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