayers very often seem to make an exception for this piece.

- Symphony #5 in E, Op.177 'Lenore': The very first piece by Raff that I heard, as far as I know I never even heard his famous Cavatina before this. It has one of the most fantastic openings of any symphony I know of; I really love the first movement. This one is also easy to find, been recorded more than any other Raff symphony. Nine of Raff's eleven surviving symphonies have a title given by the composer himself, and this one is no exception. Here is a small page devoted to it, telling about the programme: http://www.raff.org/symph5.htm   It has some sound samples of very inferior quality; perhapts best not to even listen to them! The third movement of this is a march, with a very famous theme. I personally prefer the version of this symphony found on the CD Tudor 7077, performed by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hans Stadlmair.

- Symphony #9 in E minor, Op.208 'Im Sommer': I'll have to restrict myself here to saying that the first movement of this is probably my favourite single movement from any symphony by any composer, ever. In this case, I suggest the recording on the Marco Polo label (8.223362), featuring the Czechoslovak State Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Urs Schneider. That CD also comes paired with the 8th, perhaps my second-favourite of Raff's symphonies, and again in my favourite performance of it. Considering what's packed on here, this is my #1 Raff CD of them all, but I don't recommend it tops because I'm trying to pick things here that more widely appeal based on what I've read and seen and heard from other people. However, Raff's Symphony #8 first movement is maybe the best at showing off his powers of orchestration.

- Maria Stuart Lieder, Op.172: Hungaraton 32256, with Emese Virág on the piano and the mezzo-soprano Andrea Meláth singing. Meláth has perhaps the prettiest mezzo-voice I've ever heard, which was great relief, since that's not one of my preferred vocal types. Anyways, of these songs, there is one that I think would find wide appeal: #9 Nach der Geburt ihres Sohnes. I wish everybody who cares at all for piano+voice could hear this.

mahlertitan

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2007, 08:51:54 AM »
It's rather embarrassing for me to admit that the only work i have heard from Raff is his "Lenore" symphony, it has some catchy melodies, and overall i would say it is not a bad symphony. Didn't he used to be quite popular? somehow like many composers in his day, their works are seldom played today.

Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2007, 01:47:14 PM »
Raff always made me comatose, even more then Mendelssohn. It's truly bizarre because their music seems like it should simply tear your soul apart, except nothing ever happens.

Offline Daverz

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2007, 02:18:59 PM »
Raff is pretty weak tea.  He just never seems willing to challenge the listener.  I have an Lp of Bernard Herrmann (yes, the geat film music composer) conducting the "Lenore" symphony that makes the best case possible for the music, I think.  I believe this was briefly on CD.

Larry Rinkel

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2007, 04:24:05 PM »
Well, quite a divergence of opinion here. Anyhoo, I ordered #5 on Tudor and #8-9 on Marco Polo. I'll see.

Offline carlos

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2007, 04:17:15 AM »

I've some v.c. and chamber works. All boring. Except a really
beautiful string octet, a splendid work IMHO next to Felix's
masterpiece.
Piantale a la leche hermano, que eso arruina el corazón! (from a tango's letter)

Hector

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2007, 04:31:14 AM »
Bernard Herrmann was a great admirer and a reason why Unicorn were able to get him to conduct a recording of the 'Lenore' symphony.

The Lenore legend is only referred to in the last movement.

Sadly, we are heavily reliant on recordings and the buying or broadcasting of these recordings if we want to get to know Raff's music.

His influences, quite clear once you get to know him, are Mendelssohn and Beethoven.

I am a fan but am, sometimes, exasperated by his banality and slack orchestration. I want to shout "Get on with it."

For someone who was employed by Liszt as an orchestrator this is surprising and suggests laziness more than anything else.

He certainly had a strong sense of his own importance when he, famously, bequeathed royalyies to his widow only for her to witness his music going quickly out of fashion.

Nowadays, when exploration of the byways of the Romantic repertoire is on the increae, one would have thought that Raff's better works would engender an audience.

Larry Rinkel

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2007, 05:29:26 AM »
Nowadays, when exploration of the byways of the Romantic repertoire is on the increae, one would have thought that Raff's better works would engender an audience.

And, in your mind, what are these?

Hector

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2007, 06:19:49 AM »
And, in your mind, what are these?

Certainly, some of the symphonies. 3, 4, 5 and the 'Seasons' sequence but all should carry a warning that he labours his material and, frequently, runs out of ideas.

If, and it is an 'if', he could have possessed the same discipline as a Dvorak we might have a work or two in the central repertoire.

Enjoyable, all the same.

Mark

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2007, 03:51:05 AM »
Okay, I'm loving Raff (a composer previously barely on my radar), and the Fifth Symphony is absolutely up my street. :)

So here's a daft question: Has there ever been a complete cycle of his surviving 11 symphonies?

Offline Daverz

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2007, 04:21:00 AM »
Okay, I'm loving Raff (a composer previously barely on my radar), and the Fifth Symphony is absolutely up my street. :)

So here's a daft question: Has there ever been a complete cycle of his surviving 11 symphonies?

At least twice: on Marco Polo and Tudor.

http://www.raff.org/records/discog/cd_sym.htm

Mark

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2007, 05:53:11 AM »
At least twice: on Marco Polo and Tudor.

http://www.raff.org/records/discog/cd_sym.htm


Excellent. :)

I'll download all of the Marco Polo cycle first (thank God for eMusic 0:)), then consider getting the Tudor cycle if I like what I hear.

Offline JoshLilly

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2007, 06:43:25 AM »
I think Marco Polo beats Tudor on the 8th and 9th symphonies, but I don't like the MP version of the 5th compared to any other performance I've heard. I have 3 recordings of it, and have heard 1 other, and the MP one is the worst of the four. In general, I prefer the Tudor versions of every one except 2, 8, 9, and 11. One other benefit to the Tudor versions is the pairings, such as Raff's surviving four orchestral suites. In addition, Tudor is almost recording the entire catalogue of Raff music over time, so if you want to build a bigger set, this is how to do it. Raff's five-movement Symphony #0, the "Große Sinfonie", is apparently lost for good, but he claimed that some of the material is to be found in his Op.101 Orchestral Suite, which can be found on the Tudor label. You can check out a ton of detailed reviews of all of this here: http://www.raff.org/records/intro.htm

cpo also has a complete issue of his music for violin and piano, and Tudor is also coming out with (or perhaps has finished) the same thing. The same goes for the string quartets, at least two labels are coming out with concurrent complete sets!

One small warning, if that's the right word. On the Tudor label are the premiere - perhaps still only - recordings of Raff's 2 Violin Concerti. However, the #1 is with an orchestration replaced by the heavy Wagner fan August Wilhemj, who completely re-wrote everything. This is really bizarre and disappointing, considering that Raff's original score still exists; I think the label just had a hard time getting hold of it in time, I'm not sure. I have no problem with Wilhemj's version being performed or recorded elsewhere, but not on the CD meant to debut both of these works on recording. I don't like the orchestration much, but it's not awful.

By the way, if you like the Symphony #5, I suggest the Cello Concerto #1; it's in D minor, but kinda feels the same in a way, at least to me. I don't know why, perhaps it's the flowing character. It also has a magnificent opening theme.

Mark

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2007, 03:23:25 PM »
I think Marco Polo beats Tudor on the 8th and 9th symphonies, but I don't like the MP version of the 5th compared to any other performance I've heard. I have 3 recordings of it, and have heard 1 other, and the MP one is the worst of the four. In general, I prefer the Tudor versions of every one except 2, 8, 9, and 11. One other benefit to the Tudor versions is the pairings, such as Raff's surviving four orchestral suites. In addition, Tudor is almost recording the entire catalogue of Raff music over time, so if you want to build a bigger set, this is how to do it. Raff's five-movement Symphony #0, the "Große Sinfonie", is apparently lost for good, but he claimed that some of the material is to be found in his Op.101 Orchestral Suite, which can be found on the Tudor label. You can check out a ton of detailed reviews of all of this here: http://www.raff.org/records/intro.htm

cpo also has a complete issue of his music for violin and piano, and Tudor is also coming out with (or perhaps has finished) the same thing. The same goes for the string quartets, at least two labels are coming out with concurrent complete sets!

One small warning, if that's the right word. On the Tudor label are the premiere - perhaps still only - recordings of Raff's 2 Violin Concerti. However, the #1 is with an orchestration replaced by the heavy Wagner fan August Wilhemj, who completely re-wrote everything. This is really bizarre and disappointing, considering that Raff's original score still exists; I think the label just had a hard time getting hold of it in time, I'm not sure. I have no problem with Wilhemj's version being performed or recorded elsewhere, but not on the CD meant to debut both of these works on recording. I don't like the orchestration much, but it's not awful.

By the way, if you like the Symphony #5, I suggest the Cello Concerto #1; it's in D minor, but kinda feels the same in a way, at least to me. I don't know why, perhaps it's the flowing character. It also has a magnificent opening theme.

Josh, you certainly know your Raff. :D

Thanks for the detailed post.

johnQpublic

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2007, 04:17:15 PM »
Yes, Joshua is a-rife with Raff.

Offline Daverz

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #15 on: November 08, 2007, 04:31:31 PM »
Okay, I'm loving Raff (a composer previously barely on my radar), and the Fifth Symphony is absolutely up my street. :)

So here's a daft question: Has there ever been a complete cycle of his surviving 11 symphonies?

You might want to check out another Romantic era "midlist" composer, Goldmark, particularly his Rustic Wedding Symphony.

Also, Dvorak wrote a work on this same theme, The Spectre's Bride.

Offline Cato

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #16 on: November 08, 2007, 05:04:10 PM »
I have mentioned elsewhere that I adapted the march from the 3rd movement of Raff's Fifth Symphony for organ for a wedding: I composed a few bars of transition and a non-Raffian 8-bar finale a la R. Strauss/Mahler.

Interesting: the score contained a Charles Ivesian chord of 3 nasty semitones all coming together, which had to be a printing mistake.

Unfortunately the Mp3 file is too big to be allowed here.   :-[
"Now who taught ye t' be playin' patty fingers in the holy water?"

- Barry Fitzgerald to John Wayne in  The Quiet Man.

Mark

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #17 on: November 08, 2007, 10:23:24 PM »
You might want to check out another Romantic era "midlist" composer, Goldmark, particularly his Rustic Wedding Symphony.

Also, Dvorak wrote a work on this same theme, The Spectre's Bride.

Thanks. :)

I have mentioned elsewhere that I adapted the march from the 3rd movement of Raff's Fifth Symphony for organ for a wedding: I composed a few bars of transition and a non-Raffian 8-bar finale a la R. Strauss/Mahler.

Interesting: the score contained a Charles Ivesian chord of 3 nasty semitones all coming together, which had to be a printing mistake.

Unfortunately the Mp3 file is too big to be allowed here.   :-[

Could you not make the file small enough by transcoding it?

Offline Cato

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #18 on: November 09, 2007, 04:55:38 AM »
Thanks. :)

Could you not make the file small enough by transcoding it?

To quote the lady detective/anthropologist "Bones": "I don't know what that means."

How exactly does one transcode an Mp3 file?   
"Now who taught ye t' be playin' patty fingers in the holy water?"

- Barry Fitzgerald to John Wayne in  The Quiet Man.

Offline Brian

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Re: Joachim Raff
« Reply #19 on: November 09, 2007, 01:13:45 PM »
You might want to check out another Romantic era "midlist" composer, Goldmark, particularly his Rustic Wedding Symphony.
I'll second this; the Rustic Wedding Symphony is very enjoyable on a warm sunny day.  :)

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