A treasure island of piano music — Spiegel Online
The Grand Piano label continues to uncover gems of the piano repertoire. — Fanfare

RAFF, Joachim (1822-1882)



  • Tra Nguyen, piano

Although Raff is remembered primarily as one of the foremost symphonists of his day, by far his largest output was for the piano. The three works recorded here date from his early years in Weimar, and include the newly-discovered Fantaisie. One of Raff’s first successes, Frühlingsboten portrays nature in many-layered miniature scenes. The Drei Klavier-Soli concludes with one of Raff’s greatest piano pieces, Metamorphosen.


Fruhlingsboten, Op. 55 (1852) (00:00:00 )
I. Winterruhe: Andantino * (00:01:54)
II. Fruhlingsnahen: Allegro non troppo, deciso * (00:04:35)
III. Gelubde: Grave * (00:03:51)
IV. Unruhe: Allegro * (00:01:52)
V. Annaherung: Andantino * (00:02:45)
VI. Wirrniss: Vivace * (00:02:23)
VII. Vorwurf: Andante non troppo * (00:04:07)
VIII. Fern: Andantino * (00:01:56)
IX. Frohe Kunde: Presto * (00:02:27)
X. Zu zwei: Andante * (00:02:34)
XI. Ohne Ruh': Allegro * (00:02:57)
XII. Abends: Larghetto * (00:04:09)
3 Klavier-Soli, Op. 74 (1852) (00:00:00 )
No. 1. Ballade: Andantino, quasi larghetto * (00:10:33)
No. 2. Scherzo: Presto * (00:06:11)
No. 3. Metamophosen: Andante * (00:12:24)
Fantasie in B Major, WoO 15A (1852) * (00:12:09)
World Première Recording
Total Time: 01:16:47

The Artist

British-Vietnamese Tra Nguyen’s imaginative programming balances core repertoire and lesser-known music, winning critical praise. Her discography introduces many world première recordings of neglected music. Her recordings of Joachim Raff’s piano music have earned wide critical acclaim, including Album of the Week awards by The Independent. Tra Nguyen studied with Lev Naumov at the Moscow Conservatory and with Christopher Elton at the Royal Academy of Music where she received the Academy’s highest award for her final recital. She was awarded the ARAM (Associate of the Royal Academy of Music) for her “significant contribution to the music profession” in 2013.

The Composer

Joachim Raff enjoyed the highest reputation in his lifetime but was later remembered only for his famous Cavatina, an attractive short piece that appeared in many arrangements. Encouraged by Mendelssohn and then by Liszt, he served the latter as an assistant at Weimar, orchestrating Liszt’s earlier symphonic poems. His own work as a composer started in earnest when he left Weimar in 1856, to settle in Wiesbaden and then, from 1877, in Frankfurt as director of the Hoch Conservatory, a position he retained until his death in 1882.

Orchestral Music

Recent attempts have been made to reassess Raff’s music. His 11 symphonies go some way towards a synthesis of pure music and the programmatic element of the Neo-German school exemplified in the symphonic poems of Liszt. Most of the symphonies have titles of one sort or another, the last four representing aspects of the four seasons. He wrote concertos for piano, for violin and for cello, and other works for solo instrument and orchestra, as well as a series of suites and overtures.

Chamber Music

Raff contributed to the repertoire of German chamber music with works ranging from piano quintets to duo sonatas, the last including five sonatas for violin and piano.

Piano Music

Equally prolific in his work for the piano, Raff wrote a large number of shorter pieces, as well as transcriptions and fantasies derived from the current operatic repertoire.

Vocal and Choral Music

In addition to works for choir, including several psalm settings, Raff published four volumes of part-songs, three of them for male voices.


Raff enjoyed some success with his first opera, König Alfred, first staged in Weimar in 1853. One other of his six operas, Dame Kobold, received some contemporary attention.


“Nguyen is clearly aware of Raff’s historical lineage and imbues his music with what seems like the perfect dynamic of energy, drama, light and pathos. Her excellent technique and expressive flexibility—for example, demonstrating restraint where another might turn to melodrama—combine to produce interpretations that will long serve as a yardstick against which future performers must measure themselves. ” – MusicWeb International

“Tra Nguyen makes the best possible case for all these works and has been well recorded on a splendidly voiced Steinway at Wyastone.” – Gramophone

The Independent

“This new label is starting with an interesting “new” composer, since Joachim Raff (1822–1882) has been totally overshadowed by his contemporary Liszt. Tra Nguyen shows what an original and brilliant voice Raff’s is: the colour and inventiveness of his Metamorphosen is entirely his own.” – The Independent

“The playing is of a beguiling loveliness, the recording has richness and depth, and the music, a revelation, makes one eager for the next volume.” – American Record Guide

“Hats off! Anyone who is seriously interested in piano music should check out Grand Piano for an extended test drive in their home CD player.” – The Listener