A treasure island of piano music — Spiegel Online
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RAFF, Joachim (1822-1882)



  • Tra Nguyen, piano

Raff’s piano compositions earned him considerable acclaim in his lifetime. The four volumes of Blätter und Blüten (Leaves and Blossoms) consist of twelve deliciously melodic and colourful depictions of the then popular vogue for ‘The Language of Flowers’. By contrast, the Grande Sonate, is a late work and one of his major statements. Conceived on a quasi-symphonic scale, its sonorous gravity and breadth encompass a bleak nobility that represents the culmination of his writing for the piano.


Grande Sonate, Op. 14 (1881) (00:34:50 )
I. Allegro (00:11:32)
II. Allegro molto (00:04:11)
III. Larghetto (00:10:22)
IV. Allegro - Animato - Più mosso (00:08:47)
Blatter und Bluten, Op. 135a (1866) (00:38:08 )
No. 1. Epheu: Andantino * (00:03:14)
No. 2. Cypresse: Larghetto * (00:04:32)
No. 3. Nelke: Presto - Molto meno mosso, quasi andantino - Tempo I * (00:03:01)
No. 4. Lorbeer: Allegro vivace * (00:03:16)
No. 5. Rose: Andantino, non troppo lento * (00:01:58)
No. 6. Vergissmeinnicht: Allegro grazioso * (00:04:14)
No. 7. Reseda: Allegretto * (00:02:23)
No. 8. Lubine: Andante * (00:03:33)
No. 9. Animone: Allegro * (00:02:53)
No. 10. Immergrun: Allegretto - Un poco meno mosso - Tempo I * (00:03:21)
No. 11. Maiglockchen: Allegretto pastorale (quasi andantino) * (00:02:25)
No. 12. Kornblume: Presto - Un pochettino meno mosso - Come prima * (00:03:35)
* World Première Recording
Total Time: 01:13:17

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.


BBC Music Magazine

“This fifth volume of piano works by Brahms’s older contemporary Raff finds the excellent Nguyen playing with intelligence and devotion” – BBC Music Magazine

Raff.org – The essential Raff reference

“Nguyen’s interpretations of Raff are peerless. She inhabits the music. As this series has progressed, so has our indebtedness to her for shining a light on such an important part of Raff’s oeuvre.” – Raff.org – The essential Raff reference