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RAFF, Joachim (1822-1882)

PIANO WORKS • 2

FANTAISIE-SONATE, OP. 168 • VARIATIONEN ÜBER EIN ORIGINAL THEMA, OP. 179 • VIER KLAVIERSTÜCKE, OP. 196


  • Tra Nguyen, piano

Joachim Raff, Liszt’s amanuensis and confidante in Weimar, was one of Germany’s leading composers, a reputation based largely on his symphonic works. But he was prolific in other forms as well, excelling in chamber and vocal music, and especially in numerous and varied compositions for the piano. The three works on this second volume of Raff’s piano works come from the very pinnacle of his career. The 1871 Fantasie Sonata is a fascinating and richly imaginative hybrid, whilst the Variations on an Original Theme is marked by fertility of invention. The Four Piano Pieces exemplifies Raff’s gift for lyricism and characterisation.

Tracklist

 
Fantasie-Sonate, Op. 168 (1871) (00:17:41 )
1
I. Allegro patetico (00:06:47)
2
II. Largo (00:05:56)
3
III. Allegro molto (00:04:42)
 
Variationen uber ein Originalthema, Op. 179 (1873) (00:32:23 )
4
Andante * (00:01:02)
5
Thema * (00:00:40)
6
Variation 1: L'istesso tempo * (00:00:39)
7
Variation 2: L'istesso tempo * (00:00:34)
8
Variation 3: Allegro assai * (00:00:24)
9
Variation 4: L'istesso tempo * (00:00:29)
10
Variation 5: Meno mosso * (00:00:49)
11
Variation 6: L'istesso tempo * (00:00:45)
12
Variation 7: L'istesso tempo * (00:00:47)
13
Variation 8: Tranquillo * (00:01:01)
14
Variation 9: L'istesso tempo * (00:00:55)
15
Variation 10: Veloce leggiero * (00:00:47)
16
Variation 11: L'istesso tempo * (00:01:08)
17
Variation 12: Più mosso * (00:01:15)
18
Variation 13: Moderato * (00:00:55)
19
Variation 14: Moderato * (00:01:42)
20
Variation 15: Allegro molto * (00:00:51)
21
Variation 16: L'istesso tempo * (00:00:58)
22
Variation 17: L'istesso tempo * (00:00:52)
23
Variation 18: Adagio * (00:02:57)
24
Variation 19: Doppio movimento * (00:01:41)
25
Variation 20: Doppio movimento * (00:01:28)
26
Finale: Moderato maestoso * (00:04:00)
 
4 Pieces, Op. 196 (1875) (00:19:06 )
27
No. 1. Im Schilf (00:05:07)
28
No. 2. Berceuse * (00:03:20)
29
No. 3. Novelette * (00:04:51)
30
No. 4. Impromptu * (00:05:45)
* World Première Recording
Total Time: 01:03:07

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.

Opera

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.

Reviews

“The gold standard by which future performers of Raff will be judged. ” – MusicWeb International

“Tra Nguyen makes the best possible case for all these works” – Gramophone

“She [Tra Nguyen] plays with obvious enjoyment, her right hand unfailingly dancing through pages of note-spinning.” – David Denton