Raff's vast musical legacy continues to be unfolded and this disc
is the latest revelation. Its unifying element is the specification
of violin solo with orchestra.
We start with La
fée d'amour. It's a three movement piece with the delicacy
of Berlioz, the dash of Lalo and the romantic fluency of Saint-Saëns’
concert-pieces. Ringborg is kept constantly engaged sustaining
the fire-hose pressure of trhe composer’s romantic fleuve. The
work has the air of the much later Glazunov Violin Concerto
with ardour cooling for the Bruch-style central episode. It
is stepped up again in a flutter of Massenet and Tchaikovsky
in the final silvery-iridescent Vivace.
The Suite for
violin and orchestra is in five baroque-titled movements. The
titles may be baroque but there is little of the neo-baroque
in this. Raff's spectacles are firmly romantic era although
he does peer over them for the Minuetto and the Aria
both of which have a slightly stronger flavour of
the baroque era. The final moto perpetuo looks towards
Leipzig and Mendelssohn’s violin concerto and octet, to Lange-Muller
and further forward to Sibelius's Humoresques.
Raff wrote sixteen
works for solo violin between 1853 and 1882. Of these four were
full concertos written variously for Sarasate, David, Vieuxtemps
and Joachim. The singing of the 1870 First Concerto op.
161 is irresistibly bound up with the concertos by Bruch and
Tchaikovsky. The pressure on the soloist rarely lets up. Ringborg
with his saturated fleshy tone squares up to the challenge and
does so with affirmative success. It is interesting to note
one or two pre-echoes of the Elgar concerto as well. Only the
allegro trionfale strikes a false note in its triumphant
For years the First
Concerto was known only in the version by August Wilhelmj. The
present recording uses Raff's only original edition rescued
by chance by the Sibley Library at the Eastman School of Music.
All three of these
rare works are luminously recorded and performed and as usual
they are spectacularly well documented. Don't hesitate if your
taste is for the romantic violin concerto in the heritage of Bruch,
Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky.