Brief Descriptions





La Fileuse score
Score of La Fileuse

Raff's Piano Music 4

Listen to an extract Valse Impromptu à la Tyrolienne WoO.28 01:56
This brilliant virtuoso showpiece was once amongst Raff's most popular piano compositions. Dedicated to a Princess of the Russian Galitzine family, it was composed in 1868 in Wiesbaden and published in 1869. A Tyrolienne is a variety of fast waltz and into this showpiece's four minutes Raff packed a series of increasingly decorative triple-time melodies, interrupting them, Rondo-like, on three occasions with a slower theme, and finally finishing in a furious coda.

This example is the second half of the work. From Jubal JCD-25.

Listen to an extract Valse brillant op.156 06:07
This glittering fast waltz in E flat was written in Wiesbaden in the Winter of 1870 and immediately published in January 1871 by the Leipzig firm of Robert Seitz. Employing a generous succession of typically winning melodies arranged into several contrasting sections which share material, it is typical of the works which Raff continued to churn out for salon performance despite his growing reputation as a symphonist of stature. The Valse brillant makes very few concessions to the pianist whilst utterly charming the listener.

The streaming audio is the complete work.

Listen to an extract La Fileuse, Etude in F sharp op.157 no.2 01:55
Even during the second half of his career when he was writing large scale works and was basking in great public acclaim, Raff was compelled to continue composing "salon" pieces for the piano. He called them his "brotarbeit" - literally "work for bread". Amongst the most popular was the second of his op.157 pieces - which depicts a girl sitting at her spinning wheel. It is a delicate, wistful work and was to be one of the very few of Raff's works to be recorded until well into the LP era.

The excerpt is the conclusion of the Etude and it amply demonstrates Raff's craftsmanship in writing these small piano pieces. From Telarc CD-80313.

Listen to an extract Idylle op.166 no.1 04:42
This effective piece is the first of two otherwise unconnected piano works which were published in Spring 1872 as Raff's op.166. Composed at the end of the previous year, the Idylle is a gentle, moderately-paced fantasia in C major which, in common with many of his short piano works, starts with a catchy melody which immediately lodges in the memory and to which Raff returns briefly at end of the work. The other two melodies which Raff employs are rather sprightlier and provide effective contrast during the middle episode, which is in D flat. The Idylle's appeal is immediate and, on the face of it, uncomplicated. It is thus typical of its composer's well-crafted small piano works which, behind their surface charm, hide the care with which he chose his material and the skill which he employed in their construction.

The audio sample is the whole work.

Listen to an extract La polka glissante Caprice in C op.170 01:48
When Raff wrote this "salon" piece in Autumn 1871 he was at the height of his powers and his fame. Many of his compositions that year were for piano, including such major works as the Fantasie-Sonata and the 5th. Piano Suite. It was also the year of the 4th. Symphony. This is another of Raff's works which are deceptively easy on the ear whilst harbouring substantial difficulties for the unwary pianist.

The extract begins with the Energico con bravura opening and leads to the main un pochettino meno mosso section. From Ex Libris EL 16 958.

Listen to an extract Thirty Progressive Etudes WoO.36 01:42
This set of virtuoso piano exercises occupied Raff intermittently for four years from 1868, but he did not assign them an opus number. They "progress" from the relatively straightforward to the fiendishly difficult and, coming near the end of the set, the Allegro in G minor No.26 is a pounding tour de force - an exercise in unrelenting pianism.

Number 26, from Ex Libris EL 16 958.

Listen to an extract Im Schilf, Etude in A op.196, no.1 02:11
"In the reeds" is the first of four piano pieces in Raff's op.196 - the others being a Berceuse, a Novelette and an Impromptu. As its title suggests this Adagio con moto work is a tone painting of reeds gently blown by a breeze over water. As in Dans la nacelle a continuous figuration is used to good effect both to provide the atmosphere and as a base for the effective and memorable melody. It was written in the Winter of 1875 in Wiesbaden and published both in Leipzig and Berlin.

The example is from the middle of the piece. From Ex Libris EL 16 958.

Listen to an extract Capriccio in D flat op.197 04:58
This light hearted work is amongst the last of the "brotarbeit" pot-boilers which Raff had been writing throughout his career. In the 19th century there was a huge appetite for such attractive piano pieces, performed in salons by virtuosos and in domestic drawing rooms by gifted amateurs. In 1875, when the Capriccio was written and published, Raff was regarded as the leading symphonist of the age but, whilst his works in the salon music genre are always unusually well crafted, unfortunately they did nothing to enhance his reputation as a serious composer. The Capriccio is a jolly number, its faster outer sections enclosing a more lyrical middle one. Throughout it is dominated by a simple three note descending staccato motif which ties together the three sections in an effective way. As is often the case in Raff's piano music, it makes few concessions to the performer.

The recording is the complete work.

Listen to an extract Aus der Adventzeit , Eight Piano Pieces op.216 01:23
This set of eight small vignettes which Raff called "From Advent time" lasts only fifteen minutes and is his last numbered composition. Subtitled "A Christmas Gift", they were written in Frankfurt in the Autumn of 1879 but had to wait for six years until they were published in an edition edited by Raff's friend the pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow. There is an air of restraint about them although the concluding piece celebrating the New Year packs all the fire with which Raff usually imbued his marches.

The example is No.4 Gloria - Tempo religioso in A minor.

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