Joachim Raff

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String Quartet No.4 in a minor, Op.137

"Joachim Raff's String Quartet No.4 in a minor was the second 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 violinist Ferdinand Laub, who at the time was leader of the best known quartet in Russia, and who gave performances of Raff’s quartets.. 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 patetico, begins with a poignant, sad theme given out by the first violin over a restless accompaniment. The fetching second subject is then presented by the cello. Next comes a light hearted and lively scherzo type movement, Allegro non troppo vivo, quasi allegretto. The third movement, Andante, is in the form of a melancholy romance. The finale, Andante—Presto, makes use of a format which Beethoven also used in his 9th Symphony. It begins with rather like a recitatif and then the themes from the preceding movements are briefly presented before the upbeat and lively finale melody is presented."---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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