The Music Room > Composer Discussion

Joachim Raff

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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:   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.

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.

Josquin des Prez:
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.

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:
Well, quite a divergence of opinion here. Anyhoo, I ordered #5 on Tudor and #8-9 on Marco Polo. I'll see.


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