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Joseph Joachim RAFF (1822-1882)
Works for Violin and Piano Vol. 3

Aus der Schweiz Op.57 (1848)
Sonata No 3 Op. 128 (1865)
Sonatillen Op.99 Nos. 4-7 (1861)
Duo Op.63 No.1
Ingolf Turban (violin), Jascha Nemtsov (piano)
Rec. Kammermusikstudio im Funkhaus Berg, Stuttgart, July, October 2002. DDD
CPO 999 769-2 [61:45]


This disc is the third in a series of Raff’s music for violin and piano which has received excellent reviews so far (see links to volumes 1 and 2 below). Raff was a prolific composer whose output includes 11 symphonies and much more besides (see composer sketch by David Wright linked below for details). Although some of his most important works have been recorded in recent years, they do not seem to survive in the catalogue for long. Perhaps that is about to change but, in case not, I recommend investigating this series without delay. Raff may not have a truly individual voice but the music on this disc is full of invention and consistently pleasurable listening. The literature seems to suggest that Raff’s strongest influence was Mendelssohn. Whilst there is evidence of that here, I was also reminded of Beethoven (for example, in the Larghetto movement of Sonatillen), which is surely a compliment!

The disc opens with Aus der Schweiz, subtitled "Fantastic Eclogue", an extended single movement work lasting about 14 minutes. This opens and closes dramatically but is a fundamentally pastoral work depicting cowherds in Alpine meadows and utilising a traditional melody in the form of a waltz. It is a relatively youthful work but perhaps the most striking piece on the disc.

The Sonata No 3 is the most substantial work, traditionally crafted in four movements with the slow movement placed third. Although not a masterpiece (the thematic material in the first movement is rather lightweight), it is well-proportioned and does not outstay its welcome. Following a restless scherzo-like 2nd movement, the Andante quasi Larghetto is particularly attractive, and the Finale sprints along delightfully.

There follows four movements from Sonatillen, pieces derived from music originally intended for solo piano. In practical terms they make up a Sonatina lasting a quarter of an hour. This is less technically demanding than the Sonata but even more immediately attractive. Finally, the Duo is based on motifs from Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. Raff seems to have absorbed relatively little Wagner and had to leave Weimar in the mid-1850s after the publication of his book The Wagner Question. So it is rather curious that he should then compose a series of three such pieces (the others are based on Tannhäuser and Lohengrin and appear in volumes 1 and 2). Inevitably, some of the passion and grandeur of the original music are lost – Wagner without the fizz – but what’s left behind is entertaining nevertheless.

The playing on this disc is simply excellent. Turban and Nemtsov are a fine duo who seem perfectly attuned to Raff’s music. They make a convincing case for all these pieces and are very naturally recorded. The presentation contains detailed notes on the composer and each work. In every way this is a most successful disc. It is part of a valuable project which deserves a long-term place in the catalogue.

Patrick C Waller


Volume 1:
Volume 2:
Composer Sketch:

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