In July 2012 researchers sifting through a bundle of manuscripts of Liszt's organ music in the collection of the Nederlands Muziek Instituut in The Hague came across two autographs of piano compositions by Raff, complete with performance markings added by Liszt. The eminent Liszt scholar Michael Short, unable to identify them from raff.org's online catalogue, contacted the web site and it was immediately apparent that these were two works by Raff which had not previously been catalogued. One appeared to be a work based on an melody from Bellini's opera I Puritani, the other an original fantasy.
The longer of the two pieces is a 20 page manuscript and is simply titled Fantaisie. It is in B major and is 160 bars long, lasting around 12 minutes in performance. As was his practice throughout his life, judging from the few autographs which survive, the manuscript is undated.
The piece opens gently: an Andante introduces the plaintively lyrical melody on which the whole work is based. Although there are no counter melodies and, unusually for Raff, a virtual absence of counterpoint, he holds the listener’s interest as the work progresses by constantly transforming the melody as it becomes increasingly more ornate until the shape and substance of it are completely lost in a miasma of figuration
Download the autograph of the Fantaisie WoO.15A (PDF: 4.89Mb)
Download a modern edition of the Fantaisie WoO.15A (PDF: 301Kb)
In his 1888 catalogue of Raff's music Albert Schäfer does not record anything like this piece amongst Raff's lost works although, in her biography of her father, Helene Raff mentions his frustration, whilst working in Hamburg in autumn 1849, at having had no time to finish a "Fantasy on one of his early songs Dir zum Angedenken". As the work found in the same bundle in The Hague, the Concert Etude on a Motif from I Puritani by Bellini WoO.12A, is mentioned in the same sentence by Helene Raff and can be dated quite securely to 1849, it is tempting to assume that this Fantaisie is that referred to by Raff as being based upon his song Dir zum Angedenken will ich fern vom Rhein, the second of his Two Songs from the Rhine op.53, which date from earlier in 1849. Three substantial issues stand in the way of making that indentification, however. Firstly, Raff nowhere refers to the song in the autograph of the Fantaisie. Secondly, although also marked Andante, the song is in F major whereas the Fantaisie is in B major. Finally, as no copy has yet been traced of the song, which was published in 1853 and again in 1875, it has not been possible to compare the scores. Therefore, until a copy of the song can be found the Fantaisie has to be regarded as a different composition from the one mentionded by Helene Raff.
Because of the clear influence of both Chopin and Liszt which the work betrays it is thought to have been written perhaps a year later than the I Puritani piece, sometime in 1850 or 1851, during the first two years of Raff's time in Weimar with Liszt. Accordingly, it has been allocated the WoO number of 15A. Liszt's markings on the autograph indicate that he didn't just play through the work but must have performed it, although probably only privately at his Altenburg home. No doubt the manuscript remained amongst his papers when Raff left Weimar for Wiesbaden in 1856.