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RAFF (1822-1882) Works for violin and piano Vol. 4
Fourth Grand Sonata (Chromatic Sonata in one movement)
Op.129 (1866) [16:18]
Sonatillen Op.99 Nos 1-3 and 9-10 [18:05]
Fifth Grand Sonata Op.145 (1868) [29:34]
Jascha Nemtsov (piano)
rec. Kammermusikstudio des SWR, Stuttgart, June 2006 CPO 777
arrived at volume four in the survey of Raff’s complete music
for violin and piano (see below for links to previous volumes).
This gives us the Fourth and Fifth of the Grand Sonatas and
of commitment and assurance by Turban and Nemtsov, recorded
in June 2006 in Stuttgart.
most imposing and impressive of the works is programmed first,
the sixteen minute, one-movement Grand Sonata written in
1866. Its formidable recitative-like opening foretells great
things and whilst they’re not entirely met one does admire
Raff for his blending of quasi-dramatic and romantic leanings
in the work. This convulsively, often irresistibly lyrical
style can, as we know, sometimes leech into salon sentiment
but not here; or at least not too often. Written in strict
sonata form it was dedicated to Vieuxtemps and there is much
in it to interest a virtuoso who can marry dynamism with
pathos. There are hints of Tannhäuser here, cryptic little
semi-quotations, and a piano part full of ardour and spirit
and the lure of mid century expression. It’s a powerful,
exciting work, and played with just the right spirit by this
Fifth Sonata followed two years later. It’s nearly twice
as big as the earlier work but it’s not twice as good. A
certain amount of conventionality seems to have descended
on the hard working Raff in 1868. So whilst the main theme
of the first movement is auspiciously noble and commanding
and whilst there’s sturm und drang in the slow movement the
sonata as a whole never quite measures up to the sum of its
parts. The urgency of that Andante – full of tremolandi
and perturbed spirit – sees the last high vantage point;
from then on the sonata falls away progressively into note
spinning. A pity as the first two movements have their moments;
the last two are merely workmanlike.
in between the sonatas are the Op.99 Sonatillen. These gentle,
classical pieces were originally written for the piano and
then arranged by Raff for violin and piano. The odd title
means that each piece stands alone but as the first three
show they can form a unified sonata without too much embarrassment.
The Larghetto is a rather lovely lied, warm and generous,
and something at which Raff was a master. The “finale” to
this de facto sonata is a tarantella and it’s full of vivacity.
No.9 is a scherzo that has bathed in Schubertian waters and
has perhaps also taken heed of the scherzo of Beethoven’s
Op.24 violin sonata.
again the Turban-Nemtsov duo proves admirably accomplished
in these miniatures. The recording is warm, sympathetic and
attractive, the works themselves inconsistent. At their best
though, in the shape of the Fourth Sonata, they show Raff
in the best light possible.
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