Brief Descriptions











Score of the Piano Suite in a
Score of the Piano Suite in a




















Score of Piano Suite in d
Score of the Piano Suite in d


Raff's Piano Music 1

Listen to an extract Chaconne for two pianos in a op.150 02:41
Raff wrote only a couple of works for two pianos, though he transcribed many of his other works and wrote original ones too for piano four hands. This Chaconne is a substantial work and, unlike much of Raff's piano output, an earnest one. It was written in Wiesbaden in 1868 and was subsequently arranged by Raff for piano four hands. He dedicated his Chaconne to the great concert pianist Alfred Jaell and his wife. Jaell was a lifelong friend of Raff's who called him "good fat Jaell".

This example is from the central section of the work illustrating the dense texture of the Piu Allegro passage moving into the Quasi Marcia, maestoso. From cpo 999 106.

Listen to an extract Humoreske in Walzerform for piano 4 hands op.159 02:42
Lasting around 12 minutes, the Humoreske is a delightful confection by Raff in his most relaxed vein. In the first half he spins out a sequence of six good natured waltz melodies in as many minutes. Each is of beguiling tunefulness, strongly contrasted with its predecessor in both melodic character and tempo.The second half of the piece sees Raff play with some of these tunes and add even more before launching into a mock-serious fugal episode which in turn leads to stretta finish. The Humoreske was written in Wiesbaden in the Summer of 1870 and published by Bote & Bock in November of the following year. In 1893 Debussy made an arrangement of the work for solo piano, which faithfully preserves the original's texture.

This extract is the start of the work in Debussy's piano solo arrangement, . From Romantic Discoveries CD20.

Listen to an extract Reisebilder for piano 4 hands op.160 01:37
The piano duet was an extraordinarily popular form of cultured home entertainment in Raff's era. As well as arranging many of his works for piano four hands, he wrote three sets of original pieces for the medium. The second of the three is the Reisebilder (Travel Pictures), a collection of ten genre pieces beginning with "Good Journey!" and and including "Comfortable Inn" and "In bad weather". The second of these descriptive miniatures is Eisenbahnfahrt (Railway journey). Lasting under three minutes, it charts what seems to be a hectic train ride, illustrated by a fast march, relieved in the middle section by a some gentler music which perhaps portrays the passing scenery. Reisebilder was composed in Wiesbaden in 1870 and published by Siegel the following year.

This extract from Eisenbahnfahrt op.160 no.2 begins midway through the central section and continues until the end of the piece. From Prezioso 800.062.

Listen to an extract Piano Sonata in e flat op.14 (2nd. version) 02:05
At the end of his career Raff completely rewrote several of his early piano works which had been first published by Breitkopf and Härtel. One of the last of these was the Piano Sonata which he completed in at the end of 1881, retaining its title, key and four movement structure but replacing all else. As with all the rewritten pieces, it proved popular in its day. Unlike Raff's "brotarbeit" salon pieces for piano, his Sonata is not a showy virtuoso work. The clear and attractive melodies are set within complex polyphonic and contrapuntal structures - the effects are appropriate rather than flashy. The four movements are a forceful and serious Allegro, a short and demonic Allegro molto, an episodic and often hymn-like Larghetto and a sprited and generally angst-free final Allegro.

The excerpt is the start of the finale.

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Works in detail section, with audio extracts from all four movements. You can also listen to, and download, a complete MIDI rendition of the Piano Sonata.

Listen to an extract Fantasie-Sonate in d op.168 01:58
This is an usual and experimental work. As its title suggests, it has elements of both piano fantasy and piano sonata and so has some similarities with the earlier Violin Sonata No.4. It is in one continuous movement lasting about 15 minutes, but there are three distinct sections suggesting a more formal sonata layout. The initial Allegro patetico leads to the quiet Largo which gradually gives way to the final bravura Allegro molto. Written in Wiesbaden in 1871 and dedicated to Saint-Saëns, it never gained much popularity despite its highly romantic character.

The example is the very start of the piece up to the introduction of the motto theme.

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 Suite in a op.69 01:56
Raff's seven Piano Suites are the core of his "serious" output for piano and central to his efforts to perpetuate baroque forms in music. Typically they have five movements, "old bottles" called gigue or prelude into which Raff poured his highly romantic "new wine". It is easy to forget the extent to which he was a pioneer in this trend which was later to prove so popular. This first a minor suite of February 1857 set the pattern - a Preludio, followed by Mazurka, Toccatina and Aria before a final Fuga. Unlike many of the later suites however, which are very substantial pieces, each movement in this collection is short - but still full of Raff's typical virtouso pianism and romantic melos. The 2nd. and 3rd. suites followed within three months!

This example is the calm and reflective opening Preludio.

Listen to an extract Piano Suite in C op.71 0:53
Barely two months after he had finished his first Piano Suite, Raff penned this delightful collection of five miniatures. Lasting barely more than a quarter of an hour, it was composed in April 1857 in Wiesbaden, and was published the following year and republished in 1882, a couple of months before Raff's death. Again, the baroque seems to have been his starting point, as evidenced by the spare and restrained Preludio opening movement. The following Polka is a more typical of Raff's own time, with unexpected rhythmic turns and a quirky melody. The delightful Toccatina races by and is followed by a contemplative Romanza, which is the essence of romantic sensibility. The Fuga finale, though, sees Raff returns to his baroque model.

This excerpt is the start of the Toccatina third movement. From AK Coburg DR 0006 - review.

Listen to an extract Piano Suite in e op.72 2:11
This Suite was written at virtually the same time as its predecessor, in April 1857. Although slightly more expansive than its C major companion, it follows the same pattern of five short movements in which Raff attempts a fusion of baroque models with modern romantic harmonic and melodic practice. The first movement is again a Preludio, and it has a tetchy busyness about it. The Menuetto which follows is an altogether sweeter affair, in sharp contrast with the fleeting Toccata which follows itt. A slow Romance is the work's fulcrum, however, and it is here that romanticism is at its strongest. The piece concludes with a brief, well worked out Fuga. The Piano Suite in E minor was published in April 1858 and again in April 1882, just before its composer's death.

This excerpt is the Toccata. From AK Coburg DR 0008 - review.

Listen to an extarct Piano Suite in d op.91 02:15
The seven suites for solo piano are all substantial works, and no.4 is unusual in having only four movements rather than the more common five. Despite its relatively early date of composition (1859) it is an ambitious piece lasting about 40 minutes and has been described as a work of "truly heroic proportions". The opening Fantasia e Fuga gives way to a sprawling Giga con Variazioni which is followed by a limpid Cavatina and with a rousing Marcia to close.

The opening movement is one of great poetry and dramatic contrast as can be heard in this excerpt from the middle of the piece. From Newport NCD 60067.

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

Listen to an extarct Piano Suite in g op.162 03:04
Written in Wiesbaden in 1870, this fifth of Raff's seven large scale Suites for piano is like the Suite in d in having only four movements but, unlike most of Raff's suites, none of the movements incorporates baroque musical forms. Rather the first movement is entitled Elegie in Sonatenform and this is followed by Volkslied mit Variationen - an extended set of 10 virtuoso variations on a simple tune. The third movement Ländler (Dance) precedes the poetic Märchen (Fairy Tale) finale.

This excerpt is from the middle of the second movement - the seventh variation. From AK Coburg DR-0006 [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 Suite in G op.163 01:57
This penultimate Piano Suite saw Raff return to his original baroque model with six movements, each boasting a title redolent of Bach or Telemann. Published in October 1871 as soon as it was written, it begins with a Praeludium of crystalline sharpness which contrasts with an Allemande whose successive fast and slow sections retain its inspiration's stately air. The Romanze is a reflective and deeply felt piece, the mood of which is relieved by the easy melodic charm of the Menuett which follows. Undoubtedly the finest movement is the fifth, a Rhapsodie. With its chromatic harmonies it is utterly romantic in conception and must have seemed out of place even to Raff, however, for he subsequently recast it, in all its Wagnerian splendour, for orchestra as the Abends-Rhapsodie op.163b. When the Suite was republished in 1879 the Rhapsodie was omitted. The final, very Bachian, Gigue returns us to the baroque.

This excerpt is from the Allemande second movement. From AK Coburg DR 0007 - review.

Listen to an extract Piano Suite in B flat op.204 01:13
This was the last of Raff's series of seven large scale suites for solo piano. Written in the spring of 1876 in Wiesbaden, it is in six movements. It was published in the following year and dedicated to the celebrated piano virtuoso Sophie Menter - then married to the virtuoso cellist David Popper. Like its predecessor, this work returns to Raff's original concept of these suites as collections of pieces in various baroque forms, dressed in modern clothes. So in this suite the opening Prélude is followed by a Sarabande, Rigaudon, Menuet, Air and Tambourin. The Rigaudon was particularly successful and was the subject of several arrangements, though none of them by Raff himself.

The extract is from the middle section of the Rigaudon movement, in a barnstorming performance by Arthur Loesser. From International Piano Library IPL 102.

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