“This CD explores the synergy of Raff’s symphonic gift and pianistic elegance combined in one album. The dialogues between the piano and the orchestra in Ode Au Printemps and the Piano Concerto are lush with colours and shades to carry out the emotional gravitas, especially in the latter. World-première track Caprice on Motifs from Raff’s opera King Alfred gives us a glimpse into his operatic work through the composer’s own pianistic lens, often seen with an understated sense of humour.” — Tra Nguyen
Of Raff’s nine works for solo instrument and orchestra three are for piano. The Ode au Printemps, Op. 76 is full of freshness, its atmospheric qualities and cantabile melodies enhanced by superb orchestration. Unjustly neglected but full of dreamlike delicacy, the Piano Concerto in C minor, Op. 185 offers one of the most delightful, lyrical and stirring works in the Romantic concerto canon. The Caprice, Op. 65, No. 2 balances assured development and passionate virtuosity.
Watch video trailer:
Ode au Printemps, Op. 76 (1857) (00:16:05)
Piano Concerto in C Minor, Op. 185 (1873) (00:31:39 )
I. Allegro (00:13:39)
II. Andante, quasi larghetto (00:11:07)
III. Allegro (00:10:39)
Caprice on Themes from König Alfred, Op. 65, No. 2 (1855) * (00:15:37)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“This is undoubtedly one of the most convincing Raff recordings in recent years. Everything impresses. Tra Nguyen’s technical mastery and feeling for Raff’s music has never been so convincing, and Kerry Stratton and the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra not only offer solid to robust support, Stratton also brings every detail of Raff’s refined orchestration to the fore. ” – Stretto