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Suite No.1 score
Orchestral Suite No.1 score

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hungarian Suite score
Hungarian Suite score

Raff's Other Orchestral Music

Suite for Orchestra No.1 in C op.101
Listen to an excerpt 1st. movement 2:02 Listen to an excerpt 3rd. movement 2:05
The first of Raff's four purely orchestral suite is unusual in two respects. Unlike the other three it has no title - they are travelogues of, respectively, Italy, Hungary and Thuringia. It also incorporates two movements from Raff's early symphony of 1854, the remainder of which was lost. Written in Wiesbaden in 1863 the work, in common with many of Raff's suites, has five movements. After the opening Introduction & Fugue, comes a Menett and a poignent Adagietto. There follow the effective Scherzo and a rumbustious March - both from the lost symphony.

The first excerpt is from the 1st. movement where the Introduction moves into the Fugue. From Tudor 7077. This CD is reviewed. The second example is the central section of the 3rd. movement Adagietto, from the restatement of the first theme to the contrasting middle section.

Lisen to an excerpt Suite for Orchestra in e minor "Italian" WoO.35 2:13
The Italian Suite is the second of his four purely orchestral suites and represents an engaging vision of Italy through its five contrasting movements with, even for Raff, some especially beguiling soundscapes - particularly so in the middle three movements. He wrote the Suite in Wiesbaden in 1871 but never gave it an opus number. The opening Overture is a rousing, if rather German, start but it is followed by a suitably languid Barcarole, a gentle Intermezzo and a highly melodic and generally contemplative Nottorno which Raff reused six years later as an intermezzo in his opera "Benedetto Marcello". The work ends with a rumbustious Tarantelle into which Raff nonetheless manages to weave extensive use of counterpoint.

The excerpt is from towards the end of gently swaying Barcarole second movement. From Marco Polo 8.223194.

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

Listen to an excerpt Suite for Orchestra No.2 in F "In Hungarian style" op.194 1:30
Dating from 1874, the Hungarian Suite was the second to be published, although the third written by Raff. With its judicious use of the characteristic Magyar harmonic twist and thematic contour popularised by Liszt, it was an immediate favourite and was counted by von Bülow as amongst Raff's most successful compositions. The five movements begin with a spirited and very lyrical Overture, subtitled "At the border". The next movement is a Reverie "On the Puszta" (the Hungarian steppe), an atmosphere piece which is flooded with gentle melodiousness and is in sharp contrast with the following "Amongst a parade of the Honvéd" - a crowd-pleasing fast march depicting a Hungarian cavalry display. The inventive Folksong with Variations is followed by the finale "At the czárda" - a Hungarian dance movement in which Raff pulls out all the stops in local colour.

The excerpt is the start of the third movement "Amongst a parade of the Honvéd".

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

Listen to an excerpt Suite for Orchestra in B "Thüringian" WoO.45 2:09
The last of the four orchestral suites. Written in 1877 and also left by Raff without a designated opus number, The Thüringian Suite celebrates an historic region of central Germany in Raff's usual suite format of five movements. The opening Salus Intrantibus provides a vigourous start and is followed by Elisabethenhymne which celebrates the Thüringian medieval St Elizabeth. Raff returns to territory familiar from some of his symphonies in the Reigen der Gnomen & Sylphen movement which depicts a supernatural dance. The fourth movement Variationen über ein Volkslied lets Raff indulge in some humourous orchestral effects as he rings the changes on the unpreposessing folksong and this continues with concluding Ländliches Fest movement - a country fair.

The excerpt is the close of the second movement from its lyrical climax as it subsides back into the opening chorale-like melody. From Marco Polo 8.223194.

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

Listen to an excerpt Overture to the Opera: König Alfred WoO.14 2:28
König Alfred (King Alfred) was not only Raff's first opera, it was only his second work for orchestra. Written during an unhappy time in Stuttgart in 1848, this ambitious four act "Grand heroic opera" was revised the next year and then again prior to its 1851 premiere in Weimar. Although it received a second series of performances in Wiesbaden in 1856, shortly after Raff moved to the city, it has remained unstaged since. The opera tells the story of the eponymous English King, Alfred the Great, and his struggles with the invading Vikings against which is contrasted the fate of the King's sister and her English lover. The Overture, one of Raff's longest, faithfully charts the opera's course. It opens with a grandly patriotic anthem which returns in triumph at the piece's end; Raff also employs a jaunty march and whips up a suitably exciting battle scene, mixing these three materials before the anthem returns in triumph at the end of the piece.

The excerpt is the battle scene followed by a brief recall of the patriotic anthem, from about a third into the work. From Sterling CDS-1085 [review].

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

Listen to an excerpt Celebration Overture in C op.103 2:02
The occasion celebrated by this jovial piece was the 25th. anniversary of the accession of the Duke of Nassau - the dukedom in which Raff's home of Wiesbaden was situated. It was written in 1864 and prominent use is made of the tune now known as "God Save the Queen" but which in Raff's time was also used as an anthem by several of the smaller German states, including Nassau.

The excerpt is from about a third of the way into the piece. The Nassau anthem is treate to a series of variations before giving way to the second subject. From Marco Polo 8.223638.

Listen to an excerpt Festival Overture in A op.117 1:46
This free standing concert overture was composed in 1864 and dedicated to King Karl of Württemberg, whose subject Raff was. It was premiered at a Leipzig Gewandhaus concert on 14 December 1865, conducted by Karl Reinecke and was next heard only four months later at a benefit concert for widows and orphans in the Württemberg capital, Stuttgart. Published in 1865, the overture confounds the rather dismissive attitude of Raff's daughter towards such occasional works in her biography of him. It is a well wrought work, prominently featuring an expressive pastoral melody, a fanfare-like motif and a syncopated anticipation of a Sullivan dance. At 17 minutes, it is one of the longest single orchestral pieces which Raff wrote. Nonetheless, its suitably celebratory atmosphere and richly varied orchestration ensure that it does not outstay its welcome.

The excerpt is from about halfway through the piece.

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

Concert Overture in F op.123 2:02
In some ways this is a standard mid-Victorian occasional overture, with a strong contrast between lively and more reflective themes which alternate throughout the piece before it comes to an energetic conclusion. Raff typically made much more than most of this workaday formula, employing his contrapuntal expertise to add excitement to the closing sections and choosing contrasting but complementary melodic material orchestrated with his usual skill. It was written in Wiesbaden in 1862.

The excerpt is from the middle of the piece, as Raff moves from the development section to the return of his joyful opening material. From Marco Polo 8.223506.

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

Listen to an excerpt Overture: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott in D op.127 2:23
One of Raff's most popular orchestral overtures, it was originally written in 1854 as a prelude to a play written by his future brother-in-law. Raff dusted it off in 1865, rearranged it and it was first performed the next year. A highly dramatic and effective concert overture, as befits a commemoration of the 30 Years War it makes good use of the famous Lutheran chorale from which it takes its name.

The excerpt is from the work's central section, illustrating the prominent use of the Lutheran chorale. From Tudor 786.

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

Listen to an excerpt Festival March in C op.139 1:51
Raff enjoyed writing marches and they are to be found in many of his larger works. He was also assiduous in ingratiating himself with the aristocracy. This cheery work was written to celebrate the silver wedding of the Grand Duke of Sachsen-Weimar in 1867. Despite being essentially an occasional piece, it still exhibits Raff's exceptional abitility in orchestration and care in construction.

The excerpt is from the work's middle with the gentle trio giving way to a return of the opening march theme. From Marco Polo 8.223638.

Listen to an excerpt Overture to the Opera Die Parole WoO.29 1:42
Raff himself wrote the libretto for Die Parole (The password) in 1867, basing it on a comedy by Countess von Saldern. He completed the music in Wiesbaden the following year. Although the libretto was subsequently published under Raff's pseudonym of Arnold Börner, the music remained in manuscript and this, the third of his operas, has never been performed. Its Overture is a lively but well wrought piece, with alternating fast and slow sections - the former having a distinctly Sullivanesque cast to it.

The excerpt is from about a minute into the Overture, where the slow introduction sgives way to faster mayterial. From Tudor 7113 [review].

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

Listen to an excerpt Overture to the Opera Dame Kobold in A op.154 1:44
Of Raff's six operas, only two received public performances. Although his "King Alfred" impressed Liszt when the latter conducted some performances in Weimar, it was the comic opera Dame Kobold which helped Raff achieve his fame. When the opera was heard in Wiesbaden in 1870 it was amongst the works which further established his name with music lovers there after the successes of his symphonies and chamber music. The opera is a delightfully light concoction and the overture reflects this in its vivacity.

The excerpt is from the end of the Overture. From Marco Polo 8.223638. Another excerpt can be found on the Review pages.

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

Listen to an excerpt "Evening Rhapsody" in E flat major op.163b 1:49
Raff made many arrangements of his works - most commonly a reduction for piano of music originally written for larger forces. Here, however, Raff arranged for orchestra a movement from his Suite for Piano No.6. The Suite itself was written in 1871 and has six movements - the fifth of which is this lovely Rhapsodie which Raff orchestrated in the Spring of 1874, enlarging the title to the more evocative "Evening Rhapsody". It was first performed at a concert in Wiesbaden later in the same year.

The excerpt is from the end of the work. From ASV DCA 793.

Listen to an excerpt Overture to the Opera Benedetto Marcello WoO.46 1:49
Raff's penultimate opera "Benedetto Marcello", or "Art and Life" was composed in 1878 to his own libretto. It tells the story of the eponymous baroque composer and his rivalry in love with the younger German composer Johann Adolf Hasse. Almost a conversation piece, it is a delicate piece of writing which Raff accurately called a lyric opera. In common with all later works for the stage, it went unperformed but did eventually receive its premiere in 2002. The Overture mirrors the mood of the whole work, lyricism interspersed with lively, bustling activity.

The excerpt begins about two thirds into the work.

This whole work is discussed in much more detail in the Works in detail section.

Listen to an excerpt Elegie in c minor WoO.48 2:19
The Elegie, which Raff left without an opus number, is in fact the original third movement of his 10th. Symphony "To the Autumn". It was written in Frankfurt in 1879 and was first performed with the rest of the symphony itself in the same year. After the premiere Raff had doubts about its suitability and these were reinforced by his wife who found the movement upsettingly tragic. Raff wrote a replacement (and perhaps superior) movement for the symphony the next year. Marked Adagio non troppo lento, it portrays the vivid colours of autumn and the final rousing of the soul.

This excerpt is towards the close of the work from the ending of a passionate lyrical section and the transition to the more sombre final pages.

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

Listen to an excerpt Orchestral Prelude to Shakespeare's "The Tempest" WoO.49 2:02
Raff wrote orchestral preludes to four of Shakespeare's plays in 1879 during his time as Director of the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. This post greatly reduced the time he could give to composition and consequently when Raff died three years later the four works had not been prepared for publication or received opus numbers."The Tempest" is the first, and longest, of the preludes and it charts the course of the play faithfully in music of great dramatic contrast. It received its premiere in Wiesbaden in 1881, but was not published.

This excerpt is the start of the work with the opening storm followed by a stately march depicting Prospero, the Duke of Milan.

Listen to an excerpt Orchestral Prelude to Shakespeare's "Macbeth" WoO.50 1:14
The second of the Shakespeare preludes, Macbeth inhabits a predominately spectral and threatening sound world - evoking the atmosphere of the play and particularly the three witches. The contrasting characters of Macbeth and his alteregos Banquo and Lady Macbeth are vividly portrayed, as is the final conflict. It was prepared for publication posthumously by Raff's pupil, the American composer Macdowell.

The excerpt is the start of the work with the three witches, Macbeth and Banquo themes.

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

Listen to an excerpt Orchestral Prelude to Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" WoO.51 1:36
The third of Raff's four Shakespeare overtures, "Romeo & Juliet" again provides musical illustration of the main protagonists in the story and broadly follows the course of the drama in a plan similar to Tchaikovsky's work of 10 years before. Raff's work too has a meltingly beautiful central "love" section, although the work overall is not as dramatically vivid as the Russian's. It was prepared for publication posthumously by Raff's pupil the American composer Macdowell.

This excerpt is the end of the tranquil central section and the transition to the closing pages of the drama. From Marco Polo 8.223630.

Listen to an excerpt Orchestral Prelude to Shakespeare's "Othello" WoO.52 2:09
The last prelude "Othello" is a powerful and compact depiction of the jealousy of Shakespeare's moor. Thematically, the prelude is dominated by Othello's nervous and vigourous motif although this is contrasted with more tranquil episodes illustrating his doomed love for Desdemona coupled with a motif representing his jealous aide Iago. The work was never played during Raff's lifetime.

This excerpt is the end of the work with Othello's theme halted briefly for the last time by the Desdemona motif before the drama reaches its conclusion.

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

Listen to an excerpt Overture to the Opera Die Eifersüchtigen WoO.54 1:48
Raff's final opera was finished in 1882 and is his last major work in any genre, written with no hope of publication, purely for its creator's own enjoyment. A comedy, Die Eifersüchtigen (The Jealous Ones) used a libretto fashioned by Raff himself from a play written by a family friend; his wife Doris thought the material too slight to sustain it. Whatever the literary merits of the work, which has remained in manuscript and unperformed, its overture shows that even at the end of his life Raff was on top form. Although generally light hearted, as befits a comedy, the work seems to illustrate a marital argument, its ebbs and flows, explosions and eventual reconciliation. The orchestral writing and melodic material is as sparkling as Raff had ever written and belies the fact that he was an increasingly sick man during its composition, weighed down by the stress of his directorship of the Hoch Conservatory.

This excerpt is the start of the work. From Sterling CDS-1085 [review].

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