Tudor 1600
Tudor 1600

CD Reviews: Symphonies Nos.1 - 11 etc.

Symphonies No.1 An das Vaterland op.96, No.2 op.140, No.3 Im Walde op.153, No.4 op.167, No.5 Lenore op.177, No.6 op.189, No.7 In den Alpen op.201, No.8 Frühlingsklänge op.205, No.9 Im Sommer op.208, No.10 Zur Herbstzeit op.213 & No.11 Der Winter op.214, Suites for Orchestra No.1 op.101, No.2 In Ungarische Weise op.194, Italienische WoO.35 & Aus Türingen WoO.45, Overtures to the operas: Dame Kobold op.154, Die Parole WoO.29 & Benedetto Marcello WoO.46, Concert Overture op.123, Abends-Rhapsodie op163b & Orchestral arrangement of JS Bach's Chaconne for solo violin WoO.39

Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Conductor: Hans Stadlmair
Tudor 1600 2009 DDD 10:36:00 (9 CDs)

This is a first: the first Raff boxed set, and what a cornucopia it is. Not only does it bring together all eleven Raff symphonies, but also his four orchestral suites and a bevy of overtures and smaller orchestral pieces, too. At the current recommended price of around €70, it is not only almost a quarter of the price of buying the nine individual CDs but also works out substantially cheaper than downloading all the individual tracks. It should be said from the outset, though, that nothing here is new; these nine CDs were first issued individually between 2000 and 2005. The couplings on each CD in the box are also the same as those on the individual CDs and that means that absent are the works on the three other Tudor issues of Raff orchestral music: the violin concertos, the cello concertos and the six shorter orchestral works. There's no complaint there; it would be churlish to complain that a nine CD set wasn't a twelve CD one!

The price would count for little if the performances were substandard, but what we have here is the symphonic cycle which has set the benchmark for all future Raff recordings. The Bamberg Symphony Orchestra is one of those fine, disciplined sonorous German provincial orchestras which are the envy of concert goers in other countries. In Hans Stadlmair, Tudor has a conductor who treats these unfamiliar scores as if he was bringing his own unique interpretation to well known repertory pieces. These are not safe, pedestrian run-throughs, recorded as an archival exercise. At least one alternative recording is available for most of the pieces, although if you want the Orchestral Suites Nos.1 and No.2 and the Benedetto Marcello and Die Parole Overtures, Tudor offers the only option. Where there are alternatives, though, in most cases Stadlmair's is the performance to go for.

There's little point in ploughing through each recording in detail when the CDs were thoroughly dissected when they were issued individually, so here's a full list of the couplings and their reviews on this site:

CD1: Symphony No.1 An das Vaterland - review.
CD2: Symphony No.2, Suite: Aus Thuringia - review.
CD3: Symphony No.3 Im Walde, Italian Suite - review.
CD4: Symphony No.4, Concert Overture, four Opera Overtures - review.
CD5: Symphony No.5 Lenore, Suite No.1 - review.
CD6: Symphony No6, Suite No.2 In Ungarische Weise - review.
CD7: Symphony No.7 In den Alpen, Abends-Rhapsodie, JS Bach's Chaconne- review.
CD8: Symphonies Nos.8 Frühllingsklänge and No.10 Zur Herbstzeit- review.
CD9: Symphonies Nos.9 Im Sommer and No.11 Der Winter - review.

Sonically, these pressings appear to be identical with the original single-issue CDs, and that is just fine as Tudor's sound is warm and detailed with just enough reverberation to give plenty of "concert" ambience. The trilingual insert notes, all 128 pages of them, offer nothing new. Indeed, odd paragraphs and sometimes more have been cut from the original booklets, the most glaring example being the extended discussion of the programme to the An das Vaterland Symphony. This is a shame; the notes were generally illuminating and often extensive. Although the editing has been intelligently done, it does seem a needless economy, compounded by the omission of full, or indeed any, track listings. These are confined to the back of each CD's cardboard sleeve, which is just about the minimum which is required. Surely for the sake of one page, at least a summary of each CD's contents could have been included at the start of the booklet?

All in all, despite the evident economy employed in putting together the booklet, this set has to get an enthusiastic welcome, bringing together as it does some of the finest recorded performances of Raff's symphonies and orchestral music at a real budget price.

Mark Thomas
November 2009

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