Violin Sonata No.4 "Chromatic" in g minor, Op.129
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. From 1860 to 1900 the name of Joachim Raff (1822-1885) was regularly mentioned in the same breath as Wagner, Liszt, and Brahms as one of Germany's leading composers. All of the critical commentaries which appeared during those years 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.
Raff 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. Unfortunately was unable to secure a position with a steady income and was forced to crank out compositions for the commercial market (works that would sell but were of little intrinsic or artistic merit), one after another as fast as he could. Sadly, this was later to tarnish his legacy. After his reputation had faded, he was regarded merely as a composer of parlor pieces, despite the magnificent symphonic and chamber works he left behind. Anyone who has had the time to hear these great works quickly realizes that Raff could be an impeccable craftsman when he had the luxury of time and was not forced to write for the home music-making marketplace. His five violin sonatas are an important addition to the repertoire and are as fine as any from the period they date.
Grand Sonata No.4, "Chromatic" as Raff called it, was composed in 1865 immediately after No.3. It is unique among his sonatas for several reasons. It is the only sonata written in one movement. Its harmonic writing was, for the time, quite provocative, while the piano writing, with its rumbling and fluttering trills, was quite extraordinary. Although the work is only in one movement, in reality, there are many different sections and it is as long as a standard sonata. It begins with a sharp, frightening crash--a slashing chord in the violin. The piano follows suit. One is reminded of the violence of a Beethovian introduction. The storm finally subsides and the highly romantic main subject is presented. (sound-bite 1) Then comes a brief scherzo section (sound-bite 2) After a slow section, Raff takes the main theme and builds it into a powerful and heroic song of destiny (sound-bite 3). The slow build up to the magnificent and exciting coda is nothing short of masterly. (sound-bite 4)
Unavailable for many years now, we are pleased to make it available once again. Professionals and amateurs alike will certainly find this another very worthwhile romantic era violin sonata.