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Piano Quintet score
Piano Quintet score

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

String Quartet No.7 score
String Quartet No.7 score

Raff's Chamber Music 1

Listen to an extract Sinfonietta for 10 wind instruments in F op.188 1:33
Raff seems to have invented the term "Sinfonietta", later used by many composers for a variety of pieces. Judging by Raff's only example, though, what he meant by the name was a work which was a "little" or perhaps "light" symphony - but a symphony nonetheless. This delightful music of 1873 amply justifies that interpretation. It is certainly symphonic in both its overall structure and that of each of its four movements together with the seriousness of its musical language with Raff's usual employment of counterpoint. However, there is a lightness of touch and an amiability of spirit about it which marks it out as a close cousin of Gounod's Petite Sinfonie which was written 12 years after Raff's work. Like Gounod's piece, it is scored for wind band - 10 in Raff's case. He wrote only one other work for winds alone - a Festival Overture, op124, in 1865. The Sinfonietta's four movements are: Allegro, Allegro molto, Larghetto and Vivace.

This extract, the beginning of the finale, amply demonstrates the carefree nature of the work. From Tudor 787.

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Works in detail section, with audio extracts from all four movements.

Listen to an extract Octet for Strings in C op. 176 2:00
Written in 1872 during a highly productive period which saw Raff produce some of his greatest works such as the 5th. Symphony and the Sinfonietta, the String Octet is Raff's only essay in the genre. Throughout the string writing is idiomatic and the melodic material is delightfully appropriate for the medium. Though comparisons with Mendelssohn's Octet are inevitable in both the scherzo and the finale, with their rapid rhythms and joi de vivre, the similarity is superficial. Raff's textures are more robust, his melodies unmistakably from his pen. The work is written in four movements, beginning with a substantial and good natured Allegro. The very brief, skittish scherzo Allegro molto is followed by an Andante Moderato movement which is, as so often with Raff's slow movements, the emotional heart of the work - an outflowing of melody so typical of the composer. The concluding Vivace provides a suitably boisterous conclusion to a happy piece.

This extract is taken from shortly after the start of the final movement. From Jecklin 547.

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Works in detail section, with audio extracts from all four movements.

Listen to an extract String Sextet in g op.178 2:00
Raff's sole String Sextet was composed in 1872 - the same year as the Octet and the Lenore Symphony. His hope that it would be a work in which "wit finally outstrips humour" is amply borne out by the music which is by turns playful and clever. The instrumentation, for pairs of violins, violas and cellos, always retains Raff's characteristic clarity even in the most sonorous sections. The opening melodic Allegro is the most densely written of the four movements and it is followed by a brief and frenetically fast Allegro molto in which a trio makes a fleeting appearance. The third movement Larghetto, a beautifully crafted theme and eight variations, is followed by an unusually short finale - a brilliant and lightening quick Allegro. The work's generally fast pace and witty demeanour combine to produce an atmosphere of breathless enjoyment reminiscent of the later Sinfonietta.

This excerpt begins one minute into the opening Allegro. From MDG 304 1181 [review].

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Works in detail section, with audio extracts from all four movements.

Listen to an extract Piano Quintet in a op.107 2:07
Raff's only Piano Quintet is one of his finest compositions and was recognised as such by his contemporaries. His friend Hans von Bülow wrote that it was "...the most remarkable work in the field of chamber music since Beethoven". It was not an easy work to write as Raff himself reported: "I can say that my strength increases with my task and that is necessary, for it is more difficult than a symphony or a string quartet..."

Written in Wiesbaden in 1862 and dedicated to the Dutch king, the opening Allegro mosso assai is an extended dramatic piece which is contrasted by a much shorter Allegro vivace, quasi presto second movement. After this light relief comes a long, deeply felt Andante, quasi larghetto mosso - the emotional centre of the work. The finale Allegro brioso, patetico is another contrast - it is full of high spirits and makes a virtuosic conclusion to a masterful work.

This excerpt begins one minute into the impassioned Andante. From Adriano ADR1.

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Works in detail section, with audio extracts from all four movements.

Listen to an extract Fantasie For Piano Quintet in G minor op.207b 2:15
This work began life in 1877 as a piece for two pianos, written for Raff's friends the conductor Max Erdmannsdörfer and his wife the pianist Pauline (née Fichtner), the dedicatee of the Piano Suite in G minor. Raff subsequently arranged the work for piano quintet and it was published by Siegel in 1878, by which time the composer had taken up his post as Director of the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. The Fantasie is cast in a single movement of around 18 minutes duration, but splits clearly into three sections: a comparatively brief and stormy Allegro agitato is followed by a rather anxious Larghetto which is typical of its creator in the charcter of its melodic material. The brilliant final Allegro provides an exciting and joyous conclusion to this satisfying work.

The excerpt is the start of the third section of the Fantasie, the closing Allegro. From Divox CDX-20506 [review].

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Works in detail section, with audio extracts from all three sections.

Listen to an extract Piano Quartet in G op.202 No.1 2:33
Perhaps surprisingly for a composer of so much piano music and who also composed nine string quartets, Raff ignored the Piano Quartet medium until 1876 - and then wrote two such works in succession which share opus.202. The first of these, in G major, is a large scale powerful but generally good natured piece lasting some 40 minutes. The opening lively Allegro is followed by a driving, demonic scherzo Allegro molto, interrupted by a darkly lyric trio. The extended slow movement, Andante quasi Adagio, is a sombre set of variations. the mood of which is only lightened by a dancing finale Allegro. Despite its attractions, the Quartet does not seem to have established itself in the contemporary repertoire.

This excerpt is from about two minutes into the opening Allegro. From Divox CDX-20905 [review].

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Works in detail section, with audio extracts from all three sections.

Listen to an extract Piano Quartet in C minor op.202 No.2 1:56
The pair of Piano Quartets are Raff's last major chamber works. Nothing is known about the reasons why, despite having written nine string quartets, four piano trios and the Piano Quintet, he had until then ignored the genre and never returned to it after penning these two. The second work in his op.202 is, like its companion, in four movements and written on a grand scale. It is more emotionally complexin tone than the G major Quartet and opens with a dramatically anxious Allegro whose lyricism is overlaid with foreboding and drama. The fine Allegro which follows has an engaging momentum, which is maintained in the dellightful trio. The Larghetto slow movement is contemplative and wistfully lyrical, the work's centre of gravity. The finale, also marked Allegro, has an upbeat celebratory character with, like the first movement, plenty of contrasting slower episodes. The piano is very much to fore throughout the whole work, which was written in 1876 and published the following year. It seems never to have established itself in the repertoire.

This excerpt begins about 2 minutes after the start of the first movement. From Divox CDX-20905 [review].

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Works in detail section, with audio extracts from all three sections.

Listen to an extract String Quartet No.1 in d op.77 2:10
Raff's String Quartet No.1 is a grand, dramatic work - but it is the second which he wrote. The first dated from Stuttgart in1849 and was suppressed by Raff himself in a fit of self-criticism a few years later. This second work, written in Weimar near the end of Raff's time there in 1855, must have benefited from the lessons learned in the earlier attempt. It is a confident work, coming as it does from the period when Raff was at last finding his own individual voice. The first movement Massig schnell, ruhig breit is a stormy piece full of romantic passion which is followed by a brief, breathless, Mendelssohnian scherzo Sehr lustig, ruhig rasch. The lyrical but rather four square Massig lamgsam getragen slow movement is shorter than a finale, Rasch, of restrained jollity.

The excerpt is the start of the first movement. From Tudor 7079 [review].

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Works in detail section, with audio extracts from all four movements.

Listen to an extract String Quartet No.2 in A op.90 2:09
The 2nd. String Quartet was written in 1857, only a year after Raff had at last made his fateful break with Liszt and moved to Wiesbaden, to join his fiancée Doris. Dedicated to the Müller Quartet of Meiningen, it is quite unlike its stormy predecessor. The long rhapsodic first movement (Rasch, jedoch ruhig) leads on to a highly rhythmic, but delicately scored fast movement (Rasch) into which is interleaved attractive lyrical episodes. The F major slow movement (Langsam) is a deeply felt utterance, full of unresolved anxiety which Raff maintains up to its bleak close. The return to A major in a well constructed and joyful finale (Rasch) dissipates the tension and brings this odd but satisfying work to a close. It was premiered in Wiesbaden in 1858 and published in 1862.

This excerpt is the climax of the third movement. From Tudor 7116 [review].

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Works in detail section, with audio extracts from all four movements.

Listen to an extract String Quartet No.4 in a op.137 1:50
The Fourth String Quartet was the second of three quartets which Raff sketched out in quick succession during the Winter of 1866/67. It was finished in Wiesbaden in January 1867 and, despite its wintry gestation, it is a sunny and on the wholoe uncomplicated work, exemplified by the opening Allegro patetico. Unusually, instead of a frenetic scherzo, Raff followed that with a gentler Allegro, quasi Allegretto which still manages to speed along. The third movement is a stately Andante which perhaps doesn't plumb the depths of some of his other slow movements. The finale begins with a slow introduction before launching into the lively, but never boisterous, main section, again marked Allegro patetico. Dedicated to the famous violinist Ferdinand Laub, the quartet was published in 1869 but, maybe because there is a certain pleasant anonymity about it, does not seem to have made much of an impact amongst performers or audiences.

The excerpt is the beginning of the opening Allegro patetico.

Listen to an extract String Quartet No.6 in c "Suite in vintage Form " op.192a 2:02
The three quartets which comprise Raff's op.192 were apparantly sketched out in the space of a fortnight in the winter of 1874, whilst he was confined to the house because through illness. They were completed by the spring of the year and were published by Kahnt of Leipzig in 1876. None are conventional four movement works and this, the first of them, is a five movement suite in baroque style - very reminiscent of the piano suites. The opening Präludium has an impassioned Larghetto introduction before launching into the fugal Allegro. It is followed by a sprightly Menuett and a delicate Gavotte & Musette. The long Arie is a delicate meditation slow movement which is contrasted with the effervescent Gigue-Finale. Raff also arranged the work for piano four hands.

The excerpt is the beginning of the opening Präludium.

Listen to an extract String Quartet No.7 in D "The beautiful maid of the mill" op.192b 2:15
Raff wrote eight surviving string quartets and some proved highly popular but none more so than this, the penultimate in the series. It is the second of three string quartets in op.192 and, like the other two works, is in the form of a suite rather than the conventional abstract four movement format. In this case there are six movements which are entitled : "The young man" - Allegro, "The mill" - Allegro, "The maid of the mill" - Andante quasi adagietto, "Restlessness" - Allegro, "Declaration" - Andantino quasi allegretto and "At the wedding-eve celebration" - Vivace.

The second, "Mill", movement was one of Raff's most-played works together with the "Cavatine" from op.85 and the March from the Lenore symphony. It is a straightforward piece of scene-painting - in this case the busy mill with its swirling windmill arms and bustling cogs and wheels. The extract is the complete movement.

This work is discussed in much more detail by Prof. Alan Krueck in the Works in detail section, with audio extracts from all six movements.

Listen to an extract Piano Trio No.1 in c op.102 1:52
Raff wrote five but only published four Piano Trios - his original attempt having been destroyed by him in the 1850s. This first extant example dates from 1861, but had to wait until 1865 for its first performance. It was an immediate success and, along with the second trio, was to prove one of Raff's most popular chamber works. There are four movements. The opening movement Rasch is the longest and has a driving, dramatic character which is in contrast with the succeeding Sehr Rasch scherzo which is almost skittish in its thematic material. The slow movement Mäßssig Langsam is deeply romantic with its reflective, long drawn out melodies and, again, a sharp contrast is provided with the Rasch Bewegt finale which has an almost Hungarian lilt to it.

This excerpt is from the middle of the slow movement.

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Works in detail section, with audio extracts from all four movements.

Listen to an extract Piano Trio No.2 in G op.112 1:59
Before he was able to have his first trio published, Raff had written a second and it was to prove amongst his most successful chamber works. This piece, dedicated to the Queen of Württemberg, is suffused with lyricism and was completed in 1863 being published two years later. The genial first movement Rasch, froh bewegt is followed by a very fast scherzo movement Sehr rasch which is interrupted by a classical-sounding trio. The slow movement Massig langsam is the longest and its still, chorale-like opening gives it a religious feel. The celebratory finale Rasch, durchaus belebt brings this accomplished work to a rousing conclusion.

The extract is from the very start of the work and features a typically memorable opening theme, followed by the second subject.

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Works in detail section, with audio extracts from all four movements.

Listen to an extract Piano Trio No.3 in a op.155 2:09
Having gradually developed his skill at writing chamber music since the mid 1850s, the Piano Trio No.3 of 1870 represents Raff's mature approach to the form - the fourth Trio was written in the same year. Despite being works of his mature mastery, these works lost out in popularity to the two earlier trios and in particular the second trio. The Piano Trio No.3, however, does show Raff at his most skillful, blending interesting textures with grateful melody in a structure which was carefully balanced. As with most of Raff's chamber music, there are four movements - Quasi a capriccio, Allegro assai, Adagietto, Larghetto - Finale.

This excerpt is from near the start of the vivacious 4th. movement, just after the Larghetto opening.

Listen to an extract Piano Trio No.4 in D op.158 1:52
Raff began work on his fourth and last piano trio shortly after finishing its predecessor. It was completed in Autumn 1870 and was first published the next year, but remained overshadowed by the great success of the first two trios. It is in Raff's usual four movements: the lively and carefree opening Allegro is presaged by an atmospheric opening passage. The following scherzo Allegro assai in d minor is comparatively sedate affair and dominated by the piano. The contemplative f sharp minor Andante quasi Larghetto is another of Raff's magnificent slow movements which features much dialogue between pairs of instruments, whilst the concluding Allegro is a boisterous piece, heavy in passage work and counterpoint.

The extract is the very start of the first movement. From CPO 999 616 [review].

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