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Joachim RAFF (1822-1882)
Symphony No. 7 in B flat major In the Alps (1875)
Jubilee Overture (1864)
Philharmonia Hungarica/Werner Andreas Albert
recorded at Westdeutsche Rundfunk, Cologne and at Recklinghausen Festpielhaus, October 28-November 2, 1991 and October 19-23, 1992
CPO 999 289-2 [65:38]

Joachim Raff is best known for his popular ‘Leonore’ Symphony No. 5. Alas this work is not nearly as inspired. Listeners expecting the scenic grandeur of Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony may well be disappointed with this symphony, for Raff’s vision rarely lifts towards the peaks. Each movement has a description. The first, Andante, movement is illustrative of ‘remembered experiences of solitary hiking’ but, as Matthias Weigandt’s not altogether lucid notes observe, these walks never venture above the tree-line. The opening mood is darkly portentous and promising but soon the music lightens in mood with folk-like material. It is as though we meet Mendelssohn, Brahms and a lyrical Grieg on this walk through flower-carpeted meadows and gently swaying boughs while the hiker presses on with a resolute tread.

The second movement (‘In the Inn’) is a somewhat lugubrious waltz and it is only as the final pages approach that the music starts to bubble along as though the inmates are enjoying themselves. The third movement ‘By the Lake’ is deep, introspective, the troubled music wandering into dark, passionate regions. We are warned not to take the lake reference too literally. The finale (‘At the Swingfest’ – a national sport apparently) has a bracing forward drive often reminiscent of Beethoven and one senses not only a joy at being out in the open air but also nationalistic pride.

The tune of God Save the Queen so dear to British ears, but also known and appreciated internationally, is the theme of Raff’s Jubilee Overture composed in 1864 for the Jubilee Celebration of the 25th year of the reign of His Majesty and Most Serene Highness, Prince and Lord Adolf, Duke of Nassau. It appears that this overture with its unassuming folk-like treatment as well as its moments of pomp and pageantry greatly appealed to His Most Serene Highness.

An Alpine symphony that clings to the lower slopes. For this listener, this CD is an uninspired experience in every sense.

Ian Lace

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