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RAFF, Joachim (1822-1882)

PIANO WORKS • 3

ALBUM LYRIQUE, OP. 17 • CINQ EGLOGUES, OP. 105 • IMPROMPTU-VALSE, OP. 94 • FANTAISIE-POLONAISE, OP. 106


  • Tra Nguyen, piano

Joachim Raff, Liszt’s amanuensis and confidante in Weimar, was one of Germany’s leading composers, a reputation based largely on his symphonic works. But he was prolific in other forms as well, excelling in chamber and vocal music, and especially in numerous and varied compositions for the piano. The Album Lyrique, Op.17 contains a distillation of Raff’s gifts for writing richly varied character pieces for the piano. They are often slow and meditative, but become increasingly dramatic and sonorous as the music progresses. The Cinq Eglogues, Op.105 are poetic gems, the Impromptu-Valse, Op. 94 attained huge popularity, whilst the Fantaisie-Polonaise, Op.106 reveals Raff’s bravura side.

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Tracklist

 
Album lyrique, Op. 17 (1849 version) (1845) (00:46:54 )
1
Volume 1: No. 1. Reverie: Larghetto rubato * (00:04:08)
2
Volume 1: No. 2. Reverie: Lento * (00:04:11)
3
Volume 1: No. 3. Reverie: Andante con moto, quasi allegretto * (00:04:09)
4
Volume 2: No. 4. Romance: Moderato * (00:04:33)
5
Volume 2: No. 5. Ballade: Allegro * (00:04:37)
6
Volume 3: No. 6. Nocturne: Lento * (00:05:59)
7
Volume 3: No. 7. Nocturne: Larghetto * (00:04:49)
8
Volume 4: No. 8. Scherzo: Allegro * (00:05:22)
9
Volume 5: No. 9. Introduction and Fugue: Allegro * (00:09:04)
 
5 Eglogues, Op. 105 (1861) (00:18:26 )
10
No. 1. Allegro molto * (00:04:20)
11
No. 2. Andante con moto * (00:04:22)
12
No. 3. Andante quasi larghetto * (00:03:57)
13
No. 4. Andante mosso * (00:02:39)
14
No. 5. Presto giojoso * (00:03:06)
15
Impromptu-valse, Op. 94 (1860) * (00:04:15)
16
Fantaisie-polonaise, Op. 106 (1861) * (00:07:02)
World Première Recording
Total Time: 01:16:33

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.

Opera

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.

Reviews

Diapason

“Tra Nguyen brings a beautiful sonority and a firm technicity” – Diapason

“[Nguyen’s] playing throughout, admirably recorded, is as warm, fluent and sympathetic as you could wish.” – Gramophone

“The Impromptu-Valse absolutely sparkles under Nguyen’s fingers, while the Fantaisie-Polonaise is an effective marriage of Liszt and Raff.” – International Piano

“Another top-class performance by Nguyen, her technical prowess augmented once again by an intuitive sense of expression and phrasing that brings this magical music to life.” – MusicWeb International