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Brent Auerbach
American Record Guide, November 2012

Hardly anyone else is playing Raff these days, and his music is definitely worth exploring. Logic dictates, then, that you cannot go wrong acquiring one or two discs in this respectable series. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

MusicWeb International, October 2012

…this is a long way from being a ‘complete works’ series, but it does give a taster of the considerable genius of a composer hounded by critics fixated on equating prolific production with mediocrity and distracted by the many potboilers and pretty salon pieces he wrote to earn a living.

…this CD is every bit as grand as the first.

Once again, Nguyen proves, throughout her recital, not only equal to the technical demands of the intellectual intrigues that lurk everywhere in Raff’s music, but also that she has an intuitive sense of expression and phrasing that brings to life the substantial emotional content of symbols on staves, thus rendering this survey the gold standard by which future performers of Raff will be judged. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Jeremy Nicholas
Gramophone, October 2012

RAFF, J.: Piano Works, Vol. 1 (Tra Nguyen) GP602
RAFF, J.: Piano Works, Vol. 2 (Tra Nguyen) GP612

…[Nguyen] gives powerfully persuasive performances of the…Drei Klavier-Soli, Op 74: lasting nearly half an hour, its Ballade, Scherzo and ‘Metamorphosen’…are well worth exploring. The Fantaisie in B major which follows is a real discovery in two senses: the manuscript turned up in 2010 buried among some unrelated Liszt organ works; and its beautifully melodic material (another Raff characteristic), constantly transformed by Chopinesque and Lisztian figurations, is dispatched with an assured touch and subtle colouring by Nguyen.

Vol 2 is arguably even more consistently interesting, beginning with the three thematically linked movements of the Fantaisie-Sonate of 1871, dedicated to Saint-Saëns and surely worth a place in the regular concert repertoire. Tra Nguyen makes the best possible case for all these works and has been well recorded on a splendidly voiced Steinway at Wyastone. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2012

In a career that took him from a debtors prison to a time when he was regarded as the foremost symphonist of his day, Joachim Raff’s music is still undervalued. Largely self-taught as a composer, he was to produce a substantial amount of music in every genre, though it was in the field of piano music that he was most prolific, leaving around 130 scores on his death in 1882. Many were lightweight and intended to appeal to the gifted amateur, and even his Fantasie Sonata, written at a time when he had become recognised as a major musical voice, is too short and lacked the outgoing virtuosity that would have placed it in the concert repertoire. He was, however, a composer who loved working within the challenge of writing variations, his dramatic opening to the Variations on an original theme pointing to a work of substance. In the event most of the twenty variations are short, with some only lasting a few seconds, so that there is little of extended value. It does, however, offer the soloist a chance for sparkling dexterity, particularly in the elaborate decoration. Yet turn, for example, to the tenth variation, and given that he could have extended its brevity, you would be in the world of Schumann. The score is here receiving its debut recording together with three of the Four Piano Pieces, each given a descriptive title. Then we move to his salon pieces, all of some length and where filigree is offered as an alternative to substance. This, the second disc in Raff’s complete piano music from the British-Vietnamese pianist, Tra Nguyen, has to be a labour of love. She plays with obvious enjoyment, her right hand unfailingly dancing through pages of note-spinning. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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