Joachim Raff

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String Quartet No.3 in e minor, Op.136

"Joachim Raff's String Quartet No.3 in e minor was the first of a set of three Raff wrote during the winter of 1866-7 as he was recovering from a severe illness. It was dedicated to the famous Hellmesberger Quartet of Vienna in gratitude for their championing his works. Unlike his first two quartets, which showed the influence of Wagner and Liszt, his subsequent quartets show a clear break from their so called New German School of music. For one thing, the tempo markings and other directions are all in the standard Italian rather than the German which the Wagnerians favored. And the structure is clearly in the classical tradition. In the opening movement, Allegro, the restless opening theme, characterized by its triplet rhythm and Mendelssohnian effects. A second more lyrical subject, full of yearning, appears periodically to provide contrast. The second movement, Allegro con moto, is in the form of march-like heavily accented scherzo. Next comes an Andante con moto. It opens quite simply with a simple folk-like melody. What follows are a set of superb variations in which Raff shows his great compositional skill with shifts of articulation, rhythm and instrumental combinations. It even includes a clever fugue before it ends with a hymn. The bright finale, Allegro con spirito, with its nervous accompaniment is bustles along, full of good spirits."---Editor of The Chamber Music Journal


During the last ten years of his life and for the three decades following it, Joachim Raff (1822-1882) was regularly mentioned in the same breath as Wagner, Liszt, and Brahms as one of Germany's leading composers. The experts and the public judged him to be the  equal to such past masters as Mendelssohn, Schumann and Tchaikovsky.  Incredibly, by the 1920's his music had all but disappeared from the concert stage. It seems virtually unimaginable that a composer whose talent was recognized and whose music was admired by Mendelssohn and Liszt, could become a mere footnote, yet this is what became of Raff and his music for most of the 20th century. Only now is he being rediscovered to the delight of those fortunate enough to hear his music.

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