Joachim Raff

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Violin Sonata No.5 in c minor, Op.145

Raff's last violin sonata is another big work, full of powerful writing, memorable melodies and original ideas. Again one realizes that it makes a very effective work for the recital hall.


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.

Raff called each of his five violin sonatas "Grosse" translated into English as "Grand", however, a more accurate translation would be Great as in Large rather than Grand as in magnificent, although we believe they are magnificent. Grand Sonata No.5 was composed 1868. The opening Allegro patetico begins in a very dramatic fashion with strong sudden chords both in the piano and violin. The main theme is turbulent and pushes forward to several dramatic climaxes. The second theme stands in stark contrast. It is a lovely, romantic melody. The second movement, Andante, begins with a very long, somber piano introduction (which our sound-bite omits) before the violin enters. The theme slowly rises in dynamic and tension, reaching a great dramatic height before release. A playful and fleet scherzo, Presto, relieves all of the seriousness that has come before. The trio section is darker and heavily accented. The tempo marking to the finale, Allegro agitato, well expresses the music--it is agitated. But the gorgeous second theme briefly calms the waters before the return of the agitated main theme.

Like his four other violin sonatas, this one must also be placed in the front ranks of the sonata literature. It is obviously a concert piece and will triumph in the recital hall. Out of print for main years, we believe professionals and amateurs will find this an appealing work.

Parts: $24.95




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