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Joseph Joachim RAFF (1822-1882)
Symphony No. 1 in D major An das Vaterland op. 96 (1859-1861) [67:47]
Bamberger Symphoniker/Hans Stadlmair
rec. 22-26 May 2000, Sinfonie an der Regnitz, Joseph-Keilberth-Saal, Bamberg, Bayerischer Rundfunk. DDD
TUDOR 7099 [67:47]


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Raff's First Symphony is located squarely in the German nationalist romantic heartland. The style straddles the worlds of Mendelssohn and Schumann. In fact Schumann's Third and Fourth Symphonies are often recalled in passing reference or the echo of resemblance. The shivering tail-figure in the decisive gesture first of the five movements (the Allegro) is straight out of Schumann 4.  That Allegro runs to 18:05, the longest movement. German wald romance is also suggested by the rip and curl of the Scherzo which, far from recalling Weber, this time links with Schumann's First Symphony. There is an elegiacally Elgarian Larghetto where the agreeably unctuous solo cello is played by section principal Matthias Ranft. While there is a measure of bombast in the allegro dramatico (IV, 1:50) much can be forgiven when we hear the suave, relaxed and often imaginative writing of the final Larghetto sostenuto which in its Odysseyan stride looks to the Tchaikovsky of Winter Daydreams. While the work has its longueurs in the finale and miscalculated braggartry in the allegro dramatico, this symphony will go down well with those who  love the Schumann four, Mendelssohn's 3 and 4, Louis Glass's Der Wald symphony, the Ludolf Nielsen suites and the symphonies by Huber, Wetz and  Draeseke. Not compelling then but pleasing is good too. Raff is not to be underestimated for his fluency and atmospheric charm.

There are good notes by Werner M Grimmel.

By the way those lured into buying this disc by the cover detail from Der Krieg (1896) by Arnold Böcklin (1827-1901) are in for a disappointment. There's no apocaylptic conflict in this music.

Low key picturesque delights from Tudor whose catalogue is the home of Raff. An alternative to the only other recording of the symphony on Marco Polo. I would not say it was any better than the Marco Polo although about ten years more recently recorded.

Rob Barnett






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