Brief Descriptions
















Piano Trio No.4 score
Piano Trio No.4 score

Raff's Chamber Music 2

Listen to an extract Cello Sonata in D op.183 1:41
The Cello Sonata of 1873 is his only example of the genre and as such is unusual in Raff's chamber output - there are no less than nine string quartets, two piano quartets, five piano trios and five violin sonatas. Indeed, Raff wrote only two other works for cello and piano. The date of composition (1873) marks this work out as one of Raff's works written during his fruitful days in Wiesbaden when he was at the height of his fame. It displays all the characteristics of Raff's mature mastery in its four movement structure - Allegro, Vivace, Andante, Allegro.

This extract is from the very start of the Sonata, featuring the first movement's dominant march-like theme.

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 Two Fantasy Pieces for piano and cello op.86 1:58
Raff wrote very little for the combination of cello and piano but these two pieces, each about seven minutes long, are exquisite examples of his skill in small scale composition. Composed towards the end of his time in Weimar in 1854, both Begegnung (Encounter) and Erinnerung (Remembrance) are moderately paced - one an Andante and the other marked Andantino, quasi Larghetto. With their mellifluously lyrical writing. memorable melody and sophisticated interplay between the two instruments, they are prime examples of Raff's ability to write salon music of high quality. Premiered in 1855, they were published in 1862.

This extract is from near the end of Begegnung. From Tudor 7121 [review].

Listen to an extract Violin Sonata No.1 in e op.73 2:04
Raff's first attempt at writing a Violin Sonata was undertaken in Weimar during the winter of 1853/4 and premiered in the same city in 1855. It is an impressively assured piece which begins with a lyrical movement Bewegt, mit elegischem Pathos which is followed by a scherzo Sehr rasch und fein in what was to become Raff's characteristic vein. The anguished slow movement Nicht zu langsam gives the impression of a dramatic lament, before giving way to the spirited finale, Bewegt, sehr bestimmt.

The extract is from the 3rd. movement with beginning with the statement of the second group of themes.

Listen to an extract Violin Sonata No.2 in A op.78 1:56
The second of Raff's five Violin Sonatas is a much sunnier work than the first, which it followed after three years. Written in Wiesbaden in 1858, it is dedicated to the Viennese violinist and quartet player Joseph Hellmesberger. A generally genial opening Rasch, mit Wärme & Bewegung movement of characteristic warmth is followed by a subtle variations-based Nicht zu langsam piece of great charm. The third movement scherzo is really only a slight dancing intermezzo prelude to the boisterous and celebratory finale - Rasch & feurig - which makes a dashing end to this good natured piece.

The extract is from the 4th. movement. From Tudor 7129 [review].

Listen to an extract Violin Sonata No.3 in D op.128 1:57
Dedicated to the celebrated violin virtuoso and erstwhile colleague of Mendelssohn in Leipzig, Ferdinand David, the third Violin Sonata is again cast in the conventional four movements and is another sunny work. It was written in Wiesbaden in 1865 and published by Schuberth in the following year. A highly melodious and cheerful Allegro first movement is followed by a heart-stoppingly fast Allegro assai, which encloses a sweetly tuneful trio. The slow movement, Andante quasi Larghetto, is an altogether deeper affair, with more than a hint of melancholy about it; but the joyful Allegro vivace finale dispels the atmosphere by making a brilliant and cheerful conclusion to the work.

The extract is the start of the 1st. movement. From CPO 999 769 [review].

Listen to an extract Violin Sonata No. 4 in g op 129 (Chromatic Sonata in one movement) 1:47
In contrast with his other violin sonatas, the fourth is in one continuous movement, albeit in three fast-slow-fast sections. Dedicated to the renowned Belgian virtuoso Henri Vieuxtemps, it was written in the Winter of 1866, just after the third (and much more conventional) Sonata. Throughout the work's mood is stormy with a passionate g minor Allegro section followed by a calm and contemplative Andante (non troppo lento, ma largamente) in e flat major before a return to g minor in the concluding Allegro which re-uses material from the first section in a lively but no less dramatic fashion.

The example is the close of the work.

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

Listen to an extract Violin Sonata No. 5 in c op 145 2:05
For his final Violin Sonata Raff reverted to conventional multi-movement format. Dedicated to the Belgian violinist Hubert Léonard, it was written in Wiesbaden two years after its predecessor in 1868 and published by Schuberth a year later. Conceived on a grand scale, it approaches the stormy First Sonata in its overtly romantic character and features four movements of strongly contrasting moods. The opening Allegro patetico has a restless, yearning character and is followed by a solemn Andante with an agitated, troubled central section. The mood lightens with the skipping Presto third movement but the finale, an Allegro agitato, is relentlessly passionate and good humour is only achieved in the very last bars. It is dedicated to the great violinist Joseph Joachim who, with Raff, was part of Liszt's circle in Weimar in the early 1850s.

The extract is from the middle of the Andante second movement. From CPO 999 769 [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 Aus der Schweitz: Fantastic Eclogue for Violin & Piano op.57 2:55
Composed as the Eclogue Fantastique in the Spring of 1848 during Raff's unhappy time in Stuttgart, this is an amazingly assured and inventive piece of sustained writing. It is even more remarkable as it was only his second chamber music work. Lasting around 14 minutes, Aus der Schweitz (From Switzerland), as it was renamed when Raff revised it in Weimar in 1852, presents a constantly evolving lyrical portrait of the land of his birth. At its heart is an old herdsman's song, which will be familiar from Rossini's use of it in his Overture to William Tell. After some attractive bucolic musings which occupy the first third of the work, it first emerges hesitantly and is then subjected to a succession of variations of mood and tempo before closing the work in a pyrotechnic stretta.

The extract is the end of the work. From CPO 999 769 [review].

Listen to an extract Two Fantasies for Violin & Piano op.58 1:49
These two works were written in Weimar 1850 and 1852 and were original published (in 1854) as Nocturnes, the name being changed for the second edition of the scores. The original name is an accurate description of these lovely Andantino pieces which were written for the violin virtuoso Ferdinand David, to whom they are also dedicated. Both are gentle works lasting around nine minutes but with subtle differences in character. The first has a Chopinesque sweet melodiousness to complement its gentle drama, whereas its partner is a little more dynamic and foursquare.

The example is the start of the first Fantasy. From CPO 999 767 [review].

Listen to an extract Duo for Violin & Piano op.59 2:19
Raff had a habit of writing consecutive works for the same combination of instruments and his opp.57-59 are all for violin and piano. This Duo, the last of them, was originally composed in Stuttgart in 1848 as a Caprice for cello and piano and then revised and given an alternative part for violin four years later when Raff was in Weimar with Liszt. At 14 minutes it is a substantial piece, divided between a melting Andantino and an aptly named Allegro Appassionato. The work betrays the stylistic journey he made from Mendelssohn to Liszt in those four years but is nonetheless attractively wrought and beautifully written for its adopted instrument.

The example is towards the close of the Andantino. From CPO 999 767 [review].

Listen to an extract Six Morceaux for Violin & Piano op.85 1:15
This little set of pieces is amongst the most charming of Raff's small-scale creations and includes amongst its number the single most popular piece which Raff wrote; the one which kept his name known when all his other music was forgotten. The third piece, a Cavatina, was staggeringly successful but all the pieces were available in arrangements prepared by other hands for many other musical combinations. The set begins with a playful Marcia, followed by a meditative Pastorale. After the Cavatina comes a skittering Scherzino, a melancholy Canzona and the finale is a Tarantella in which Raff pulls out every virtuoso stop.

The excerpt is from the Cavatina's opening. From Guild GMCD 7125.

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

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