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Joachim RAFF (1822-1882)
Piano trios. Op 112 in G; Op 155 in A minor.
Trio Opus 8
Rec: Germany, 2000? (DDD)
CPO 999 800-2 [64.42]


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What an utterly daft name for a Piano Trio ... Trio Opus 8. Obviously Brahms' First Piano Trio in B major was in mind. But I know people who have picked up this disc and expected three trios on it - the third being Raff’s Trio Opus 8. Daft!

Joachim Raff was a very good composer overshadowed by such geniuses as Brahms. I have always loved Raff’s Symphony no. 5 Lenore and much of his chamber music.

Sadly Raff got involved in the bitchiness of the day where you had Wagner and Liszt on one side and the Schumann and Brahms camp on the other. It is always dangerous to take such a stand. It creates ill feeling and enemies, as well I know. Such musical feuds are so counter-productive and unnecessary. Wagner was the greatest German composer of his time and his operas are the best that any German composer has ever written. So what? People who don’t like him dish out the dirt about him and say that he was anti-Semitic. That is not true. He hated Meyerbeer as a person. That fact that Meyerbeer was a Jew was coincidental. Had he not hated Meyerbeer he probably would not have studied Jewish music and written a treatise about it in which it seems that he did not like Hebraic music. Chopin was very anti-Semitic and yet this proven truth is seldom proclaimed. Raff’s book on Wagner was ill-advised.

I have written extensively about three composers that I do not like and proved my case from musical examples. But it is not taking sides for personal advancement but an honest treatise although I have found that honesty is not always liked.

Brahms was a truly great composer and so this dreadful rift was very unfortunate. Schumann was not a great composer in my estimation. Much as I love some of his work, most of it is seriously flawed but then that shows that he was human! His Second Symphony is a tremendous work but Carnaval is a work that many pianists simply detest and so do I!

The G major Trio of Raff opens with a leisurely allegro. The music is very warm and mellow. In the slow movement Raff makes simple chords sound so imposing and fresh. The long piano solo is a delight. Enter the cello with this rapturous melody and a well judged accompaniment.

The performers are fine. They do not let the music sink into that sickly Max Jaffa style ... ugh! ... or that Victorian sentimentality. However the movement is too long and outstays its welcome. And this is the only fault with six out of the eight movements on this disc. It does not detract from the loveliness of the music. Four minutes of lovely music is better than nine minutes of the same lovely music played again and again. The finale is very bright and cheerful with some scintillating piano writing.

The Trio no. 3 in A minor is a darker work. Its mood is completely different. It is a more interesting work than its predecessor and is more mature. It seems, however, to have some emotional baggage. The romanticism that pervades the piano part is by turn virtuosic and lyrical. But, again, the movements, apart from the super scherzo, are a little too long to sustain the thematic material.

The sound is good and the performances are fine although there is a slight over-emphasis on emotional content, I feel.

David Wright

 


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