String Quartet No.8 in C Major, Suite in Cannonic Style, Op.192 No.3
Joachim Raff’s String Quartet No.8 in C Major, Op.192 No.3, subtitled Suite in Cannonic Form, is the last of a famous set of three string quartets he composed during 1873-74. Writing in his Handbook for String Quartet Players, the famous critic Wilhelm Altmann has this to say about the work.
"Joachim Raff has every reason to be especially proud of his Suite in C Major for String Quartet in Cannonic Form. One is clearly able to hear the composer’s mastery of this form which he treats in seven movements. The work begins with a fleet March, Allegro and features a particularly attractive middle section. The Saraband, Andante moderato assai, which follows is tasteful and attractive. Third is a humorous Capriccio, vivace and then a serious Arie, quasi larghetto which is in the form of a double canon. The fifth movement is an appealing Gavotte, allegro which has a very effective Musette. Entirely impressive is the powerful Menuet, Allegro molto, which is sixth. The finale is a straight forward Gigue, allegro."
Joachim Raff (1822-1882) was born near Zurich and his family had hoped he would be come a school teacher, but music was his first love. Basically self-taught, Raff sent some of his early compositions to Mendelssohn who immediately recognized his talent and arranged for their publication. Unfortunately, Mendelssohn died before he could help Raff much more. The young composer then approached Liszt who also took an interest in him and took him on as his personal secretary and copyist. During the six years he spent with Liszt, Raff became a member of the so-called "New German School" led by Wagner and Liszt. Although he broke from them in 1856, he was still regarded as a Wagnerite by the supporters of Brahms and the other classicists. In short, Raff was in neither camp, but attacked by both. Isolated, he went his own way, paying little attention to the musical politics of late 19th century Germany. He was widely regarded as one of Germany's leading composers. All of the critical commentaries which appeared up until World War I spoke of him as an equal to such masters as Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, 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.