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In his time, the 1860s and 70s, Joseph Joachim Raff was among Europe's premier symphonists. Mendelssohn and Schumann had gone to their (tragically early) graves and Bruckner and Brahms had yet to publish a symphony. Sadly, Raff is now all but unknown - how passing time alters perspective!
He gave us eleven symphonies, eight of which have subtitles, and all very typical of high Romanticism. Echoes of Mendelssohn and Schumann abound, together with one very clear allusion to the slow movement of Beethoven's ninth and the occasional foretaste of Brahms and Bruckner. These are orchestrated magnificently for a composer who was largely self-taught.
Hans Stadlmair and the Bamberger Symphoniker took on a project to record all the symphonies, the four suites for orchestra and some of the overtures from 1999 to 2005, and this is the first time a single orchestra and conductor have attempted this. Marco Polo recorded the symphonies in the 1980s and 1990s, but not all with one orchestra/conductor combination.
So was the project a success? Yes, but with something this complex, it has to be a quialified yes in that some of the individual recordings are better than others. Nonetheless, they are of a consistently satisfactory standard and it is clear that before setting out on this journey, Stadlmair immersed himself in the scores. The Bamberger Symphoniker too, take on this project with considerable gusto (they have also recorded Raff's violin and cello concertos and Shakespeare overtures under Stadlmair).
The overall sound is excellent, with remarkable breadth and depth to the sound stage. The German label Tudor appear to have no particular "house sound" although the general sound quality is straight out of the top drawer.
Neatly boxed, with each of the nine CDs in its own pasteboard sleeve printed with track details, the set is accompanied by a 128 page booklet with notes on each work in German, English and French (in that order). Altogether there is much to enjoy here.
Raff, ein Komponist, der aus der Lisztschen Sinfonik stammt, hat ein Reihe hervoragender Sinfonien und Orchestermusiken geschrieben, die völlig zu Unrecht nicht im Repertoire sind. Die 11. Sinfonien plus Suiten, Rhapsodien etc. sind oft programmatisch, tragen fast alle Titel, sind aber doch keine Tondichtungen. Die vier letzten Sinfonien 8 - 11 sind den Jahreszeiten gewidmet, das sind oft ganz unvermittelt wunderbare Melodien und tolle Klangbilder, die sich hinter keiner Sinfonik gleichaltriger Kollegen verstecken müssen. Die großartige Alpensinfonie, da haben ganz andere Kollegen wohl Anschauungsunterricht genommen. Die Aufnahmen von Hans Stadlmair mit den Bamberger Symphoniker sind die einzigen Aufnahmen dieses großen Sinfonikers, ein Jammer, aber der 400. Beethoven-Zyklus ist sicher wichtiger.
Personnellement j'ai écouté avec intérêt ces oeuvres . Je n'ai pas été très intéressé.Propos lourds sans étincelle de génie ? Je ne sais que penser en fait et ,n'était le prix très raisonnable qui permet un achat éventuel, je ne conseille pas trop cet achat . D'autres compositeurs méritent d'abord l'attention peut-être.
Raff may not be as ubiquitous as many of your typical big-name composers, but efforts like this box set keep him in the conversation. He has been unjustly neglected and his body of work has been on a steady decline since his death. However, the last 40 years has seen some of his music revived and given new life.
This complete symphony cycle, with extra goodies, has been beautifully realized by Hans Stadlmair and the Bamberg Symphony. Each recording provides a great balance, which is important for Raff, as he takes full advantage of color, utilizing woodwinds much more than most of his contemporaries. He was truly a master orchestrator and in possession of a genuine talent for composition. Raff was a professional composer in every aspect. Most of the complaints thrown his way deride him for insufficient originality, and as though it was the all-time knock-down argument, a lack of melody. While it is true that Raff's music does not contain a wealth of tunes that you could hum endlessly, he makes up for it by eliciting a strong sense of atmosphere, drive, liveliness, and beauty through the production of lush, high quality, and clever instrumentation.
Several of these pieces I would consider masterworks, such as Symphonies 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9, as well as the Thüringian Suite and Italian Suite. Unfortunately, the Shakespearean Overtures (specifically 'The Tempest' and 'Macbeth') are not included in this set, but are still available on a separate CD release on this label in this series with the same forces. Seek those out as well. The rest on offer here can still be enjoyed immensely, as Raff tends to linger with you while exponentially increasing admiration with further listening. If you're the type of person that is greedy for new music, or in this case new old music, and is continually dissatisfied with typical concert programs, I hope that you explore the music in this set. You may not be bowled over by every work, but there are diamonds in here that shine brightly, begging for your attention.
Years ago I heard on the local classical radio station a performance of Joachim Raff's Symphony #5, under the direction of Bernard Hermann, if memory serves me right. I was struck not only by the accessibility of his idiom, but the almost insouciant employment of delectable melody. I went out and purchased it on Lp. And since then, into the CD days, I've collected all his eleven symphonies. While the #5 remains a favorite, now I would not be without the #8 or #9, or for that matter any of them. I gave up trying to figure out who Raff "sounds like" years ago--he sounds like, well, Raff, and when you hear the symphonies in some form of succession you will notice that.
Okay,a touch of Mendelssohn here, a bit of Schumann or Schubert there..maybe even a dash of EARLY Brahms (?--debatable)...but he has his own voice, and it is deliciously pleasant and heartily romantic, at times programmatic. Not the genius of a Brahms or Schumann, but close enough!
Although there are individual performances better than what is included in the Stadlmaier/Bamberger Symphoniker box set, this offering--this set of all eleven plus several orchestral pieces--is an excellent way to indulge in them all, and at a decent price.
This is the scintillating spirit of German Romanticism, carefully and lovingly crafted...a sheer and sunny delight.
Who knew that one could find a composer that you never heard of and revel in their symphonic accomplishments - all with one purchase. Raff composed only 11 symphonies, and each is a treat for the ears. No, you won't listen to all of them and be humming snatches and snippets as you would Mozart, but what you will hear is rich, complex and worthy of many return visits. Raff's last four symphonies are devoted to the seasons - one each - and he does what other composers should have done...give each season its due.
If all this isn't enough, the package also includes a number of his other works to fill out the nine CDs included in the boxed set.
Truly, this is a rare find and one worthy of anyone who enjoys classical music not often heard by the masses.
Who ever heard of Joseph Joachim Raff (1822 - 1882)? If you like "Romantic" symphonic music, this CD collection is a must. I don't know why Brahms, Schumann, Bruckner and other Romantics are so often performed and not Raff. These symphonies are as good as the genre gets. Included also are "overtures" and veritable tone poems, each of which is enjoyable. This is one of the best buys I have made in a while. Hightly recommended.