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Joseph Joachim RAFF (1822-1882)
Cello Concerto No 1 in D minor Op.193 (1874) [23:09]
Cello Concerto No 2 in G Op. posth. (1876) [29:54]
"Begegnung" Phantasie-Stück for Cello and Piano Op. 86 No 1* (1854) [7:23]
Duo for Cello and Piano in A Op.59* (1848) [15:35]
Daniel Müller-Schott (cello)
*Robert Kulek (piano)
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Hans Stadlmair
rec. Joseph-Keilberth-Saal, Bamberg, June 2003, January 2004. DDD
TUDOR 7121 [76:26]

Raff was a prolific composer but much of his music is hardly well known. He seems to have been receiving some attention lately and this is one of about fifteen discs of his music issued on the Swiss label Tudor.

His two cello concertos are late works which form an obvious pairing but I can find no evidence of current competition for this disc. Perhaps this is not too surprising given that the first performance of the second concerto had to wait some 121 years; it took place a mere eight years ago. We are not exactly overrun with romantic cello concertos although it will be interesting to see what Hyperion dig up in a series which they are just beginning. These two are worthy examples of the genre, in idiom quite close cousins of Schumann’s solitary cello concerto of 1850. Daniel Müller-Schott’s new disc also includes two works for cello and piano.

The first concerto was written for Friedrich Grützmacher, who was a leading cellist of the time and gave the première in 1874. There is hardly any orchestral introduction before the soloist introduces the bittersweet first theme. The second theme soon follows, lyrical and quite passionate in the relative major. Raff’s development of the material is interesting but perhaps not quite imaginative enough to put this in the category of great music. A simple but elegant Larghetto follows with a lively Allegro to finish. The latter has much tricky sounding passage work, there is a rather dark central interlude and little respite for the soloist.

The Phantasie-Stück and Duo are sandwiched between the concertos and come from an earlier phase in Raff’s life, around the time he was an assistant to Liszt in Weimar. They are attractive works and quite substantial bonuses, particularly the Duo which is in two movements. An affectingly simple Andantino is followed by a restless Allegro appassionato, both of which begin with extended introductions on the piano.

The second concerto is fairly closely modelled on the first but is rather more substantial. Being in a major key, it is also sunnier and more lyrical. The central Andante is particularly affecting and the work’s neglect seems unjustified. Written for the composer/cellist David Popper, history does not seem to have recorded why he never played the work.

Müller-Schott is an up-and-coming artist whose teachers include Heinrich Schiff and Steven Isserlis. He is a persuasive advocate for these works, making a rich sound with faultless intonation. Accompaniments are sensitive and the contribution of the Latvian pianist Robert Kulek notable in the instrumental music. In the orchestral works the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra are slightly recessed in quite a resonant acoustic. The instrumental works are rather better balanced and, overall, the sound I would regard the recorded sound as satisfactory. There is good documentation.

In summary, fine performances of lyrical, romantic works for the cello, this is worth investigating.

Patrick C Waller




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