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

Joachim Raff (1822- 1882)

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 Zurich, 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 hirnself 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 Zurich, 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 Zurich, 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 Basle 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 Zurich 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 conternplated 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 1st 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.

 

Czecho-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra (Košice)

 

The East Slovakian town of Košice boasts a long and distinguished musical tradition, as part of a province that once provided Vienna with musicians. The State Philharmonic Orchestra is of relatively recent origin and was established in 1968 under the conductor Bystrik Rezucha. Subsequent principal conductors have included Stanislav Macura and Ladislav Slovák, the latter succeeded in 1985 by his pupil Richard Zimmer. The orchestra has toured widely in Eastern and Western Europe and plays an important part in the Košice Musical Spring and the Košice InternationalOrgan Festival.

 

For Marco Polo the orchestra has made the first compact disc recordings of rare works by Granville Bantock and Joachim Raff. Writing on the last of these, one critic praised the orchestra for its competence comparable to that of the major orchestras of Vienna and Prague. The orchestra has contributed several successful volumes to the complete compact disc Johann Strauss II and for Naxos has recorded a varied repertoire.

 

Urs Schneider

 

Urs Schneider was born in St. Gall in Switzerland and first established his own orchestra at the age of fifteen. At the Conservatory in Zürich he studied the violin and as a conductor was a pupil of Rafael Kubelik, Igor Markevitch and Otto Klemperer. He began an international career in the United States of America in 1962. From 1961 to 1991 he was principal conductor and artistic director of the Camerata Helvetica and of the Camerata Stuttgart from 1967 unti11982. Since 1987 he has been a member of the jury of the Besançon Concours des jeunes chefs d'orchestre. He spent a season as conductor of the Shreveport Symphony and Opera Society in the United States, was from 1971 until 1973 conductor of the Salzburg Camerata Academica and from 1982 until 1985 of the Haifa Symphony Orchestra. He is Principal Guest Conductor of the Prague Chamber Soloists and Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the National Taiwan Philharmonic Orchestra. Urs Schneider's career has brought him engagements throughout the world, in Europe, the Americas, South Africa, Australia and the Far East.


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