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Raff: The Symphonies; The Suites For Orchestra; Overtures

Raff / Bamberger Symphoniker / Stadlmair
Release Date: 03/30/2010 
Label:  Tudor Records   Catalog #: 1600   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 9 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 10 Hours 35 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Raff does not shake the foundations but he has so much more than a talent to amuse. Truly imaginative romantic era pictorial symphonies.

Who thinks of Raff these days? Well the truth is more and more people and the Raff Website provides plentiful resources to support the curious and those already dedicated.
 
Many of Raff’s orchestral works have been recorded and both the Swiss company Tudor and a decade before that Marco Polo (now fitfully migrating to Naxos) have made major inroads into the Raff discography.
 
We may know Raff's name for a variety of one-off reasons. Some will recall his winsome piece for piano and orchestra La Fileuse. His Kavatina op. 85 no. 3
Read more kept his name alive when it seemed that all his work would fall away to dust, pulping and landfill. Others may remember that Bernard Herrmann's taste for engaging rarities ran to recording Raff's Fifth Symphony Lenore - the Fuselli Gothic cover of the Unicorn LP will probably come to mind. Then again others, especially Lisztians, will remember that Liszt left the task of orchestrating his tone poems to Raff. Perhaps a few will know of the Candide Vox LP of the Third Symphony Der Wald.
 
Tudor, over a period of three years, recorded the eleven symphonies with a single orchestra and conductor and at a single venue. In this they were pioneers; the earlier project by Marco Polo used a mix of orchestras, conductors and venues. The financial support of Stiftung Dr Robert und Lina Thyll-Dürr was crucial to Tudor’s admirable and needful enterprise. Nor have Tudor stopped there. The Zürich-based company’s catalogue is laced with CDs of Raff’s concertos, other tone poems, violin sonatas and string quartets.
 
The present well designed and space-saving box has the nine discs each in a hard card sleeve designed to match the individual CDs and setting out full track contents on the reverse. As for the programme notes, these are in a 127 page booklet in German, English and French. No need to fiddle around with a CD-ROM.
 
Raff's First Symphony is located squarely in the German nationalist romantic heartland. It straddles the worlds of Mendelssohn and Schumann. In fact Schumann's Third and Fourth Symphonies are often recalled in passing reference or echo. The shivering tail-figure in the decisive first of five movements is straight out of Schumann 4. That Allegro runs to 18:05, the longest movement. German wald romance is suggested by the rip and curl of the Scherzo which, far from recalling Weber, this time links with Schumann's First Symphony. There is an elegiacally Elgarian Larghetto where the agreeably unctuous solo cello is played by orchestra principal Matthias Ranft. While there is a measure of bombast in the allegro dramatico (IV, 1:50) much can be forgiven when we hear the suave, relaxed and often imaginative writing of the final Larghetto sostenuto which in its Odysseyan stride looks to the Tchaikovsky of Winter Daydreams. While the work has its longueurs in the finale and miscalculated braggartry in the allegro dramatico, this symphony will go down well with those who love Schumann four, Mendelssohn's 3 and 4, Louis Glass's Der Wald symphony, the Ludolf Nielsen suites and the symphonies by Huber, Wetz and Draeseke. Not compelling then … but pleasing is good too. Raff is not to be underestimated for his fluency and atmospheric charm.
 
By the way those lured into buying the first symphony by the cover detail from Der Krieg (1896) by Arnold Böcklin (1827-1901) are in for a disappointment. There's no apocalyptic conflict in this music.
 
The Second Symphony is meaty and Beethovenian. Its allegro could have been more spry. It was very cleanly recorded and the player principals give a lovely account of woodwind solos. There is a Mendelssohnian scherzo but here the fairie host is earnest. There are few secret smiles. The finale is very sweet with good building of tension. It has something of the finale of the third symphony of Schumann.
 
The Thuringia Suite is about the same duration as the Second Symphony. It is the last of his four suites for orchestra. Stadlmair takes things sedately in the allegro but saves himself for some Egmont-style fervour at the close. St Elizabeth is patron saint of Thuringia and this is her hymn. This has the same devotional blessing as Suk's Wenceslas Hymn and ends in a religious vision. Reigen der Gnomen brings forward more Mendelssohnian fairy stuff; this time with quite a light and high playful step. The fourth movement’s folk-song variations look forward to Variations by Reger and Schmidt’s Husarenlied set. The finale (V) Country Fair is tinglingly carefree. Raff spares a smile here.
 
The Third Symphony Im Walde is another big 45 minute symphony in three movements of which the second is in two parts: four tracks in all. Im walde was done twice in 1931 by Toscanini and years later Kapp recorded it for Vox. The first movement is Am Tage redolent of Beethoven’s Pastoral with fanciful indications of a gentle and well stocked imagination at play. A Reverie explores homesickness and the consolation to be found in nature's beauty as the clarinet entwines and unwinds. The second segment of II is a Dance of the Dryads which is typically playful and Mendelssohnian. It becomes fleeter of foot as it dances along - a delight superbly done. In III night rustles in the forest. The horns are gently touched in until a wild hunt crosses and rushes through at 2.02. There’s even a touch of Berlioz here.
 
The Italian Suite is closest to Mendelssohn's Italian encompassing a storm, a warmly seraphic dream, a very peaceful barcarolle and a wild and stern Tarantella.
 
The Fourth Symphony falls between the two famous or least unfamiliar ones: Im walde and Lenore. The first movement has a superb bubbling building of symphonic tension in the first five minutes. A skittering and antiphonal Mendelssohnian Allegro molto precedes an Andante that makes an almost Hispanic impression with its very inventive murmuring dark-almond bassoon writing. The Allegro vivace finale has Beethovenian gravitas offset by playful woodwind.
 
It is one Tudor's hallmarks of attention to excellence that they leave a good long break after end of Symphony 4 before we hear the overture Benedetto Marcello (1875). This is a light-hearted work with an Egmont-style ending.
 
The Dame Kobold overture has a memorable role for the French Horn. This at first pursues winding and amiably wandering course but soon ascends to eruptive display in the manner of the Richard Strauss Horn Concerto 1. And what a cantilena - almost Dvorákian! This is a work that would have suited Hermann Baumann – a hornplayer recently celebrated on a 7 CD box from .
 
Die parole is in the grand manner with an initial radiant intensity but then finding relaxation.
 
The Concert Overture op. 123 is a stirring piece with decorative woodwind. It might seem to pave the way for Dvorák. It receives a warm and singing performance.
 
The Fifth Symphony, Lenore is a big springy and lyrical programmatic work. It’s very inventive and entertaining. Raff here encompasses, in colourful Dvorákian tones, a dance of the graces, a a sunny slow-unfolding andante, a spirited little march tempo and an exuberance that bridges between the scenic Tchaikovsky and the will o’ the wisp dreams of Berlioz. At the close there’s a gleaming vision and a modest curvature down into silence. No wonder Bernard Herrmann favoured this work and recorded it for Unicorn.
 
The First Orchestral Suite across five movements travels through the storminess of Schubert’s Great C Major 9, balletic dreams, intensely Mendelssohnian delicacy and what sounds to me very like the sort of writing encountered in Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmilla.
 
The Sixth Symphony is by no means as subtle or as high profile as its predecessor - lower key but still very skilled. There’s a sedate march and the whole work has about it a Schubertian sturdiness and a bullish cheeriness.
 
The Second Suite 2 In ungarischer Weisen is highly attractive. The final Volkslied mit Variationen mixes echoes of Grieg’s Holberg Suite with skirling intimations of Kodaly. The first movement ( In der grenze) has about it a stormy cheeriness. The Dvorákian Auf des Puszta radiates airs of the orient but soon becomes more conventional. The third movement is wreathed in light woodwind curlicues and silvery strings.
 
The Seventh Symphony is another epic-length pictorial piece. The first movement is blithe with birdsong yet is threaded through with the awe of the high mountain places. This is catchy, effervescent and euphoric. The second movement is rather earthbound but Stadlmair swings it as best he can. Am see stirs the oceanic depths and has an emphasis on majesty. The finale crown its last pages with brass fanfares and timpani punctuation. In between there’s some remarkably light on the palate Tchaikovskian writing.
 
The Bach Chaconne shows Raff’s respect for the original. The listener will be drawn to the infinite ease of the cantabile and even some Brahmsian moments that may recall the Haydn Varations.
 
The Abends Rhapsodie proffers a warm soup of undulating Wagnerian flavour.
 
The Eighth Symphony Frühlingsklanger recalls Bruckner 4 in its horn-calls. This symphony announces what turned out to be Raff’s ‘Four Seasons’ across his last four symphonies. The first movement rolls out some rugged joys and good rounded themes. The succeeding Allegro seems sinister with an overcast ruthless edge. The third movement is gently pointed and well limned. The finale has a sturdy power and energy driving the music forward; even so it did not engage me as much as the other movements.
 
The Tenth Symphony was the last one he put down on paper. Its first movement is a buffeting piece but interposing some pensive moments. The second is a ghostly dance which mood is accomplished with a patteringly pleasing seriousness. At 3.12 the scudding strings again show imagination and invention. The Grieg-like Elegy uses a theme that is a cousin to the similar theme in the slow movement of Tchaikovsky 5. The gemutlichkeit bubbling French horns in Die jagd der menschen invoke memories of Schubert, Bruckner and Schumann Third. The horns lend a pleasingly roughened edge to those fortissimos.
 
The Ninth Symphony is entitled Im Sommer. The writing is flightily fanciful and full of chirpy birdsong. Raff’s woodwind parts are always good - in this case in Schubertian weeds. The finale will appeal to those who enjoy the Dvorak String Serenade and Symphonic Variations. It ends with biting emphasis.
 
The Eleventh Symphony Der Winter was not his last despite the declared number. It remained unpublished until six years after his death. The writing is very evocative: glistening snow, the warmth of the fireplace and bustling liveliness. Tchaikovsky’s Winter Daydreams dates from the same year. There’s even a touch of Glazunov’s Seasons here.
 
There we have it: the delights of the Raff symphonies are now conveniently accessible in this Tudor set. The company’s catalogue has the right to claim to be the home of Raff. This box is an alternative to the only other symphony cycle on Marco Polo many of which may now be difficult to track down and will cost you more. In addition the couplings are more generous than those on Marco Polo. I would not say it was any better than the Marco Polo although it has the advantage of being a decade more recently recorded.
 
-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 1 in D major, Op. 96 "An das Vaterland" by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859-1861; Wiesbaden, Germany 
Date of Recording: 05/2000 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg Joseph-Keilberth-Sa 
Length: 67 Minutes 2 Secs. 
2.
Symphony no 2 in C major, Op. 140 by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1866; Wiesbaden, Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 36 Minutes 17 Secs. 
3.
Aus Thüringen by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; Frankfurt, Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/2001 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 35 Minutes 2 Secs. 
4.
Italienische Suite by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/1999 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 31 Minutes 0 Secs. 
5.
Symphony no 4 in G minor, Op. 167 by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Wiesbaden, Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/2001 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 31 Minutes 9 Secs. 
6.
Benedetto Marcello: Overture by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 04/2002-05/2002 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 7 Minutes 59 Secs. 
7.
Dame Kobold, Op. 154: Overture by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1869; Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/2002-05/2002 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 6 Minutes 49 Secs. 
8.
Die Parole: Overture by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868 
Date of Recording: 04/2002-05/2002 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 8 Minutes 37 Secs. 
9.
Konzert-Ouvertüre in F major, Op. 123 by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862; Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/2002-05/2002 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 9 Minutes 36 Secs. 
10.
Symphony no 5 in E major, Op. 177 "Lenore" by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1872; Wiesbaden, Germany 
Date of Recording: 03/1999 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 49 Minutes 25 Secs. 
11.
Suite for Orchestra no 1 in C major, Op. 101 by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1863; Wiesbaden, Germany 
Date of Recording: 03/1999 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 28 Minutes 14 Secs. 
12.
Symphony no 6 in D minor, Op. 189 by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873; Germany 
Date of Recording: 07/2001 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 32 Minutes 37 Secs. 
13.
Suite for Orchestra no 2 in F minor, Op. 194 "in ungarischer Weise" by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 09/2001 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 35 Minutes 6 Secs. 
14.
Symphony no 7 in B flat major, Op. 201 "In den Alpen" by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/2001 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 42 Minutes 30 Secs. 
15.
Transcription for orchestra of Bach's Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor (BWV1004) by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 05/2002 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 11 Minutes 50 Secs. 
16.
Abends-Rhapsodie, Op. 163b by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 05/2002 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 6 Minutes 57 Secs. 
17.
Symphony no 8 in A major, Op. 205 "Frühlingsklänge" by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Wiesbaden, Germany 
Date of Recording: 09/2002 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth-S 
Length: 37 Minutes 3 Secs. 
18.
Symphony no 10 in F minor, Op. 213 "Zu Herbstzeit" by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1879; Frankfurt, Germany 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth 
Length: 30 Minutes 2 Secs. 
19.
Symphony no 11 in A minor, Op. 214 "Der Winter" by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Germany 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth 
Length: 34 Minutes 20 Secs. 
20.
Symphony no 3 in F major, Op. 153 "Im Walde" by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1869; Wiesbaden, Germany 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth 
Length: 44 Minutes 28 Secs. 
21.
Symphony no 9 in E minor, Op. 208 "Im Sommer" by Joseph Joachim Raff
Conductor:  Hans Stadlmair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Frankfurt, Germany 
Venue:  Konzerthalle Bamberg, Joseph-Keilberth 
Length: 38 Minutes 39 Secs. 

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