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Symphonies 8-11


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Audio CD, June 15, 2004
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Symphonies 8-11 + Raff: Symphony 1: To the Fatherland + Raff: Symphony No 2; Four Shakespeare Preludes
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 15, 2004)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: CPO
  • ASIN: B000269QV6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #262,339 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Symphony No. 10 in F minor ('In Autumn'), Op. 213: Gespenster-Reigen. Allegro
2. Symphony No. 10 in F minor ('In Autumn'), Op. 213: Elegie. Adagio
Disc: 2
1. Symphony No. 9 in E major ('In Summer'), Op. 208: Die Jagd der Elfen. Allegro
2. Symphony No. 9 in E major ('In Summer'), Op. 208: Ekloge. Larghetto
3. Symphony No. 9 in E major ('In Summer'), Op. 208: Zum Erntekranz. Allegro
4. Symphony No. 11 in A minor ('Der Winter'), Op. 214: Der erste Schnee. Allegro
5. Symphony No. 11 in A minor ('Der Winter'), Op. 214: Allegretto
6. Symphony No. 11 in A minor ('Der Winter'), Op. 214: Am Kamin. Larghetto
7. Symphony No. 11 in A minor ('Der Winter'), Op. 214: Karneval. Allegro

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I'm not the greatest fan of Raff's music, much as I admire some of it. His style is a little hard to characterize and even in his lifetime he was chastised for being a bit of a magpie, collecting bits and pieces of others' styles, or at least imitating them. Still, during his lifetime he was one of the most renowned composers, spoken of in the same breath as Brahms and Wagner. Further, he was no mere epigone, as some have suggested; rather, he had his own mind and went his own way musically. He even risked getting exiled from Weimar by Liszt and his circle (and this while he was living amongst them) by making some rather harsh criticisms of Wagner's 'Ring' in a famous essay, 'The Wagner Question.' He spent the next few years living in poverty in Wiesbaden before he was chosen to become the director of the newly founded Hoch Conservatorium in Frankfort. These four symphonies were written while he was in Wiesbaden and Frankfort and they were premièred in the former city. They are presented here in the following order, No. 8 'Spring,' No. 10 'Autumn,' No. 9 'Summer and No. 11 'Winter.' Presumably this slightly awkward arrangement has to do with fitting all four symphonies onto two CDs. 'Winter' was not completed and was put away in a drawerby Raff. It was later completed by Ermannsdörfer and it is not clear how much of the symphony represents Raff's own work.
These performances were recorded in 1992-1994, not long before the Philharmonica Hungarica, founded after the 1956 Hungarian uprising by emigré Hungarian musicians and based for almost forty years in Germany, disbanded for financial reasons. They are expertly conducted by Werner Andreas Albert. The sound is variable. In the 8th symphony the sound is somewhat congested with the strings rather too much to the fore.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John D. Pilkey on December 26, 2006
This work offers some unusual textures for a romantic symphony of the 19th century. The first movement is carried forward from start to finsish by an undulating figure both slow in tempo and fairly low in dynamic. Raff seems to be defying the convention of the declamatory first movement. Loud passages frequently occur but are always brief and structurally transitional. The movement becomes a touchstone of Germanic discipline and tact by showing off the composer's capacity to keep his full resources in reserve. The second, scherzo movement also achieves a subtle effect. It begins and ends with a faint figure by the tympany, typical of Raff's commitment to a rhythmic beat but deliberately understated. Low-pitched woodwinds present the rhythmic theme also at low dynamic at first. This melody, still in minor key, is handed off to so many groups of instruments that it sounds rather like theme and variations without becoming that. The third, slow movement turns to a lyrical, consolatory major key theme often played by an oboe. Toward the close of the movement, the theme turns minor and decidedly elegiac. The finale is conventionally bright and celebrative in a major key for the most part. It echoes Mendelssohn's style. The minor key restatement of its main theme is welcome when it comes. These effects are intended to represent the texture of autumn in the "Four Seasons" context of this outstanding CD.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Robert Thomas on June 13, 2006
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Besides Bruckner, the 11 symphonies of Joachim Raff are perhaps the greatest complete symphonic cycle composed in the 19th century (Mahler was of course writing into the early 20th).
Although the 4 symphonies featured here are masterworks, they are not recommended as a good starting point for those wishing to discover this particular composer.
Yes, they represent the Raff at his most original, free at last from the great influence of Beethoven and Mendelssohn, and because of this one might be tempted to skip his earlier efforts and go straight for the center of the oreo cookie.
I personally feel that this is a mistake because upon hearing these symphonies, one is less likely to become enamored with the work of this musical giant. The reason being that these are subtle, descriptive pieces, lacking the great highs and lows of symphonies 1, 3 and 5, for example.
But, once you have listened to the earlier symphonies and traced the development of this composer you will reap great rewards with the 'Seasons'.
These descriptive, programmatic symphonies clearly illustrate why it was that Raff had a major influence on Richard Strauss, as well foreshadowing many of the early 20th century film music techniques.
Each symphony is a gem, worthy of repeated listening, but it is number 11 that commands center stage here. There are moments of true greatness in each of the 4 movements, most notably in movement 1 and a particularly exquisite, stunning return of the theme in the horns (under high strings with wood wind figures) just after the midpoint of movement 2.
One note regarding the 11th symphony (In Winter). This work was left unfinished at the time of Raffs death, and finished by his friend Ermanndsdorfer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. C. Cannon on October 6, 2012
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Joachim Raff is not a name you hear every day, but he was a successful composer for his time. He was associated with members of the progresive nineteenth century school, and helped Liszt orchestrate some of this pieces, but in his own works Raff tended to work in more traditional forms.

Here are four of his final symphonies, each one associated with a season, like Vivaldi in his own cocnertos. The symphonies are all well made and handsomely orchestrated. They all have descriptive movement titles - the Summer symphony ends with The Hunt of the Elves while the Spring symphony has a scherzo labeled Walpurgisnacht. There are many programmatic touches, but if you listen to these works without reading the program, they will sound like typical mid-century symphonies owing a lot to Schumann and Mendelssohn.

Werner Andreas Albert conducts these pieces well and gets many colorful moments out of the Philharmonia Hungarica, who perform very well (especially the winds, who have some difficult passages throughout).

Perhaps because Raff ended up with his foot in both camps, he has fallen through the cracks in musical history. He was never as radical as the Liszt/Wagner school, but he was never completely in the Brahms camp either. Instead of pushing boundaries, Raff was very comfortable within them. Still, listen to the Spring Symphony, which has memorable tunes throughout, or the opening of the Summer Symphony that extensively develops very charming but initially unpromising material.

These works may not be masterpieces, but they are charming and entertaining throughout.
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