About this Recording
8.223362 - RAFF: Symphonies Nos. 8 and 9
English 

Joachim Raff (1822–1882)
Symphony No. 8 in A minor, Op. 205, “Frühlingsklänge” • Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 208, “Im Sommer”

 

Joachim Raff was remembered by a generation for his famous Cavatina, a composition that hardly does justice to the extent and quality of the music he wrote. Others may recall Raff as a footnote in the life of Liszt, with whom he was briefly associated in Weimar, charged with the orchestration of the master’s first symphonic poems. Raff was the son of an organist and teacher who had left his native Württemberg to avoid conscription into the French army and had settled in Switzerland. He was born at Lachen, near Zürich, in 1882, and was trained as a teacher at the Jesuit College in Schwyz, where he distinguished himself. In 1840 he began to teach at a primary school in Rapperswil, remaining there until 1844. He had already had instruction in music from his father, whom he had also served as a copyist, and had taught himself what he could in the course of his academic studies. Stimulated by the friends he found in Rapperswil, and in particular by Franz Abt, Kapellmeister in Zürich, he turned his attention to composition, dedicating his Opus 7 Rondo brillant to Abt. In 1844 a group of his piano pieces were published, on the recommendation of Mendelssohn, encouragement that proved decisive in his choice of career. Moving to Zürich, he set about earning a living from music, organising ambitious concerts at the resort of Bad Nuolen, but finding increasing difficulty in supporting himself. The following year he went on foot to Basel to attend a concert by Liszt. Arriving there too late to buy a ticket, he was fortunate enough to meet Liszt’s secretary Belloni, who introduced him to his master. Liszt insisted that Raff should be given a place on the concert platform and afterwards invited him to accompany him on his concert tour from Zürich to Strasburg, Bonn and Cologne, securing for him a place in a music shop in this last city. From there Raff moved to Stuttgart, where he met Hans von Bülow and contemplated lessons with Mendelssohn, a plan frustrated by the latter’s death in 1847. With the further help of Liszt he then moved to Hamburg to work as an arranger for a publisher and in 1850 moved again, joining Liszt in Weimar, assisting him in orchestration, copying and arranging music. He remained in Weimar until 1856, growing increasingly impatient with the perceived jealousy of Liszt’s mistress, the Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, and with the anomaly of his position. It was in Weimar, however, that he met the daughter of the stage-director of the Court Theatre, Eduard Genast, whose daughter Doris became his wife, once he had moved to Wiesbaden. There he established himself as a composer and musician of importance. In 1877 he was appointed director of the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, remaining there until his death in 1882.

Raff completed twelve symphonies, the first of which, an early work, has been lost. He completed his Eighth Symphony, Frühlingsklänge, in 1876, following it in 1878 with his Ninth, Im Sommer. Two further symphonies, Zur Herbstzeit in 1878 and the earlier composed Der Winter, completed in 1876 but published in 1883, make up the four seasons. The musical celebrations of spring and of summer are written in an immediately attractive and approachable style, scored for a relatively modest orchestra of classical rather than Wagnerian dimensions. The Eighth Symphony opens by welcoming the returning spring, following this with the dance of Walpurgisnacht, the night of 1 May, when witches are about. The first blooms of spring lead to a romantic movement of Wanderlust, evoked by the season when the young may wander to their hearts’ content. The Ninth Symphony opens in the heat of summer, proceeding in its second movement to an elvish hunting-party. A pastoral eclogue then leads to a final celebration of the harvest.

Keith Anderson


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