Books about Raff







The title page
The title page of
Schäfer's catalogue

Schäfer's catalogue
The name of Albert Schäfer is well known to anyone seriously interested in Raff. The two primary sources for Raff's life and music are the biography written for the centenary of his birth by his daughter Helene and the catalogue of his music compiled by Schäfer. Helene Raff's life is well documented (not least by her own autobiography), but Schäfer remains an intriguingly shadowy and mysterious figure about whom little definite is known and not much more can be deduced.

The 164 page Chronologisch-Systematisches Verzeichnis der Werke Joachim Raff's (Systematic chronological catalogue of the works of Joachim Raff) was published six years after the composer's death in 1888, and reprinted in facsimile in 1974. It is a comprehensive survey of Raff's oeuvre. For each work, or individual movement or piece in the case of larger works, Schäfer lists the opus number and full title, the date of composition, any dedicatee, its publisher and publication history (even the price of the editions available in 1888) and the tempi and key indications contained in the score; he also frequently records its early performance history. In the case of works written towards the end of Raff's life, the entries are sketchier, as understandably they are for works which could no longer be located by Schäfer because the manuscripts had been lost or destroyed by Raff himself.

The book was only part of a much grander project planned by Schäfer. His original intention was to publish a full thematic catalogue supplemented by a biography of the composer. The former seems soon to have been abandoned in the face of a "lack of cooperation" from some publishers, but his letters to Raff's widow reveal that he eventually finished the biography. Unfortunately, although it was being handled by a publisher, no trace of the work has so far been unearthed. The catalogue which Schäfer did complete is very comprehensive, but some of its information should be treated with caution.

Schäfer's entry for the 4th. Piano Trio
Schäfer's entry for the 4th. Piano Trio
Schäfer's entry for the 4th. Piano Trio
Schäfer's entry for the 4th. Piano Trio
A typical entry in Schäfer's catalogue - the Piano Trio No.4

Theodor Müller-Reuter in his 1909 Lexikon der Deutschen Konzertliteratur (Encyclopaedia of German concert literature) points out that the dates of some premieres are erroneous, because they were based upon reports found in the musical press. More seriously, he also questions the fact that the catalogue records every work's date of composition. Raff himself did not note composition dates in his manuscripts, most of which could no longer be located anyway. Müller-Reuter claims that he had access to the same sets of correspondence as Schäfer (and indeed more), but he may have been unaware that Schäfer had been in extensive correspondence with Doris Raff whilst preparing his catalogue. His letters to Raff's widow are preserved in the Raff papers in Munich, but her replies have not been traced. It is possible that she may have known the composition dates, but there is no clue from his side of the correspondence which indicates that she was able to supply him with this information. In his letters he also enquires after Raff's diary, but Helene Raff makes no mention of such an essential document in her biography of her father's life. Schäfer's sources therefore remain unknown, assuming that the information is not just conjecture based upon Raff's opus numbers.

Of Albert Schäfer himself, little is known and all of that comes from his correspondence with Doris Raff between 1886 and 1888. He was living in Lübeck at the time, but later returned to his home town of Brandenburg, on changing his employment. He was then probably no older than 50 as at least one of his parents seems to have been alive. The letters reveal a misanthropic man with a profound religious belief, although this did not prevent him attending a seance in 1887 at which he reported meeting the dead Raff and questioning him on details of his life; no doubt a disturbing thing for the composer's widow to read! His final letter, after the publication of the catalogue, mentions that he was leaving Germany for St Petersburg and Helene Raff later records hearing of his death there whilst living with a religious sect.

Schäfer's catalogue is now avalable in a full facsimile reprint as part of A Catalogue of the Muisc of Joachim Raff by Mark Thomas, published by raff.org.

[Grateful acknowledgements to the late Dr Alan Krueck for the use of his notes on the Schäfer letters held in the Raffiana collection in Munich]

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