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Raff & his peers
Raff's circle of friends


Even his daughter Helene, in her biography of her father, recognised that Raff didn't have the most outwardly loveable personality. He could be proud, pompous, irascible and almost always argumentative.

What is also clear however is that much of this was just on the surface and underneath hid a much more attractive personality - one capable of making and sustaining deep friendships which endured a lifetime and which were founded on mutual loyalty and respect. Perhaps the most well known musical personality in Raff's circle, and certainly his closest friend, was the renowned conductor, pianist and (to a lesser degree) composer Hans von Bülow (1830-1894). Their friendship was the product of Raff's rather brief stay in Stuttgart in the late 1840s and it remained firm throughout the rest of Raff's life.

Another friend from Raff's short sojourn in Stuttgart was Kunigunde Heinrich, a childless widow and former music teacher whom Raff befriended and who subsequently acted as a surrogate mother and musical confidante for him. She provided some stability in what had been up to their meeting an itinerant life and her house clearly represented a haven of peace and support in a city otherwise largely indifferent to the young composer.

It was through Frau Heinrich that he first made the acquaintance of Hans von Bülow himself. Raff's long correspondence with "Mama" Heinrich, as he called her, started after he left Stuttgart and continued whilst he traipsed around Germany and during his time in Weimar. Even after settling for Wiesbaden, he continued to be in close touch with her and she remained close to him and his family until her death.

An even longer standing musical associate than either von Bülow or Heinrich was Franz Abt (1819-1885). At the very start of his musical career, Raff had encountered the young Abt, just three years his senior, already established as a respected choral conductor in Zürich and his example was instrumental in persuading the young schoolteacher from Rapperswil to give up his job and become a composer. Raff's time in Zürich was financially disastrous for him but Abt's support and belief in his friend's talent proved an essential counterbalance to the crushing burden of poverty.

Kunigunde Heinrich
Kunigunde Heinrich
Franz Abt
Franz Abt
Bernhard Coßmann
Bernhard Coßmann
Louis Lüstner
Louis Lüstner

Though their paths diverged afterwards, with Abt remaining a mainly vocal composer and a prominent Kappelmeister in Brunswick, he and Raff remained on very cordial terms and Abt retired to Raff's adopted home of Wiesbaden in 1882, the year of his friend's death in Frankfurt.

In Wiesbaden itself, the conductor and violinist Louis Lüstner (1840-1918) had established a strong reputation for the city's Kurhaus orchestra, leading it from 1874 (the year after its foundation) to 1905, when he retired. Wiesbaden was not a large city; as its two leading musicians the men became good friends and close musical associates. Raff entrusted Lüstner and the Kurhaus orchestra with the premieres of his last four completed symphonies (Nos.7-10) and they also gave the first performance of the Symphony No.11 after the composers' death, even though Raff had lived in Frankfurt for the last five years of his life.

From Raff's days with the Liszt ménage in Weimar, he retained many friendships, despite his acrimonious parting from Liszt. Perhaps the strongest links were with his close contemporaries, the cellist Bernhard Coßmann and the composer Peter Cornelius (1824-1874). Coßmann (1822-1910) was a cello virtuoso and teacher whom Raff eventually employed as professor of cello at his Hoch Conservatory, in Frankfurt. Cornelius was probably the only composer in Liszt's circle apart from Raff to be able to establish a strong personal identity for his music. Primarily a vocal composer, he was greatly loved by Raff and others from the Weimar years.

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